On this catch up session we looked at theories on affordance and how they are all around us. We started by reading an extract from,  Affordance, Conventions, and Design, Donald Norman, 1999 in which explains his views and perceptions on affordances.

The handles on a tea set provide obvious affordance for holding

An affordance is a relation between an object or an environment and an organism that, through a collection of stimuli, affords the opportunity for that organism to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling. As a relation, an affordance exhibits the possibility of some action, and is not a property of either an organism or its environment alone.

Different definitions of the term have developed. The original definition described all actions that are physically possible. This was later adapted to describe action possibilities of which an actor is aware. Some define affordance as a potential resource for some  organism or species of organism, and so while inviting the possible engagement of some species, not identified with any particular one.The term has further evolved for use in the context of human–computer interaction (HCI) to indicate the easy discoverability of possible actions.

Gibson‘s Affordances

  • Action possibilities in the environment in relation to the action capabilities of an actor
  • Independent of the actor’s experience, knowledge, cultre, or ability to perceieve
  • Existence is binary – an affordance exists or it does not exist


Norman‘s Affordances

  • Perceived properties that may not actually exist
  • Suggestions or clues as to how to use the properties
  • Can be dependent on the experience, knowledge, or culture of the actor
  • Can make an action difficult or easy

Bauhaus (1912-1933) had one theory, form to follow function. Everything made at the Bauhaus School was meant to embody one central tenet: form should always reflect and enhance function. Utility comes first. The lesson was never sacrifice your message for your design. Focus on readability, narrative, and information first, artistic flair and frills second. Use your design to reinforce your message, never the other way around.


Really exciting session this week, in which I can relate alot of the theories into my own practice of ceramics and perphaps could explore this idea of relationsships between the body and objects or environments even further on my essay that I should really start thinking about.


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BA (Hons) Final Year Ceramics student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Love experimenting with material and techniques and work on a range of medium.

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