It is a common scene for many of us getting from point A to point B these days. One we forget did not exist a little over a decade ago. A phone or device is taken out, a destination is typed into a search box, and a route or several are offered. The user then makes a route decision, places the device within sight, or holds it as they travel. The user relies on provided instructions for most of the route taken and tangential subsequential decision-making. These behaviors are not only accepted as the norm, but our reliance deems them necessary to find our way around. The implications of these behaviors can be observed on a daily basis. As the development of Internet of Things (IOT) unfolds, we have witnessed a new design paradigm that needs addressed ¬– balancing the users’ ability to successfully manage contextual information and ambient information. The term, “Affordance” was originally mentioned in 1977 by James Gibson, a psychologist, as the relationship between physical objects and their actionable properties to humans. However, is more known and attributed to Donald Norman, a designer within the interaction design realm as the perceived properties of an interface. This struggle to maintain balance between the two definitions is most seen regarding the GPS navigation experience. Navigation interfaces are typically flooded with functions that are more marketable than usable in the physical space for which they are designed, sometimes leading to hazardous outcomes. A solution is acknowledging that both affordances exist simultaneously, but should be harmoniously cognizant of when and how each should be prioritized. Moving forward, designers of navigation systems should agree on principles that successfully integrate both Norman and Gibson’s definition, emphasizing the physical world’s properties and supporting our ability to respond quickly and safely.
Industrial Design (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CAD)
Connell, Shannon, "Interaction Design Needs Modified Principles of “Design Affordance” for Navigation Applications" (2019). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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