WEEK TWO: Donald A. Norman’s ‘Design of Everyday Things’


In this week’s class, we explored the common misconceptions of physical affordances and perceived affordances. To be frank, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing and how they simultaneously mean different things but one ceases to exist without the other, so not sure if this post is going to make any sense but THAT’S OKAY.

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OKAY SO- The two readings assigned to us this week; ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by Donald A. Norman and his essay entitled ‘Affordance, Conventions and Design (Part 2)’, not only explained the difference between a physical affordance and a perceived affordance, it additionally discusses conventions and constraints; both playing a major part in one’s understanding of utilising everyday things.


“When you first see something you have never seen before, how do you know what to do?” (Jnd.org, 2018) 

This quote really stuck out to me because it got me thinking about the countless of times I’ve been faced with a new product I’ve never previously interacted with but instantly knew how to operate it. This directly correlates with the constraints and conventions as discussed by Norman.

Utilising Instagram as an example, the application heavily relies on the assumption that consumers; both new and old are familiar with cultural conventions. To make their interface seamless and minimalistic, each tool and function is illustrated with known cultural symbols.

A few examples of this include:

  • The paper aeroplane sign = DM’s
  • Love heart icon = liking a picture
  • Magnifying glass = search feature

As stated by Norman, designs are only successful if they provide “natural signals so they are naturally interpreted” by its’ consumers. (Norman, 2013)

Moving on to affordances and perceived affordances and how they work together-

The ability to click around the screen is an affordance but, the mere act of being able to click on the like button isn’t much use to a consumer if it failed to provide a meaningful and known outcome. The icons and buttons on show within the app are perceived affordances as consumers afford to click on in order to react to a photo and successfully evoke an end result.

Relating it to the class prompt, We can say that the ability to edit your photos with filters prior to posting a photo is a perceived affordance as it wasn’t something that was there from the very beginning. Over time, the application of Instagram evolved; thus the introduction of filters and the ability to edit prior to posting.


(Sorry for this incredibly disjointed mess of a post lmaooooo)Related image


  • Jnd.org. (2018). Don Norman’s jnd.org / Affordance, Conventions and Design (Part 2). [online] Available at: https://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordance_conv.html [Accessed 27 Jul. 2018].
  • Norman, D. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.