1. Choose one of the objects you selected and describe how your initial understanding of its affordances changed over the course of the exercise?
I focused my attention on a very basic Kathmandu umbrella. Everyone knows how to work an umbrella, so I initially thought the affordances were quite obvious and self-explanatory.
This notion quickly changed when I tried to list all the obvious affordances, and the only one I could really come up with was the velcro clasp, which affords unclasping to release the wrapped up material.
There are so many sequential affordances because you can’t really see them until a certain action has been made. For example, you can’t see that you are meant to expand the internal skeleton along the center rod until you open the velcro clasp. You then have to see the internal structure and make an attempt to manipulate it before you realize that it slides upwards along the center rod until it reaches the maximum expansion and clicks into place. You also can’t tell that the plastic handle affords pulling downward, which makes the umbrella longer and easier to hold above your head. When it is time to contract the umbrella, the little button which controls the lock position is very discreet and unobvious, so you have to hunt around before you can find how to close the umbrella again.
2. Given that affordances is a relational property between a person and an object, how did the manipulation of the object and the person’s abilities inform your understanding of the concept? Did it give you inspiration or insight for how to work with affordances as a designer? Discuss this through the specific objects you explored in the exercise.
Exploring unintended affordances of the umbrella was quite funny. I realized that its top-heavy nature makes it a nice weapon if someone tries to attack you. When it is extended, the top portion can be swung like a sledgehammer and create some good force. I also thought about other things people might need a shield from, not only rain, but the sun, dust, other people you may want to hide from. Also, the lack of affordances plays into the fact that many useful features may have been left out to afford convenience and portability. Having an umbrella that folds up very small is useful when you want to be able to carry it in a handbag or backpack.
As a designer, a problem I found extremely annoying is trying to neatly fold the material flaps back into place, so I thought maybe a drawstring that is threaded through each of the flaps that could be wound up with a dial on the handle of the umbrella would guarantee a neat fold every time. I also thought that having one button that fully expanded the umbrella with one motion would be handy to avoid having to figure out the inner workings of each individual umbrella and skip straight to the expand and cover stage.