Designing Affordances

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“An affordance is the possibility of an action on an object or environment. Additional meanings have developed, largely a result of misinterpretations. The original definition in psychology includes all actions that are physically possible.”


Our assignment was to create three foam objects that inspire 3 specific actions, without using metaphor and with a limited supply of foam.

I selected Spin, Shake and Stretch.

Here, I’m ideating forms using clay:

My goal was to create 3 object that all looked the same, but texturally afforded different actions, so as to not alienate visually impaired users.

My idea above is for stretch to simply pull apart. Shake would have a rattling sound, that you could see through the holes or feel from the weight and vibration. Lastly, spin would have two different textural sides that afford grabbing and inspire twisting.

The feedback for these were that they were too obvious and I should look for more ways to inspire my actions.

After trying a few different options for ‘Shake’ which failed, I seriously regretted choosing it. Eventually I came up with 3 objects that all worked, having tested them on various users.


I think they’re still good for blind users, except for perhaps the Shake object. I was really pleased with how Stretch came out. The wire cutter was far too brutal for the intricacy that I needed to make it work. In the end, I created a cylinder, hollowed it out with a round file and then cut the helix using a hot scalpel. It took time, but with minimal material to solidify it, it was able to stretch a really long way without even trying to pull it.

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