Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Opening Doors, If You Can Find Them

Affordance is a cool term introduced by Don Norman in his book The Design of Everyday Things.

It means that objects should imply or communicate the correct way to use them without the need for verbal labels. Finger-sized buttons that have a raised surface have affordance, for instance. If a button needs to be labeled Push, there's something wrong.

Two door handles with PUSH signs above them
Doors have a strong need for affordance to keep people moving efficiently and, at the most basic level, not make us feel stupid. A flat metal plate along a door edge affords pushing; short handles afford pulling. All too often, though, doors are not designed with affordance in mind and people try to pull a door that pushes or vice versa. If a door has to tell you to push or pull using words, you know it's a design failure.

If doors should speak for themselves, even more so buildings. You shouldn't have to figure out where the door is, right?

On that note, I wondered what Don Norman would think of this building, which is located near the busy retail corner of Grand and Victoria avenues in Saint Paul:

Brick commercial building with double glass door, above is a sign that says Door Is Here
At least the doors pull outward, as indicated by the handles.

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