Ideation & Prototyping Week 4: Translating Affordances

The concept of affordance may sound confusing to many people, but it’s something that we, as human beings, interact with and rely on every day. In short, affordance refers to different actions suggested by the design of an object. For instance, how do you know if a button is supposed to be pressed or pulled? In a perfect world, where design language is always clearly present, you should be able to know instantly what you could/should do with the object. The understanding of affordances also depends on the various socio-cultural backgrounds of the user; our pre-existing perception of the world, which is determined by many factors like education, economic class, race, and etc., will inform how we interact with different designs and products.

This week, I am creating a physical object that translates digital affordances back into physical affordances. As I was looking for a digital product to transform, I thought about some daily items that are essential to my living, and their analog “ancestors”. I found that one of my most-used apps on my phone is Citymapper, a transit mapping app, and then realized that I have not touched a paper map in years. So I decided to try and make an analog version of Citymapper: a pocket map.

I started by folding a piece of paper and sketching things out on each page. Each page represents a feature from the app: the splash screen, search bar, and detailed maps.

With my prototype done, I then started making a more detailed version. For the first page, I decided to add a green construction paper and cut out the shape of the logo. I traced out the size of the paper on the green construction paper and then drew the logo that I am going to cut out. I used a crafting knife and a hole puncher to make the shape as neat as possible.

For the second page, I added individual buttons and a search bar using smaller pieces of paper. I also put tapes on both sides of the button to give them a shine and make them look more “button-like”. The search bar can also be unfolded and users can write down where they need to go. This magic pocket map will give suggestions and directions for the user on the next page.

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Just like the app on my phone, my analog Citymapper suggested the quickest and easiest route to the airport. To bring back some memories from the old paper map, I also drew an ad on the right-bottom corner of the map.

If the user wants to see the entire subway map, the pocket map can be further expanded into a full system map with every subway line and more detailed information.

Aaaaand there you go! Don’t forget to bring this pocket map with you when you are out traveling (whenever that’s gonna be possible)!

I have always had a special connection with maps. As a kid, I would always look at the world map on the wall and imagining the places I would go visit in the future. To me, maps are more than just a device that carries information; they give me a vision of where I want to go and offer me motivation when I am lost. I remember that sense of accomplishment when I and my family reach the destination of our road trip, having passed by each and every town and villages on the map along the way. In building this analog Citymapper, I was reminded many beautiful memories that I had with maps. Maybe the next time I am traveling I should buy a paper map instead of relying on my phone, haha!

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