Affordance in the Design of Everyday Things

In our daily life, numerous things around us have great affordance. Books, door handles, and even the design of a pen can reveal how the people “perceive” the function of an artefacts through visual cues the object provided. And the affordance of those simple products can be transferred to computational and digital displays. I think Kindle is the perfect example of how affordance can be transferred from non-digital artifact (book) to digital artifact.

-Physical affordance:

The physical affordance of an artefact can be responded through inferring how its use fits human body. We can see the way people hold books:

The structure of paper books helps readers hold them easily, and gives readers a clue that books need to be read horizontally or vertically, and they need to be read from one side (the former page) to another side (the latter page).

The way people hold Kindle is quite like the way they hold books. The design of Kindle also gives people a clue that the E-books need to be read horizontally.

-Perceptual affordance:

We can tell from the design of paper book that their pages are turnable. And for Kindle, readers can touch the left side of the screen to move forward and tough the right side to move backward.

The readers can see there are two linear button on both left side and right side of the screen, which gives the reader a clue. Besides, the page-turning direction of Kindle is exactly the same with the paper books. According to Norman, “in graphical, screen-based interfaces, the designer primarily can control only perceived affordance” (1999). The touch screen of Kindle provides the readers with numerous hints about how to turn page and read.

-Cognitive affordance:

In some countries, books can be read horizontally, for example the US. But in some countries, books can only be read vertically, for example in Japan. And thusly the design of Kindle E-books in Japan can only be read vertically while the E-book in US can be read horizontally. In addition, people will touch the right button to move forward and left button to move backward, which is exactly opposite to the US way. The design of books and Kindle depend on the difference in cultural conventions.


For books, we can only turn pages to read it. Once we forget the page we have read, we need to turn pages from the beginning (or use the bookmarks). However, Kindle somehow improved, the system of Kindle can memorize the page we have read and automatically turn to the page we want.

Question about this week’s reading:

I’m confused with the concept of real affordance and perceived affordance. I know they are different, but I cannot tell the difference in the real affordance and perceived affordance of Kindle.


Irvine, M. (n.d.). Affordance-Interface-Intro.pdf. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from

Zhang, J., & Patel, V. L. (2006). Meet Google Drive – One place for all your files. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from

Norman, D. A. (1999). Affordance, Conventions, and Design. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from