It’s broke – I can’t affordance

Signifiers, not affordances

Some social indicators simply are the unintended but informative result of the behavior of others.

Sometimes the evidence is a trail or trace of previous behavior: desire lines, these are called in architecture and city planning, when the trails made by people’s footsteps across fields indicates their desire for paved paths.

The best way to show people in which direction to proceed is a path. Either literal or worn thru use. While we can easily make actual paths and arrows pointing people in the right direction, the question becomes how to digitize this concept of the path most travelled. With iteration and tracking we can optimize and make this route more prominent.

Forget affordances: what people need, and what design must provide, are signifiers. Because most actions we do are social, the most important class of these are social signifiers.

The perceivable part of an affordance is a signifier, and if deliberately placed by a designer, it is a social signifier.

Whether a battle of semantics or an actual perceivable difference, the important take away is that one way or another we are all lost travelers looking for looking for seagulls (signifier) and rock carnes (social signifiers) so be weary of this fact and be careful not to create a mirage.