Technology acts as an interface between humans and their environment. Embedded in many technologies are assumptions about physical traits of an individual’s body and that individual’s abilities. For example, the different sizes available for a watch band are driven by the expected size of potential wearers (e.g. small, medium, large), and it is assumed that the user is capable of interpreting the watch face. These different designs can be based on both conscious and subconscious decision making. Unfortunately, many designers unintentionally design for a “default” user, and this lack of consideration can prevent certain people (often those with less privilege and/or visibility in some way) from using their products.

Project Requirements

For this project, we'll take our first steps through the design process for the course (contextualize, critique, rebuild) to re-imagine a different implementation of a household object of your choosing.


For this project, you will:

  1. select an existing artifact that interfaces with the human body in some way (either the household object you analyzed in class, or something else of your own choosing)
  2. analyze the affordances and signifiers of the design (contextualize)
  3. research and report on the evolution of the design over time (contextualize)
  4. analyze affordance perceptibility and availability, anti- and dysaffordances, including who benefits from the design and who is harmed (critique)
  5. re-design the artifact you chose to address some of the critiques (rebuild)
  6. submit a written report outlining the above
  7. present the report details to the class in a short, in class presentation

This project will be an individual project (you may work in groups in future projects). A small amount of funding (< $25) is available for the project.

Feel free to organize your final report in a way that makes sense for your object (for example, you could have your design analysis and critique together or separate; it is fine as long as the components are all present).


There are two aspects for the contextualize aspects of the assignment: your detailed design analysis (affordances, signifiers), and the historical context component.

Detailed Design Analysis