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1005 Perceived Affordances: Leveraging the Visual Cortex for Intuitive Designs

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Friday, April 22

Tracks: Instructional Design

Have you ever seen onscreen text with instructions on how to navigate, yet a button with an actionable label essentially communicates the same thing? That button is what is referred to as “perceived affordance”, where designers are afforded the perception of what learners already know. For example, a small red button with a white X in the upper right corner communicates an action that when clicked or tapped, the current window will close. That close button is a perceived affordance action that was taught and retained elsewhere. Yet, some designers continue to add onscreen instructions directing learners to perform an action they already know how to do. The challenge is knowing what and when to leverage the perceived affordance of the learner’s visual cortex.

The visual cortex is the area of the brain we use to process visual information. We can communicate an action or a perceived affordance on a computer screen by applying simple visual techniques. The term “less is more” is the key, allowing learners to use their imaginations and experiences to complete or fill in the gaps of an image or graphic. As instructional designers, we want our designs to be visually appealing and relevant. What if the arrangement of a few simple shapes could convey the same message more effectively? By having a basic understanding of visual design principles, you can control what the leaners see, when they see it, and use perceived affordances to direct their attention. In this session, I will share what the research says about the results in higher retention. We will discuss the visual cortex and look at examples of perceived affordances. You will see examples of intuitive interfaces, interactive activities, and how making subtle changes to your graphics can be a powerful companion to the instruction.

In this session, you will learn:

  • What the visual cortex is and why it is important to designers
  • A better understanding of perceived affordances
  • How to allow learners to use their own experiences to complete a visual message
  • How to apply simple techniques following basic visual design principles

Kevin Thorn

Chief NuggetHead

NuggetHead Studioz

Kevin Thorn is an award-winning eLearning designer and developer, consultant, and owner of NuggetHead Studioz, a boutique custom design and development studio. After retiring from the US Army, Kevin pursued a career in corporate IT and training and development. With his combined military and industry experience, Kevin started the Studioz in 2012. He works with clients in various industries. Kevin is a well-known industry speaker and trainer and a certified facilitator in LEGO Serious Play methodologies. He holds a BS in information technology management from Christian Brothers University and an MS in instructional design and technology from the University of Memphis.