Archetype in Digital Design, 2

Previously we examined how archetype is critical in defining the perspective of both the User and the Brand. The third and possibly the most important influence of Archetype on UX design is within the ‘decision tree’ or ‘flow’ of UX design. Today we will be taking a deeper dive into the archetypal factors that influence intelligent UX design.

a very typical example of a certain person or thing.
“the book is a perfect archetype of the genre”
an original that has been imitated.
“the archetype of faith is Abraham”
synonyms: quintessence, essence, representative, model, embodiment, prototype, stereotype; More
a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology.
“mythological archetypes of good and evil”

When we discuss archetype our goal is always to reach for the ultimate expression of a thing. How does this concept relate to User Experience, interface design and machine architecture, in general? In our examination of machine design we identify any aspects of its interface as flower either ‘forwards’, ‘backwards’ or ‘sideways’. This has no relation to right or wrong. It relates merely to whether or not interface responds appropriately to our requirements. An even cursory examination in comparison to the world of automotive design this will show that current UX does not flow forwards consistently and that this may have to do with a fundamental misunderstanding of its purpose.

For instance, looking at automotive design (as a familiar field of daily experience); when entering a vehicle, is the door handle easy to locate and operate; and does it function as expected? When you sit in a vehicle, do you understand how to start and operate the vehicle, or does it take some getting used to, or perhaps even instructions?

Obviously, all of these effects are strongly influenced by 1) the archetype of the individual (you!), and 2) the archetype of the brand of vehicle: each machine is a bit different and responds with a ‘flavor’ that is unique. My Ford truck has door handles that are large, sturdy and has ‘thumb buttons’ that must be firmly depressed to pull the doors. On the other hand, my Mercedes car has slim, sturdy handles that you pull firmly on, to open. On the other hand, Tesla’s S model famously has handles that are completely flush with the bodywork and only emerge when the car is unlocked or approached by a person with the key. You then pull lightly on the handle and the door opens electronically. So which (if any), is more archetypal? Such questions are not incidental to car design and should not be considered incidental to any form of machine design, much less ‘digital liasion’, or “UX”.

Answering these questions on an archetypal level forces us to examine basic suppositions, like purpose, values and vision. For instance, dashboard design comparison between digital and automotive design is also interesting to compare, and revealing: the two screen shots that follow show a random ‘google’ selection of images showing ‘dashboard design’ and ‘automotive dashboard design’:

Digital and Automotive Dashboards: Google

For some reason it is immediately obvious what the automotive designs are, but not so with the digital designs. Possibly, this is due to the purpose; according to the design firms that develop them. According to Logi Analytics, a ‘digital dashboard’ firm: “Dashboards serve the important purpose of transforming dull and sometimes opaque data into visually stunning insights that resonate with a wide range of users.” Huh? Here I thought a dashboard was to control a device, while providing useful feedback information. As far as transforming ‘dull data’ into ‘visually stunning insights’, not only does this sound like a stretch, but why? Who wants to be stunned by dullness?

To understand UX on an archetypal level is to understand human needs and motivation on an archetypal level. If dull information rises to a level of stunning impression is it flowing backwards, sideways or forwards? Because automotive designers are intimately aware that their work is not only crucial to millions in profits, but also safety; automotive designs for controls and dashboards tend to be both creative and readily accessible. On the other hand, digital controls and dashboards can frequently seem to be quite opaque in operation, purpose and function.

Of course, automotive designers have one big (possibly huge) advantage: we know what cars do; we have a very clear common, societal understanding of cars. What can your smartphone do? That’s harder to answer because the answer is both broader (in possibility), and narrower (in common terms). But: answer this question we must, or forever face the disappointing dilemma of too many different interfaces, constantly shifting standards and not enough ‘talking’ between various components; incredibly, leaving the prospect of a driverless car more probable (and even likely) than an automatic smartphone.

On a fundamental level, all machine interface has one commonality: the operator is human. Therefore, would it not make sense to commence an understanding of any machine design from the an understanding of humans?

Archetypal human form is also Ergonomics

Ergonomics is concerned with the ‘fit’ between people and their technological tools and environments. It takes account of the user’s capabilities and limitations in seeking to ensure that tasks, equipment, information and the environment suit each user.

To assess the fit between a person and the used technology, ergonomists consider the job (activity) being done and the demands on the user; the equipment used (its size, shape, and how appropriate it is for the task), and the information used (how it is presented, accessed, and changed). Ergonomics draws on many disciplines in its study of humans and their environments, including anthropometry, biomechanics, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, industrial design, kinesiology, physiology and psychology.

Ergonomic Domains

The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) divides ergonomics into three domains:

  • Physical ergonomics: is concerned with human anatomical, and some of the anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity. (Relevant topics include working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, lifting, work related musculoskeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health.)
  • Cognitive ergonomics: is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system. (Relevant topics include mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress and training as these may relate to human-system and Human-Computer Interaction design.)
  • Organizational ergonomics: is concerned with the optimization of socio technical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes.(Relevant topics include communication, crew resource management, work design, design of working times, teamwork, participatory design, community ergonomics, cooperative work, new work programs, virtual organizations, telework, and quality management.

In applying archetypal systems to digital design then, it becomes imperative that we address all three aspects of ergonomics: physical, cognitive and organizational.

That this can only be done effectively through parsing forms down to archetypal essentials shall, it is hoped, become self-evident. In fact, incorporating such a broad series of needs encourages either a never-ending set or checklists, or an archetypal approach, where a small number of richly ascribed archetypal components may become instructive.

Architectonics Describes Four Types

Four types describe all facets of anyone’s mental-emotional makeup. We’re all a blend of these four types, yet we predominate in one. The four types interrelate in a specific order and with specific intentions.

Each of the four roles has ‘magical powers’ the other roles do not posess, and which none of the other roles can every fully understand. Yet all of these ‘magic powers’ are required to achieve viable results. Groups, conversations or interfaces that fail to include a balance of the four types will not succeed on a long-term scale.

By limiting ourselves to four jumping-off points we will in fact prepare for anything:

Illustrated above are four of the cornerstone archetypal forms described by Architectonics. Note how each of the items is multidisciplinary in its descriptive terms and both interrelated and indispensable to the other three terms: Powerful, Empathic, Active and Key.

We may continue to investigate these terms further, as well as their applicability and use in UX as well as design in general, in future articles.

Meanwhile, I’m interested to hear your feedback, input and criticism! Please comment and share.

Seen through the lens of branding archetype is not only an amazing access point to UX design fundamentals, it is a lighthouse shining towards a fresh notion of history and even the development of paradigm; towards a sustainable and on-going renaissance of society, creativity and commerce.

Bryce Winter is a chef, inventor, consumer and gastronome in the field of brands and branding. His elementary work as a UX Architect is in the area of taxonomy; a field necessarily influenced by archetype within his humanist approach to communal knowledge. Bryce’s public branding work was with significant global and local players and was effective for scores of brands from cigarette nationals to top bottled water brands and major Canadian, French and UK brands including CHANEL, Evian, Coca-Cola and TD Canada Trust.



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