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How 'Affordance Theory' Informs Great Streets and Public Places

The affordance theory, a combination of environment psychology and art, can be tapped to help make the design of urban neighborhoods more appealing to a community, writes Phil Myrick, MIG’s head of placemaking and performance design.
May 29, 2015, 6am PDT | melaniecj
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City planners could learn a lot from the creators of the popular Apple products.

Interface designers make devices user friendly and intuitive to operate, something urban designers can also to up the appeal of a streetscape or a storefront, writes Phil Myrick, head of placemaking and performance design for the firm MIG.

Almost 50 years of research into human and urban environments can be tapped by planners, engineers, and designers to help create urban environments that are appealing and vibrant. The "affordance theory" combines environmental psychology and art to help determine what about design might make a project more appealing to users, according to Myrick. 

"Identifying a set of affordances and grouping them strategically is a way to use human nature to draw people to use a place, or an entire streetscape. So a bench, a potted plant, a shop entrance, together with savvy outdoor merchandising and façade detailing creates a world in miniature that pedestrians and shoppers want to explore."

The key is to determine the audience of a particular project to determine which affordances to incorporate into design, he writes.

"Essentially, affordances are a mixture of public and private hooks that are grouped at key locations and properties to help furnish outdoor rooms – rooms that enhance the building and the block in terms of brand, attraction, and performance (including more foot traffic and retail sales)."

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Published on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 in UrbDeZine
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