Sep 12, 201312:00 PMPoint of View

Designing with Metaphors

(page 2 of 2)

We’ve also begun using such metaphors to tackle less tangible work for services, organizations, and brands. Putting a sharp angle on an object, for example, makes it less user-friendly. And I can apply that physical experience to a retail service moment by “taking the edge off” metaphorically. The discovery of embodied cognition is freeing. It implies that we needn't rely on fashionable methodologies and instead can look to intuition, supported by science, to arrive at design solutions. There are other aspects of the creative process, of course: inspiration, novelty, craft. Still, I can't resist human truths. Embodied cognition has given us (and our clients) a new lexicon for intuition and a confidence that we're making solid (that is, sturdy and dense) choices.

Visual concept by Mitch Sinclair with Jane Fulton Suri, Ingrid Fetell, Jeewon Jung, Michael Hendrix, and Gian Pangaro

Many metaphors from everyday language are based on real-life visceral experiences. Our perceptions of these experiences associate them with broader concepts and deeper meaning (e.g. literally feeling "warm" vs. the concept of "warm" as being inviting, friendly, etc). As designers, we can influence perception by stimulating the viewer's five senses to invoke broader conceptual associations. While we are used to doing this intuitively, scientific studies in the field of embodied cognition provide additional support to our rationale. We’ve prototyped this tool to make associations easier and welcome additions to improve it.



R. Michael Hendrix is an associate partner and managing director of IDEO Boston.

Old to new | New to old
Sep 14, 2013 07:32 pm
 Posted by  R.L. Hart

Great post. "Embodied cognition" is a powerful idea that's still largely neglected in architectural education. It's not so much a new theory as a new name for insights eloquently set out in Gilbert Scott's "Architecture of Humanism" ("We transcribe architecture into terms of ourselves and ourselves into terms of architecture.") ---and more recently developed by Charles Moore and Kent Bloomer in "Body, Memory and Architecture" (the three-dimensional body as an "organizing metaphor" for experiencing architecture.) --- and applied to language by the amazing George Lakoff in "Metaphors We Live By" ("We typically conceptualize the non-physical in terms of the physical...") --- and now being put to work in practice, and effectively, by IDEO, but few others.

It's one of the underlying ideas in the "New Humanism" posts (esp. Part18 plus parts of 13 and 14) where I assemble those ideas with other up-dated thinking in ecology, evolution, and the neurosciences (Part 2) to explore how we human beings experience architecture and why we respond to design the ways we do -- or in your words, how do we produce "relevant ....order and delight."

It's a key part of a broader outlook, a level of awareness that could open professional minds to the visceral pleasures of "the sun, the winds, the sky and the earth" - the refreshed human connections to the natural world, described (in a parallel POV post) in Susan Szenasy's vision of a "21st century Machu Picchu."

Sep 15, 2013 08:20 pm
 Posted by  R.L. Hart

A follow up on my earlier (9/14/13) comment above -- Where I said "IDEO, but few others," I meant others in the architectural field. The understanding of embodied cognition has been in the conventional wisdom if the entertainment, sales and marketing industries for years, (look at Disney) and that's why those businesses, far more than architects, are shaping our culture - high and pop.

Add your comment:

About This Blog

Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit Module

Digital Edition

 Get Metropolis on your iPad and mobile devices. 
Learn more »