Week 3: Connecting terms


What would nature do?

For this assignment I was given four design terms to define and then connect into a narrative. The terms I was given were archetype, mimicry, scaling fallacy, and threat detection.

Definitions based on Lidwell’s Universal Design Principles:


Universal patterns of theme and form resulting from innate biases or dispositions. Hardwired ideas and conceptions. Example, Harley Davison= outlaw archetype.

Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolved; consequentially, they evoke deep emotions.



What would nature do? WWND

the act of copying properties of familiar objects, organisms, or environments in order to realize specific benefits afforded by those properties. These can be surface, behavioral, or functional. (improves usability)

“I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning.”- Steve Jobs referring to biomimicry

Scaling Fallacy:

A tendency to assume that a system that works at one scale will also work at smaller or bigger level. The fallacy occurs when a designer assumes usability will be retained when a design is scaled up or down. ie performance & interaction. Eg Big Screens

Threat Detection:

The natural ability to detect threatening stimuli more efficiently than non-threatening stimuli.

Examples: Smoking advertisements, animal protection

Each of these design principle is related to nature and how we naturally see things. When I think of Archetype I think of the brand of an object or design and who is going to be using the product. Comparing two types of vacuum designs a manual and a robotic. For example, looking at a Dyson, its functionality is much more important to the design. It’s designed for people who want to get things done and get their house cleaned; the design reflects its function by exposing how it moves across the floor and collects dirt. Whereas, looking at the Roomba, robotic vacuum, we immediately know it doesn’t need assistance. The form of this vacuum design shows us that it works autonomously. Just like threat detection, the design gives us information about what it does without having to know very much about the product itself.


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Considering the original designs of the vacuum were quite large, I would assume the design of the vacuum went through many design iterations in order to scale it down to its modern day size (scaling fallacy).

The biggest takeaway of understanding these design principles is that one of the main goals designers have is to design products that are intuitive and visually compelling. In order to do this, it’s best to pull from nature, from what people know and are comfortable with–looking back at last week’s assignment Good & Bad Design, BMW’s focus is to take the most modern car technology and combine it with the familiar. This way the user doesn’t have to learn two new things at once, rather they are able to truly utilize the advancements in technology without having an experience that is overly complicated and has a learning curve.

Examples of Mimicry:
(surface) software icons looking like the actual objects they are representing;  cloud;
(behavioral) Tamagotchi
A super popular gadget game in the 90s mimicked the behavior of an actual pet. It was also ambiguous, allowing children to define what kind of pet, realistic or not, they were taking care of.
(functional) Claw Machines
The infamous claw machine seen at most arcades and amusement parks, which has haunted likely millions of people, is functionally mimicking a human hand grabbing for something. Making users believe it’s not always about how many quarters you use.