Product development timelines are shrinking and simultaneously, products are becoming more complicated. Designers have little time to allow products to iteratively evolve into their most intuitive forms. The result for the consumer is often a steep learning curve via thick instruction manuals, cheat sheets and "quick-start" guides. In contrast, an object such as a water pitcher contains virtually all the information needed to successfully use it right away; everything is either communicated by the form itself or quickly discovered through simple explorations. In 2001-2003, when I attended RIT, the graduate industrial design curriculum did not include a class solely based on design principles. Many graduate ID students at RIT come from other disciplines with limited exposure to design principles or theories of cognitive psychology. So after research into the work of Christopher Alexander, Irving Biederman, JJ Gibson, Rudolph Arnhiem, and Donald Norman, etc. I created a one-day graduate workshop to teach a number of related design principles and cognitive psychology theories towards more effectively using physical form to improve a product's semantics. This paper describes the workshop material as well as student work created in the workshop. Successful application of the workshop material by the students who attended suggests that RIT ID graduate students would benefit from a full quarter class based on these theories and principles.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Industrial design--Study and teaching; Design--Study and teaching; Cognitive psychology

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Design (CIAS)


Herbert, Andrew


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: TS171 .C36 2010


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