Lens: Type: Characteristic

Physical and social conventions that govern settings.

Photo: kellymlacy
a parking lot

Every context abides by laws. Physical laws that define how gravity works or the speed of light, or how sound travels through water often affect the shape of designed products, services, and systems. For example, designers who create outcomes for exploring Earth’s moon may need to account for the difference in the moon’s gravity. In many Earth-bound design endeavors, physical laws are well-understood and presumed. Designers who hope to create outcomes that will function in different contexts can not ignore how physical laws govern settings.

Laws established by society also prescribe what is possible or at least acceptable in contexts. When traveling to another country, travelers are responsible for abiding by that country’s laws. The same goes for design. Outcomes implemented in different settings should account for rules that govern acceptable behavior. Products, services, and systems aren’t always designed to follow the rules—sometimes, design outcomes are created to bend or break laws. In any case, knowing laws give designers a clearer perspective on laws’ intent and how they work, so design outcomes can be designed to achieve intended results.

The “laws” aspect of experience for design accounts for logical arguments that involve concepts like reason, causality, and validity. Laws centers on a designer’s critical thinking. For example, a person who wants to buy Vans shoes but has no money can not buy Vans shoes. We understand that to purchase something, you must have something to give (in this case, money). The person could do a few other things to get Vans shoes. They could get a credit card and charge Vans shoes to their account and pay for the shoes later. The person could steal Vans shoes, breaking social laws. The person could make Vans-like shoes, though these wouldn’t be “real” Vans shoes. The person could borrow someone else’s Vans shoes, but they would not have exclusive use of the shoes whenever they wanted, which is a significant downside to borrowing. Of course, the person could get a job, work and save money, then get Vans shoes later, once they saved $65 (some fourteen-year-olds think this option is impossible). All of these scenarios account for truths—someone wants shoes, and they can not make money appear out of thin air. Most experience design scenes are played out in reality, and reality has laws that define how reality works — accounting for these frames designing so outcomes can effectively exist in the real world.

Laws Examples

Time Conventions: Countries use a 24-hour clock instead of a 12-hour clock.

Concepts Related to Laws

  • Conventions

Researching Laws

Designers better understand a context’s mechanics and limitations when they research laws that govern those contexts. If a product, service, or system will be implemented in an unfamiliar setting, researching the laws in that context can help designers create outcomes that account for those laws.

Questions to Ask About Laws

  • What s legal in this context and what is not allowed?
  • Why are these laws in place and should they be broken or bent?
  • What is impossible in this setting?
  • Is our design breaking the basic laws of reality?

Look for These When Researching Laws

  • How the physical world “works”
  • Laws printed or verbally shared


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


Rimal, R. N., & Lapinski, M. K. (2015). A Re-Explication of Social Norms, Ten Years Later. Communication Theory (1050-3293), 25(4), 393-409.

Physical Sciences

Tyson, N. D. (2017). Astrophysics for people in a hurry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.