Consistency (learning portfolio 2)

What is Consistency?
During design processes decisions must be made in terms of what must be kept relatively consitent (Horn). There are four types of consistency in terms of design: aesthetic consitency, functional consistency, internal consistency and external consistency, and it is these four types that are fundamental in making systems more usable (Lidwell, 2003).  The principle of consistency undermines the idea that systems become easier for people to understand or learn how to use when similar aspects are shown in similar ways (Lidwell, 2003). It is common that most people are able to figure out new devices, systems or how to use a particular product due to similar past experiences, which is basically the underlying focus of the principle of consistency.

Horn states in his text Consistency and the Conditions for Creativity that “creativity is responsible for innovation in ideas and products. Consistency is responsible for widespread use of ideas and products (Horn)” which explains that products that appear new and improved though their creativity generally excel when kept consistent in their own design and with previous designs thus making them easier to use. It is important to achieve this balance between consistency and contrast or creativity in order to create an effective design (White, 2011).

Aesthetic consistency is what allows people to recognise the product in terms of who designed it and how and what it is used for, making it the major communication point of most products. This allows people to not only recognise the company and the product but to also apply their own feelings towards it from past experiences with the same product or similar products(Lidwell, 2003). This then ties into functional consistency, which is solely focused on making new products similar to old products therefore allowing consumers to use their existing knowledge to understand how the product works. Internal consistency focuses on keeping the systems design simple and repetitive thus making it easy to use, and finally external consistency aims to extend the benefits of internal consistency across other elements in the environment (Lidwell, 2003).

Over all consistency is the key to customer loyalty (Turner, 2011). Aesthetic, functional, internal and external consistency are the four main ways in creating usable designs. The principle of consistency undermines the idea that systems become easier for people to understand or learn how to use when similar aspects are shown in similar ways (Lidwell, 2003) therefore making these particular products under high demand.

Three Examples:
1) Remote Control

(Liberty, B. 2012)
Remote controls are a good example of consistency in design. Aesthetically most remote controls, whether for a television, CD player, DVD player or Blu Ray player, are generally very similar therefore enhances people’s recognition of what they are and what they do. Functionally most remotes have channel buttons, volume buttons, numbered buttons, a standby button and so forth which improves learnability among users; if someone has used a particular type of remote before they should be able to apply that existing knowledge on how it functioned when using a new type of remote. Externally most remotes are very similar to one another. All of these factors combine to make the common remote a very consistent and usable design.

2) Street Signs

Street signs are also consistently designed. Street signs are aesthetically very basic which is imperative as drivers must easily be able to see what the sign says as they are driving past. Common colours are used which enhancive recognition and set emotional expectancy (Lidwell, W. 2003). For example stop signs are red as red is most commonly used to stop (ie. in stop lights) and crossing signs are yellow as yellow is commonly placed with hazard signage. These colours also become the functional consistency of the signs as the consistent use of these colours and font throughout all street signs enables people to use their previous knowledge and understand what the signs mean. Internal consistency ensures that the signs are always placed in the correct places showing that there is a system to how they are set up and used. Finally the external consistency of the street signs is that street signs as one system are very similar to work place hazard signs and other signage systems that are designed to alert people.

3) Portable Music Devices (eg. iPod’s and MP3 Players)

(Varias, 2009)
Aesthetically most portable music playing devices are quite similar in the fact that they generally have a screen to display song choice, a play button, pause button, forward and back buttons, a button to make a selection and a hole to plug the earphones into. This enhances recognition of what the product does and for people who have used or been exposed to a similar product before can form their own emotional expectations (Lidwell, 2003). Functionally the use of all those previously named factors make the product more learnable – play, pause, forward, back and select buttons are not only seen on portable music devices such as iPods, MP3 players or tape decks, but can also be seen on remote controls, computers and some phones. This therefore creates a sense of understanding on what the device does. Finally portable music devices are designed internally to correspond with the buttons, for example pressing pause will pause the music, pressing skip will take you to the next song and so forth. This indicates that the “system has been designed, and not cobbled together (Lidwell, 2003).”

Works Cited:
Horn, R. E. The Principle of Consistency and the Conditions for Creativity  Retrieved May 18, 2012, from

Liberty, B. (2012). Rarely-Used Remote Control Buttons  Retrieved May 19, 2012, from

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetic-Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 46). Massachusets: Rockport.

Turner, M. S. (2011). The Consistency Gap: Overcoming Failure in Consistently Executing the Business Plan: iUniverse.

Varias, L. (2009, May 7, 2009). Pmpin’: Anything but iPod’s Mp3 Player Buyer’s Guide.  Retrieved May 20, 2012, from

White, A. W. (2011). The Elements of Graphic Design (Second Edition). New York: Allworth Press.


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