When you’re eating, how many times to you intentionally think about your fork? It’s a tool we rarely think twice about, yet something we use every day. At a restaurant we’ll swap forks if it’s dirty, but if it’s too heavy, small, or awkward we tend to just accept it. Why? Besides the design of the ‘spork,’ which is more commonly used in fast food and military arenas due to is dual use as a spoon and fork, there haven’t been enormous design innovations in the fork. In Donald Norman’s book “The Design of Everyday Things,” he states “well-designed objects are easy to interpret and understand. They contain visible clues to their operation,” (p. 2). In essence, the fork is a good design for the purpose of eating, but when designers try to be too creative issues can arise.
As Norman describes in his door example, the fork is simply understood. But the ease of understanding contextual. If you are unaware of what a fork it, you can visualize a use for either end, although it is more likely you would pick the pronged or ‘tined’ end to do something with. In the context of a dinner party, it is easy to understand you’d this instrunment for the action of spearing your food, but what if you found a fork in the forest? Stumbling upon this item in the forest you could guess this to be a weapon, an agricultural tool, a comb, etc. It’s the context that helps us define things, and thus historically helped define the fork.