We can think of archetypes as expected behavior from something or someone. This expectation comes from a common history of certain communities or in some cases people around the world. For example a “hero” is expected to behave in a certain way, if we ask the people around the world what qualities make someone heroic, we’ll probably get a large overlap in answers. Thats because the stories we have been reading since childhood have portrayed heroes in a certain way. In design, a study of archetypes is often used to understand and communicate user behavior.
Mimicry, in design, can be used as a way to communicate. By piggy backing on user’s experience with the object our design is mimicking, we can make it simple for the user to understand what our product does and how is the user suppose to interact with it. There are three ways in which a design can mimmic another object, product or experience, surface mimicry, behavioral mimicry and function mimicry. Surface mimicry is about borrowing the aesthetic character of an object. Behavioral mimicry is a good feedback mechanism to built into our design. Functional mimicry is about copying the way things work. For example if the physical knobs on a radio to change channels can be translated into a circular interface on an iPod.
Scale is the most important input that defines our design. How much content is to be presented? How many people can use this simultaneously? What is the breaking point? Another thing to understand is how does the impact of scaling change as we increase or decrease the scale. Is it a gradual decline in performance or is it sudden? As a designer you need this information to either adapt the design with scale or to manage user expectations.
Threat detection is a very interesting psychological phenomenon in humans. We are programmed to detect life threatening objects instantaneously even if its muddled with other objects. Even objects that mimic certain visual characteristics of threatening objects such as snakes, spiders etc trigger the threat detection mechanism. We can use this behavioral aspects in humans to draw attention to certain objects in a noisy environment.