This week’s lecture is about imaginary worlds, and I try to find out the most important purpose of them and whether they convince audiences. Imaginary worlds are widely used in games, films, books, and so on, there must be reasons for them to exist.

Figure 1: Book Cover (Norman D., 2013)
Figure 1: Book Cover (Norman D., 2013)

In design, we use signifiers to communicate meanings, but as stated in Donald A. Norman’s book “The Design of Everyday Things”, there are four kinds of constraints: Physical, Cultural, Semantic, and Logical. (Norman, D., 2013) The real world is complex, and people from different cultures may not understand each other. By creating an imaginary world with a defined concept, the process of understanding is simplified.

Imaginary worlds often have strong connections to the real world. There is some sort of map or directions, rules, and sometimes creatures similar to those in the real world, which makes the imaginary world more convincing and logical.

I remember the first Chinese RPG game I played back in the year 2000, the game has no official English name but can be translated as ‘The Legend of Sword and Fairy’. The story set in ancient China, game players can control the character to walk and talk to people to trigger events. The world contains cities, mazes, dungeons, cave tunnels and wilderness. Because the whole story is based in the real world and has its logic, I was very engaged and even felt emotional when there are life changing events happen to the main character.

Another example about connections between imaginary and real world could be the famous 9 ¾ platform in King’s Cross Station from “Harry Potter”. It is interesting to witness how a fictional story changes the reality and makes people actually build things that didn’t exist. Fictional stories like Science Fiction may even inspire scientists in reality.

Figure 2: Platform 9¾ (1000 Things London, 2012)

‘Fictional worlds are not just figments of a person’s imagination; they circulate and exist independently of us and can be called up, accessed, and explored when needed.’ (Dunne A. Raby F., 2013) To sum up, I believe a well-built imaginary world does convince the audience, and the most important purpose of using it is to communicate better.


Dunne, A. & Raby F. (2013) Speculative Everything. England: MIT Press

Norman, D. (2013) The Design of Everyday Things. England: The MIT Press


Figure 1: Book Cover. Norman, D. (2013) The Design of Everyday Things. England: The MIT Press

Figure 2: Platform 9¾. 1000 Things London. (2012) #106: Don’t be a Muggle at Platform 9¾. [image] Available at: (Accessed: 17/04/2016)