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Living with complexity
Living with Complexity.

MIT Press, 2011.
The Design of future things

Available now at:
The Design of everyday things

Available now at:
The Invisible Computer

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Things That Make us Smart

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Interviews & Recent Press Coverage

Conversation: Jon Kolko & Don Norman mediated by Richard Anderson
Out with the Old, In with the New: A Conversation with Don Norman & Jon Kolko, mediated by Richard Anderson.  Richard's blog, Riander Blog, contains photos, a transcript, and an embedded video of the event.

Here is Richard's description of the event:

(This) "conversation" with Don Norman and Jon Kolko, ... took place at the Academy of Art University (AAU) in San Francisco the evening of September 30, 2011. The ~2-hour exchange with and between Don and Jon and the audience (comprised mostly of AAU students) was particularly engaging, thoughtful, rich, and delightful.

The title I gave to the event was, "Out with the Old, In with the New: A Conversation with Don Norman and Jon Kolko on Trends in the Overlap between Art, Business, and Design."

Topics addressed included the nature of and the difference between art and design, whether design should be taught in art schools (such as AAU), Abraham Maslow, usability, what design (or all) education should be like, the problem with "design thinking" courses, the destiny of printed magazines and printed books, aging and ageism, the relationship between HCI and interaction design, Arduino, simplicity, social media, Google, privacy, design research, the context in which design occurs, the Austin Center for Design, solving wicked problems, whether designers make good entrepreneurs, politics, Herb Simon & cybernetics, the strengths & weaknesses of interconnected systems, and how designers should position themselves.



Videos and Interviews
Podcast
Don Norman, a former Apple vice-president, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, and one of the world's most influential designers, discusses his new book, Living With Complexity. Norman talks about differences between complexity, something being complicated, and simplicity, and suggests that people who bemoan "technology" don't actually seek simplicity. He also discusses differences between designing a product and designing a system, using examples of iPods and iTunes, the Amazon Kindle, and BMW's Mini Cooper -- products whose success depended upon the success of larger systems. Norman also notes the difference between a forcing function and a nudge, explains how complicated rules can weaken security, and comments on sociable design in realspace and on the internet.
Podcast on "Living with Complexity" at "Surprisingly Free".


Video of Stanford University talk "Living with Complexity"
(April 8, 2011) Don Norman speaks about complexity in everyday life and how design helps us understand and cope with complexity. Norman gives many examples of complexity and design working together to create understanding for the consumer and asks, "Why do we need complexity? Because what we really want is understanding, so, it's about design."
Video of Stanford Talk

Talk on "Trust" at TEDx Hogeschool Utrecht:

The video from TEDx Utrecht.

Interview in Design (magazine) on UX design: In Korean
Summary of Interview: translation from Google translate (I cleaned it up dramatically).

Last November 8, hosted by KAIST industrial design department and UXEYE, there was a 'UX Symposium" in Seoul.  After Don Norman's lecture we met with him to ask questions about UX design. 

The interview

Video of talk at dConstruct conference, Brighton, UK
Emotional Design for the World of Objects
Welcome to the world of atoms. The human body is part of the physical world. It savors touch and feeling, movement and action. How else to explain the popularity of physical devices, of games that require gestures, and full-body movement? Want to develop for this new world? There are new rules for interacting with the world, new rules for the developers of systems.
The video

Guardian article "Why do some people really hate Apple?" 
Article by Charles Arthur, Technology Editor of the Guardian (UK) Newspaper, based, in part, on an interview with me.

You don't have to go far on the web or even everyday life to find people happy to say it: they hate Steve Jobs and all he stood for, and those who buy things from Apple - the "sheeple", in an oft-used phrase - are simply buying stuff for no reason than its marketing, or advertising. Apple, they say, is a giant con trick.

Why do they care? Because, says Don Norman, ...
The article





Safety Design In -- An Interview
Jeremy Anwyl,CEO of Edmunds.com, called me up to ask if I would like to be interviewed while reviewing the new SYNC control system for Ford Motor Company. I agreed, and so one day in January 2011, he rolled up with a brand new 2011 Ford Explorer and a crew of sound and video folks. I spent quite a bit of time in the driver's seat of the car, reviewing and commenting on the control structures that Ford, Sony, and Microsoft had constructed.  

What did I think?  See the interview, Safety Designed In.  There is nothing in the interview that i haven't said before, especially in the book "Design of Future Things," which covered these issues in much greater depth.  The interview is a readable, short summary with very nice photos of the interior of the modern auto.

Executive summary: The modern car is far too complex, thus creating potential dangerous conditions. Instead of concentrating on the road, the driver controls the entertainment and comfort system: lots of controls, lots of menus, and screens that have to be watched to ensure the right item is selected. Driving is deceptively simple. Not much attention is required. But when danger does strike, it is usually unexpected, requiring an appropriate response in fractions of a second. What if the eyes are off the road? Driving is deceptively simple for such a dangerous activity. 

Click on the photo of the car interior, as seen from the Driver's position: I count roughly 20 switches on the steering wheel alone. (One control counts as anywhere between 1 and 5 items depending upon the number of positions it has -- the two joy-stick controls, one on the left, one on the right, each count as 5.)

It would be great if we could restrict the non-driving functions to passengers, but it simply is not possible. Try keeping people from using their cellphones, even though the data clearly show the danger (even hands-free). What about you? Ever talk on the cellphone while driving a car, riding a bike, or walking across a crowded street?

That is why I believe the only solution is full automation: cars that drive themselves. That will reduce the number of accidents by a huge amount. But when there will be an accident, it is apt to be a big one, with hundreds of injuries. (More in "Design of Future Things,")



Videos from Design of Everyday Things

My videos have been resurrected!  Let me explain.

One upon a time, many years ago -- 1994 to be precise -- The Voyager Company produced a delightful CD-ROM that included copies of several of my books ("Design of Everyday Things," "Things that Make Us Smart," and "Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles."   As you read the books, if you had a question, you could just click wherever there was a link and I would pop up, walk on top of the text and illustrate the points being discussed on that page.  

Voyager worked diligently on the CD-ROM: they did a marvelous job.  But they were too far ahead of their time. This was an early e-book, far ahead of its time. It was produced in Hypercard, an innovative platform for the Apple Macintosh that no longer exists. it doesn't even run on modern Apple machines. (Weirdly enough, you can still purchase it at Amazon.com.)

Bob Stein, founder and head, was responsible for the project. Melanie Goldstein produced it. Others who worked on it were Colin Holgate, Curtis Wong, Kim Morgan, and lots of people whose names, unfortunately, I have forgotten.

Now we switch to today:

Mads Soegaard, Editor-in-Chief of Interaction-Design.org, has worked diligently to recover many of the videos. He can't get them all to work, but he is now posting the ones he has on the Interaction-Design website. (Apologies for the poor quality video, but in 1994, these were state of the art.)

You might also take a look through his website: A goldmine of information about interaction design.

The videos are at  interaction-design.org/tv/index.html



Want Magazine Interview (with video)

Want magazine inteviewed me in my Palo Alto, California home. The very nice interview that resulted was posted on May 14, 2010 at:

http://wantmag.com/release/001/2010/05/don-norman/

Design Research Conference "Interview with Don Norman"
I'm giving the opening keynote address at  IIT's Institute of Design's Design Research Conference (Chicago, May 2010). The conference organizers interviewed me, which gave me a good chance to state my views on a number of contemporary issues in the design community.  I cover numerous topics, but include the one that is most controversial and is the theme of my keynote: design research is great when it comes to improving existing product categories but essentially useless when it comes to new, innovative breakthroughs".

The interview is available from the conference website or by clicking here.

But also see the article that launched this controversy: Technology first, needs last.

and my review of Roberto Verganti's book, Design-driven innovation.



World's Most Influential Designers
Business Week has developed a list of what they call the World's  27 Most Influential Designers. I'm honored to be on the list, but I am also  skeptical. Among other things, I am a design thinker, not a designer. I study, analyze, teach, and preach good design. I have worked with some of the world's best designers (some of whom are on the Business Week list), and I have indeed worked on numerous products. But not as a designer.

Still, as the saying goes, flattery always works.

It is also nice that my partner, Jakob Nielsen, also made the list. Are we designers? No. Do we have an influence on design? We certainly try hard to do just that.

http://images.businessweek.com/ss/10/02/0201_worlds_most_influential_designers/22.htm



Designing Waits That Work
My MIT Sloan Management Review paper on waiting lines is finally out:

Norman, D. A. (2009). Designing waits that work. MIT Sloan Management Review, 50(4), 23-28. 


The URL (above) only gives a short excerpt: you have to subscribe (or pay) to get the entire article. But if you write me, I'll send you a copy. Or you can simply look at the original version that spawned the paper: The Psychology of Waiting Lines. (The original is better in the amount of detail and formal analyses, worse in the rough draft and inelegance of the writing as well as a lack of examples which I added for SMR.)


Dwell Magazine has me judge bathroom faucets

DWELL Magazine asked me to judge bathroom faucets. I got to read the literature on them and examine each one (and read the literature), but they were all on a table in front of me, but free standing -- neither mounted nor connected to anything.  So I had to pretend to use each one. Not the best way to judge faucets.  In addition, the faucet you might want to select depends heavily upon the context - the design genre of the home and bathroom, the surrounding fixtures, your own usage patterns and preferences. Still, it was an interesting experience.

don norman DWELL faucet expert.jpg

The results are available in their May, 2009 issue, and of course, on the internet.  (The internet article has two commentaries for each faucet, the first by me, the second by Dwell. Unfortunately, both are labeled "What we think."  I have asked them to correct this.)


User Experience Video: UX Week 2008

Here is my talk on User Experience at the Adaptive Path conference on UX in 2008.

http://vimeo.com/2963837


My TED talk

TED is a fascinating conference. I've given two talks there over the years and serve on their advisory board. TED used to be a by-invitation conference only, but now it is open to anyone who can afford the rather outrageous registration fee.  Recently, TED has begun to make their talks available to anyone. I highly recommend exploring the site: there are some truly amazing, profound talks available: TED is at ted.com.

My talk from 2003 is on "Design and Emotion"  (based upon my book "Emotional Design").  My earlier talk is not available.

When TED was first started, under the direction of Richard Saul Wurman, the name TED stood for "Technology, Entertainment, Design." Now it is under the direction of Chris Anderson, who has opened up the doors and moved to a larger auditorium. The name TED is so well known now that it no longer need stand for anything except the conference and website.


10 Great Tech Books (Design of Everyday Things)

Steven Levy lists The Design of Everyday Things as one of the "10 Great Tech Books" in the IEEE Spectrum., July 2008. I get two titles in his short review: "Design Guru" and "world-class crank." Hmm, I'll chose the world-class title. The world has too many gurus, not enough cranks.


Innovation takes decades to be accepted

Innovation is all around us. Even table ware, which most of us take for granted, is still changing. But even if someone invents better tableware (for example, any of the 8 possible permutations of forks, spoons, and knives which includes the null set of just using one's hands), it will take decades. Why? because today's varied utensils and chopsticks are "good enough."

Jane Black of the Washington Post did her homework well and wrote an engaging essay on new innovations in tableware. A Knork in the road: On the cutting edge, new designs aim to change the way we eat, one bite at a time. Not only that, she let me have the last word.


Teaching Design to Business People

Terry Winograd of Stanford's computer science department and d.school wrote a very nice description of our new Design + Operations MMM program at the Kellogg School of Business and Northwestern Engineering. That article is available in Interactions, the magazine for Human Computer Interaction professionals.

Jimmy Guterman, editorial director of O'Reilly's Radar group gave the article and our program a nice description and plug in his blog, with his item entitled Teaching design to businesspeople. Guterman concludes by saying this about our design track in the MBA + MEM degree program at Northwestern. "It's still early on, and Winograd's perspective in the article is prospective, but it's another data point that the next generation of businesspeople may be able to think at a deeper level than shades of mauve."

The Innovation article may require a subscription (either personal or by your library) for access, but I can email copies to anyone who requests it from me at norman at northwestern.edu.


Spiegel online - Visionär Norman
Viele Leute brauchen gar keinen Computer.

An interview with Felix Knoke of Spiegel On-Line is now available (in German). Dateien-Wirrwarr, verwirrende Menüs, viel zu viele Fenster: Computer-Visionär Don Norman findet die Programme von heute unmenschlich und überkompliziert. Mit SPIEGEL ONLINE sprach er über die Zukunft des Computers - und dessen nahes Ende.


A deluge of interviews and recordings

With each new book comes a deluge of interviews, articles, reviews, and recordings. The latest book, The Design of Future Things, is no exception. Here are the ones I enjoyed the most.



In December, 2007, I spent an entire day with John Tierney, science writer for the New York Times, exploring the elevators and washrooms of the New York Times building, touring the streets and stores of Manhattan. The result was one story and two NY Times blogs:

Why Nobody Likes a Smart Machine (N. Y. Times Science Section: December 18, 2007).

John Tierney's NY Times Blog 1: Scientific Breakthrough: How to wash your hands. (Photographs by me.)

John Tierney's NY Times Blog 2: Smart elevators, dumb people



Candace Lombardi’s CNET print interview: Tech design with thought.


And lots of audio interviews and radio programs:

A “Digital Cafe” interview with Mario Armstrong:

Interview on the Leonard Lopate Show (WNYC, New York Public Radio)

Peter Merholz interview (54 minutes)

Core77 Interview with Bruce Thorp


New York Times, November 11, 2007

In the New York Times for Sunday, November 11, 2007, John Markoff wrote about the DARPA Grand Challenge in which completely autonomous automobiles completed a complex course through city streets with pedestrians and other traffic. Within the article he also says:

Donald A. Norman, a psychologist and an industrial designer, argues in “The Design of Future Things,” his recently published book, that a new organism is emerging that he calls a “person+machine.”

“Machines have neither motives nor emotions,” he wrote recently in an e-mail message. “Still, machines, appliances and even services have personality traits, if only because they were designed to be conscientious or not, friendly or curt, smooth or abrupt, condescending or understanding, recalcitrant or forgiving.”

Autonomous machines of the future, he said, will increasingly have emotions for the same reason that people have them: to protect themselves as well as to make choices among competing demands for their attention as well as a mechanism for social cooperation.


Time Magazine

In the Thursday, November 8 2007 edition of Time Magazine, Barbara Kiviat writes:

A Problem Of Progress

Life is supposed to get easier with new technology. Donald Norman wishes it were really so. Instead, he says, as devices evolve, people wind up befuddled and annoyed. The culprit: bad design, a longtime target of the Northwestern University professor. In his seminal 1990 book, The Design of Everyday Things, Norman explained why, for example, people so often switch on the wrong burner of an oven range--in a person's mind, a straight row of control knobs doesn't logically map onto a square stove top.

In THE DESIGN OF FUTURE THINGS, he turns to technology on the cusp of invention--smart homes, cars that drive themselves--and finds big problems brewing. Making machines ever quieter may seem wise, for instance, but then they lack audible cues to help people know something is happening. Faced with silence, we often grow frustrated and start over. Better to use natural and intuitive signals. Consider vibrations in a car seat instead of yet another blinking light on the dash to let you know you're drifting across lanes. It's technology that gets psychology.


World Usability Day (06) Interview

Tal Shay interviewed me for World usability Day; The interview is available both as a transcript and as an audio podcast


The Secret of Apple Design

Dan Turner has written a very informative article about Apple Computer's design process in Technology Review. He couldn’t get access to anyone now at Apple, so he interviewed a number of former Apple people. Yes, I'm in there as well.

The article does an excellent job of showing that good process is useful, but a strong leader, with good taste , an excellent eye for detail, and the strength to lead a team to focused, cohesive design makes all the difference between good design and great design.


How To Talk To People

Ambidextrous magazine, Stanford University's Journal of Design, has printed an excerpt from the last chapter of my not-yet published book, The Design of Future Things: How to talk to people. Nice of them.

The full chapter is Afterward: The Machine's Point of View, available here as a PDF.

(The excerpt is part of an ancient manuscript I uncovered, written some time in the 21st century, trying to teach machines patience in their interactions with people). Let me also recommend their Journal to you: light-hearted, but serious, with engaging articles and useful discussions on the many dimensions of design, mostly but not entirely product design.


Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University

I'm pleased to announce the formation of the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern, where my co-director, Ed Colgate and I hope to create a new set of studies of engineering design: products, processes, and services. We have exciting plans for bringing together the resources of the Chicago area in design: architecture, products, graphics, education, and museums. We have two new graduate degree programs: one in Engineering Design and Innovation and the other, a joint MBA/Engineering degree, leading to an MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Administration and a Master of Engineering Management degree from Northwestern Engineering.

Here is the description of the Segal Design Institute from the University press release, and here is the Chicago Business News. (Our great thanks to Gordon and Carole Segal.) A seminar series, conferences, and other activities are n the works.


Tango-A Web application with no back button

Normally I don't comment upon on link to blogs that talk about me or my work, but this one was too much fun to ignore. One of my Nielsen Norman group clients is H& R Block. I recently helped them develop a new form of interaction for their income tax software, one that was so different than their standard approach that they decided to bring it out as its own separate brand: Tango.

The Vice president who initiated the project is Dave Murray. Here is his block on the experience: No Back Button, Dammit!" (sic). Yup, I laid down a number of design axioms for them. Murray started out by insisting this would be an "Emotional Design." Good way to start. I added:

  • No back button
  • No navigation
  • A clear Conceptual Model
  • Error messages that informed, that were reassuring and helpful. No blame
  • The product is fun (as much as income tax can be fun)

Murray added:

  • Software is a story (shades of Brenda Laurel: Interface as theater)

We all added:

  • The product as a persona.
  • Movement and tempo as important components of the experience.

Me, as Uber Geek, on 60 Minutes News Show

Yet another title to add to my collection. I appeared on the American news show 60 Minutes where I was called “the über geek.” Is that above or below a guru? An expert? An opinionated person?

Anyway, the 60 Minutes show is entertaining. It describes the frustrations of life in this technology-dominated world, where ordinary people can no longer cope. The text and the video can be found on the CBS news site. The Show name is “Get me the Geeks!”

The show originally aired January 28, 2007, but was then updated (and improved) and rebroadcast on September 5, 2007. The real surpise is how many emails I got in each case: a lot of people watch 60 minutes.


Podcast on Emotional Design (with Lunar Design)

A two-part podcast of my discussions with John Edson, President of Lunar Design, recorded at their Palo Alto, California design office.


Microsoft Wants PC Package To Appeal to the Eye

Quotations from Ben Romano's article in the Seattle Times (Sep. 11, 2006) on computer hardware design.

Apple Computer has shown that if you control the software and you control the hardware, you can make the two fit harmoniously into a beautiful, elegant package," said Don Norman, a former Apple executive who now consults with Microsoft and wrote the 2004 book "Emotional Design: Why We Love (or hate) Everyday Things."

Design expert Norman considers the sleek, modern approach PC makers have taken to be wrong-headed. Even Apple's products and new flat-screen televisions miss the point.

"It's magnificent. It's beautiful. It belongs in a museum. And that's just the problem," Norman said.

"If I put it in my house, it clashes. It stands out. It doesn't fit."

Norman thinks computers have transitioned from "high technology" to essential components of everyday life. "And therefore they should be furniture," he said.

"When the computer is in the study or in the office, nobody really cared," said Norman. "When it's in the living room or family room, it really matters."


2006 lecture at the University of Minnesota (and video)

I presented the Shocker lecture to the New Product Design and Business Development group at the University of Minnesota. They have made a video of that lecture available on their website in Windows Media Player streaming format: (Note: initial access to the stream is very slow.)


Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science

I am honored to be the 2006 recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science. Among the activities at the ceremonial week was a symposium and a very nice video that summarized my approach to design. These are now available on the Franklin Institute website:

The award statement: http://www.fi.edu/tfi/exhibits/bower/06/ccscience.html

The video (16.9 MBytes. mp4 format): http://www.fi.edu/tfi/exhibits/bower/06/NormanWeb.mp4

The Smposium. April 27, 2006. University of Pennsylvania. "The Social Life of Machines". http://www.fi.edu/tfi/exhibits/bower/06/ccsci_symp.html


Smart Design - National Public Radio Interview

While I was in Philadelphia, I appeared on Marty Moss-Coane's National Public Radio interview show, Radio Times. We had a delightful one-hour broadcast, starting off with watches and ending up, well, all over. Moss-Coane does her homework, so she asked intelligent, probing questions. we both had a lot of fun. The interview is available for streaming, for downloading, and also as a podcast (in mp3 format).

From the WHYY website: Smart Design: Wednesday, April 26, 2006, 10:35:48 AM

The art of crafting useful and intuitive products. DONALD NORMAN is author of a number of books on smart design including "The Design of Everyday Things," and "Emotional Design: Why We Love or Hate Everyday Things." Norman is in Philadelphia this week to receive this year's Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science at the Franklin Institute. Norman is co-founder of the design-consulting firm the "Nielsen Norman Group" based in Silicon Valley.

The interview (20 MBytes -- 1 hour):

The show's website: http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast.php?id=510027


How To Write an Effective Manual

Erin Massey of the Chicago Tribune newspaper (registration required) has written a nice article on the importance of product manuals. Although she interviewed me and included several quotations, she missed the most important lessons of all. So let me provide them here.

Is a manual important? Yes, but even more important is a well-designed product, one so well conceived and constructed that either the manual is not needed at all, or if it is, where the manual can be short, simple, and easy to understand and then to remember. How is this accomplished? By following some simple rules.

  1. Hire excellent technical writers. The technical writing profession is an essential component of any design, just as important as designers, interaction and usability specialists, and engineers.  

  2. The manual writers should be a part of the design team. Ideally, the manual is written first, aimed at being short, simple, and understandable. The designers and engineers help oversee the writing, for when the manual is complete, it will serve as the product specifications that they will follow. Therefore, they must buy into the design from the beginning.

    The ideal manual need only be consulted once for any point or activity: Someone should be able to read each section of the manual, say “Oh yes, I get it,” and never need it again.

  3. The manual should be activity-centered. Pick the most basic activities and explain how to accomplish them. Make the explanations short and simple, with illustrations. Today, all too often, manuals follow the “let's explain every knob and button and menu item in turn.” Yuck! That provides no understanding of how to accomplish anything. Remember: people do not want to read manuals — they want to do their activity. Help them get right to work, with minimum reading.

  4. Test the manual with people chosen to match the intended user community. How do you test a manual before the product is even designed? The manual testing should be done in conjunction with the first design tests using the rapid-prototyping techniques used by the your Human-Centered Design team. They don't do rapid, frequent prototypes? You have a bad team — change it.

  5. Put legal warnings in a separate booklet or in the Appendix. When a manual is needed, it is needed right away, and having to work one's way through pages of legal warnings only increases the anxiety level and decreases the pleasure of the product. Morevoer, people skip these anyway, so they are ineffective. .

Comments contributed by readers

“Here's another tip for providing (if not writing) an effective manual: include storage for the manual on the product, if at all possible. Can you find the manual for your stove, your refrigerator, your toaster oven, your microwave, your vacuum cleaner, your TV, your Tivo, your thermostat, your furnace, etc.? I have to keep the manuals for all of those filed separately from the items, which leads to two problems: they're usually not where they're needed, and they might not get put away promptly after they are used. By contrast, my car (a 2004 Audi A6) has a dedicated slot for the owner's manual right under the steering wheel, and every car has at least a glove compartment to put the manual in.”

My response: An excellent point for larger items, obviously not practical for small ones such as cellphones. Of course, it would be better to design the product so that no manual is rquired. Alternatively, consider a small “Cheat Sheet” manual of useful reminders for the most difficult items that is small enough to keep on the product itself. (Note: most of the reduced instruction sets I have seen explain the common operations and not the obscure ones: the common items should not require reminding — it is the infrequent, obscure ones that need the reminders.)

“We were trying to figure out how to use our rice cooker this weekend and the instruction manual is ridiculous. It is very long — but indicated that we could not possibly use the product without reading the entire manual — and it started with a extraordinarily long list of “not-to-dos” and finally listed some “to-dos.” It at one point referred us to another section of the book for amplification on a topic, and when we went there there was not reference to the topic. I hope more people hire you to work on manuals.”

My response: Marketing people seem to think that big manuals are good. Wrong: the bigger the manual, the more confused the reader.

Norman's Law: The number of readers is inversely proportional to the square of the length of the document.

Afterward

This article has been blogged on the Tech-Whrl-list, a forum for Technical Writers. Some agreed with me, some disagreed. Some misunderstood, some did understand. In other words, a typical blogfest. Still, if you are interested in the practical difficulties of carrying out these ideas, you might enjoy the blogging commentary. I do point out that my article was of necessity short and simplified. many of the practical considerations mentioned by the writers are absolutely correct, and my wish to get rid of the legal jargon that prevents the reader from getting to the manual may prove to be a legal impossibility. So read the blogs with the same delight and confusion as I did. That is real life: delightful, confusing, frustrating.
Industrial Design: Claims & Substance

Bruce Nussbaum, of Business Week finally discovered my essay "Industrial Design: Claims without Substance,"  and discussed it in his blog on BusinessWeek.com, charmingly entitled "Don Norman is my hero." 

I had complained that Industrial Designers, clever folks that they are, often designed wonderful things, but then they made completely unsubstantiated claims about them. I took Bruce to task, for he has been the major champion design at Business Week, and it is he who is responsible for the annual IDSA/Business Week awards for design, usually the cover story of the magazine. Bruce's response was amazingly supportive.

And then Chris Conley of both The Institute of Design and GravityTank wrote, asking me to be on the 2006 jury. Here is what he said: "I am the chair of the 2006 IDEA/Businessweek awards and would like to invite you to join me and a range of design and business leaders on the jury. I saw Bruce's post on his blog and couldn't help but chuckle!

"As you probably know the process is imperfect and last year's jury (of which I was a part) made strong recommendations to evaluate the actual products, not just pretty pictures. Alas, the logistics won't be in place until next year. But I feel that this year's jury must be strong advocates for change and improvement in this competition if it is going to build strong credibility and have its unfair share of influence!"

So, let's see what happens. As Chris says, not in 2006, but in 2007.


Digital Living Room
December 5, 2005. Digital Living Room Summit, San Mateo, California. I'm was on the panel moderated by David Pogue of the New York Times, called “Plug and Pray,” about “the inability of different devices to connect shared content and often, simply work.” Within two hours, the first stories had hit the air. Amazing what the modern, fully wired, journalist can do.
 
Red Herring said: “At one point, Mr. Norman, a skeptic who couldn’t name one recent product that he thought was worthwhile, sent the audience of entrepreneurs into giggles by poking fun at the long chain of acronyms used by Mr. Hunt to discuss a future of compatible devices and universal standards. “
 
CNET news.com chose to mention my live demo: “To illustrate this point, Norman stood behind a PC and displayed the many cables, wires and cords snaking in and around the machine. “We can't even handle the plugs right,” said Norman, scoffing at the industry's inability to agree on standards for power cords.“
 
ah yes, it was fun, even if not very enlightening. The problem, as I (and the other panelists all agreed) was not with any one company, but with the industry. Until there is agreement about standards on format, connectors, DRMs, and all aspects of interoperability, the consumer's life will remain a mess. No wonder so many people refuse to buy any more products: they dare not brave the wiring closet.  It is long-past time to reach agreement: put aside your petty proprietary standards: it will benefit everyone..
Why are tech gizmos so hard to figure out?
In the November 1, 2005 issue of USA Today, Ed Baig has a nice story on the confusion and difficulty of using so many of our technological devices. When he interviewed me for the story, I told him that this difficulty has been around for a long time. The earliest documented period of confusion is for the plow. By the year 1532, the plow had so many adjustable parts that learning to use it was very difficult. And the manual seemed to have been of no use: "It is harde to make a man understand it by Wrytnge." * I also told Baig that the early phonographs took two weeks to master. The plow story didn't make it to print, but the phonograph story did. An excellent article, just in time for World Usability Day. Hurrah! (Of course, the dancing bear on the USA Today page with the obnoxious, blaring music destroys the entire credibility of the article. But journalists have no control over the site, and there is supposed to be a wall separating editorial from advertising. Too bad, the noise makes the site unusable to me.
NOTE: quotation is from Williams, T. I., 1987. The history of invention: From stone axes to silicon chips. London: Macdonald & Co. New York: Facts on file Publications. p. 202.)
HFES Student Calendar Now Available for 2006

The Student Chapter of HFES (Human Factors & Ergonomics Society) from the University of Central Florida are trying to raise money, so they have created a calendar for 2006. In their words:

"This year our student chapter wanted to do something that would test our creativity, help us learn more about some of the major players in human factors, and allow us to do a fundraiser to provide the means for a student research award. What did we do?

"We contacted 12 human factors professionals who agreed to let us use photographs of them to morph into famous movie theme posters that highlighted their research interest."

I'm September. Visit them, see what they transformed me into (think of the movie "iRobot"), and buy a calendar.


When Norman Meets Chinese

An interview with Christina Li, Founder and Editor in Chief of the Chinese wesbite group uiGarden ("Weaving usability and cultures").

English version

Chinese version


Sina.com Interview (in Chinese)

An interview with me is now available to my Chinese readers on Sina web. Alas, I can't tell you any more about it than that as it is in Chinese. The main page is http://tech.sina.com.cn/focus/design_us/index.shtml, where I am in company with my friends David Kelley of IDEO and Patrick Whitney of Chicago's Institute of Design. The article about me is at http://tech.sina.com.cn/it/2005-08-25/1013703319.shtml


Beeps and other annoying sounds

Don Fernandez of the San Diego Union wrote this entertaining — but very true — article about all those annoying beeps and blips our electronic equipment continually deliver to us. Annoying and confusing.

Wayne Freedman of ABC Television, Channel 7, in San Francisco, did a lovely TV show on the topic of beeps, where I traced the origin to the whistling teapot, and showed how the mindless proliferation of devices that beep (stoves, timers, refrigerators, clocks, remote controls, ...) was more than irritating, it is profoundly counterproductive.

No sooner had I posted this than an alert reader, who happens to work for Google, showed me how to find; search video.google.com for "Wayne Freeman beeps." There are nice photos of Wayne and me, with Wayne elciting beeps from a backing-up truck and a car's navigation system. But no live video, at least not yet.


The Twenty Most Important Tools

Forbes.com is writing a 20-day series of articles on "the 20 tools which have had the biggest impact on human civilization." They asked me to be on their advisory board.

"Writing," I proclaimed. "The invention of writing is probably the most important tool for human advancement, making it possible for each new generation to build upon the work of the previous, to transmit knowledge from person to person, across cultures and time."

"Sorry," came back the response. "We decided early on to try to limit the list to handheld objects that could be physically manipulated to complete a task.”"

So I advised them, but they are letting me publish a 500 word essay on what I really believe when the series is over. Read the individual articles - you will find them interesting. And after my essay has been published, i will aslo post it in the "Essays" section of this website.

Note added March 15, 2006.

Forbes just published the article, entitled "Things that make us smart."

My essay is now available in the "Essays: Technology and Society" Section of this website.


Emotional Design and Landscapes

I am continualy amazed at the wide variety of places my work gets applied to. Here is a fascinating example from landscape design, taken from the "Daily on-line California," the on-line newspaper for the University of California, Berkeley.

"Campus landscaping may be a major factor in a university's appeal, and UC Berkeley is one of the most landscape-conscious campuses in the country, according to Philip Waite, assistant professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Washington State University ... According to Waite, the underlying issue in people's reactions to landscaping is explained in Donald Norman's book Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things, which says that things perceived as beautiful tend to be forgiven."


De normen van Norman (MacFreak interview, in Dutch)

Karina Meerman, one of the editors of the new Dutch magazine MacFreak interviewed me about my philosophy of design and my take on the "new" Apple Computer.

Here is a pdf file of the interview.


Design and Emotion

An interview with Javier Cañada and Marco van Hout for the Dutch magazine Product. The magazine is in Dutch, but the interview, Q & A with Don Norman, is in English.


eLearning Predictions: Learning Tutors

You might enjoy reading the these predictions about the future of electronic learning: in the ACM Magazine, eLearn.

After this was published, I received email from a reader who stated that my prediction had already come true. He explained how he used his PDA to learn Chinese, with a phrase book, audio flash cards, and "a Read-Write chinese character tutorial that includes animated characters, stroke order practice, and multiple testing modes to test all aspects of developing chinese character knowledge, retention, and
understanding."

Is this what I was talking about? Partially. I'm looking for more, but I'm impresed enough that I peeked into buying the sysem for myself: Italian, not Chinese, but who knows, ...

Neal Stephenson: someday we will get to your "young lady's illustrated primer."


I am NOT employed by Microsoft
It's nice to be quoted, but not when the quote is out of context, or when I am described inaccurately. Strategiy.com has posted an opinion piece about Apple, in which I am quoted accurately, but out of context. Worse, I am described as "an employee of rival Microsoft." Not at all: I am an employee/owner of the Nielsen Norman group (NN/g) and a (half-time) Professor at Northwestern University.

I have lots of clients at NN/g. One of them is indeed Microsoft, but this is not employment. Both Microsoft and Apple employ excellent, highly talented, highly motivated people, all trying to enhance the experience we have with technology. I am a happy owner of an iPod (mini) and a fan of the modern transformation of Apple, and I'm also pleased by the products coming from Microsoft. My allegiance is to the people who purchase and use technology. I work with multiple companies, helping them enhance the pleasure and enjoyment people get from their products.


"Turn Signals" Rediscovered: The Personal Teddy
Years ago, I wrote a book of essays entitled "Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles." Didn't sell well, so now it is out of print. But, hey, some people remembered it: "In 1992, the usability guru Don Norman wrote that every child should receive a personal teddy that would store all the experiences people ever had." said the Sydney Morning Herald.
(You can find "The Teddy" -- and other chapters from the book in the books section of this website.)
Surpassing Customers' Needs: When Technology Is too Good.
Jeff Karoub of "smalltimes.com" interviewed me, among others, and put together this nice essay When technology is too good.
Mental models
Avi Parush of Carelton University's (Canada) Human Oriented Technology Lab interviewed me about mental models. Here is the transcript.
Emotional about design
Article from The Guardian (UK): "Former Apple fellow and design guru Don Norman has been influential on and offline. He tells Jack Schofield why products should now start making us smile. ..."
COMPUTERS: Mac Attack
Psychology Today Magazine. " 'An uncooperative PC violates our expectations,' says psychologist and computer scientist Donald Norman, author of Emotional Design.
TechTV's "Screensaver"
(March 30, 2004): My 9 minutes of fame. Alas, TechTV is out of business, so my 9 minutes didn't last 9 months. But I did preserve the video as a low-quality, but large (3.5MBytes) file. Media Player video of my defence of putting emotions into machines (machine emotions, I hasten to add, not human ones). Plus miscellaneous asides that neither the interviewer nor I could resist. (Video is pointed to in box on lower right of page labelled "Video Highlight."
Talk at O'Reilly Technology Conference
(Feb. 12, 2004 (San Diego). 47 minutes of streaming audio (they didn't seem to have recorded the video).
Wired Magazine review of "Emotional Design"
(January, 2004). "The book pops with fresh paradigms, applying scientific rigor to our romance with the inanimate. You'll never see housewares the same way again." Wired Magazine
Harvard Business Review on "Emotional Design."
(February, 2004) "The major challenge ... Norman explains in this well-illustrated survey of the emotional drivers in product design, is that customers' responses vary so greatly. Product designers need to tailor their work carefully in order to push the right buttons with the right consumers." Harvard Business Review
Don Norman on PowerPoint Usability
(January 2004) Interview with Cliff Atkinson. If you've been keeping up with PowerPoint criticism in the news lately, you'll be interested to hear what usability expert Don Norman says in his provocative interview. Don's comments broaden the public debate about PowerPoint by introducing the more relevant issues of cross-media design and audience usability. (April 2005: see my essay "In Defense of PowerPoint," in the "Essays" section of this website.)
Chicago SunTimes
(January 5, 2004.) "Emotions run high for 'Knute Rockne of tech' " "He's a coach showing us new ways of playing the game. And Norman is changing the world of product design right here in Chicago without fanfare or celebrity." (Not the way I would have put it, but that's what the story says.)
Scientific American article.
(January, 2004) Describes my work and "Emotional Design. The emphasis is skewed toward the last two chapters -- emotion in machines, and hence, the article is entitled "Why machines should fear."
Emotion and Learning
Article on the role of emotion in learning (the article is really about distance or electronic learning). In the ACM's eLearn journal.
Italy: Voglio un computer da amare
Interview published 24 Oct. 2003 in L'Espresso (in Italian) with Arianna Dagnino, discussing my talk at the Institute for Interactive design, Ivrea and the (fascinating) research being done there. (Download PDF: Note: this is a 1.3 mbyte PDF file) (But while you are at it, you might enjoy browsing the Interactive design Institute's website.)
UK: "Technology to make you go 'wow' ".
Jo Twist's interview with me for BBC News. (And yes, she really did beam when I showed her my Namiki (Pilot) fountain pen.)
Japan: University of Tokyo
Report on my September 2003 talk (the report is in Japanese).
New York Times article on the complexity of everyday life -- we have become full-time maintenance people.
Katie Hafner decries the rise of everyday complexity in her New York Times article "There are times when I feel that I've worked the whole day and done no work," Dr. Norman said. "All I have done is maintained or fixed my computer equipment." Her article requires registration, and after a while, a fee. She interviewed me while I was writing the initial draft of my essay on the topic: The Complexity of Everyday Life
New Scientist
interview "Designed for Life."

Interview in ACM's "Ubiquity" on--line journal
On the value of Beauty, fun, and pleasure in design.
Interview in "The Feature"
Ergonomics: A "cantankerous visionary" strives to put consumers first in a wireless world. May 24 2002. (The URL gets you to the home page: find the search box and search for "norman.")
A robot revolution is coming your way
By Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY, 2 Feb 2002
I'm an advisor to Evolution Robotics. (Be sure to watch the video on the USA Today site)
Flat-screen iMac wows design guru
By Alfred Hermida, BBC News Online, 15 Jan. 2002
BBC interviews me about the new iMac
Internet's future debated at PopTech Conference
By Nicolas Mokhoff, EE Times, 29 Oct. 2001
EE Times article about my PopTech 2001 conference debate
Everyday Design
On NPR's Science Friday with Ira Flatow, 1 Feb 2002
Debate on Design with Michael Graves and Henry Petroski on the NPR Radio Show, "Science Friday"
Link to streaming RealAudio
Exclusive interview with Donald Norman on learner-centered design and other relevant issues
elearningpost, 15 Feb 2002
Interview on learner-centered design and other relevant issues
The Art of Design
On PBS's Tech Nation with Dr. Moira Gunn, 10 July 2001 I spar with Jakob Nielsen on PBS's "Tech Nation." Link to streaming RealAudio