Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Most recent essays

(In reverse chronological order, most recent first.)

The Future of Design: When you come to a fork in the road, take it

23 April 2016

Design started out as a craft, primarily focusing upon the creation of beautiful objects to become a powerful force in industry. Today, design has gone far beyond its simple origins as a craft to develop powerful new ways for people to interact with the world, emphasizing experience, not technology. Moreover, it has evolved into a way of thinking, of problem discovery, and of enhancing the lives of individuals, the experience of the workforce, and even the health of the planet. Are these new developments compatible with the craft traditions of the old? Is this a fork in the road, with some continuing the craft tradition of enhancing the emotional experiences of our products and others taking the other path, moving design thinking into all endeavors, but far removed from the history and mainstream practice of today. What is the future of design? We are at a fork: Which path should we take? I take my answer from the famed American baseball player Yogi Berra who said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Interview: Is Tesla Racing Recklessly Towards Driverless Cars?

23 April 2016

Chunka Mui wrote to say he was writing an article on autonomous cars and asked for my thoughts.  He published his article in Forbes , and before I knew it, I was suddenly front and center into the debate about Tesla and autonomy.Here is the article: here is my response to the (fortunately very few) complaints.  People really love their teslas and do not like any criticism.My reply is:Yes, I have experienced Tesla's autopilot (as well as the pre-release models from other OEMs)....

Vox Media on Norman Doors. 'Bad doors are everywhere'

27 February 2016

A video that is both instructional and fun. The article text concludes by saying "Don Norman's seminal book on design, The Design of Everyday Things, ... (p)ublished 25 years ago, it remains just as relevant today. Doors shouldn't need instructions. When most people complain about something, nothing happens. But Norman is not most people -- he's a psychologist and cognitive scientist. So his writing about his complaints is so incredibly thorough that he changed the way design works. And the "human-centered design" revolution he sparked changed not only how designers work, but also how people in fields like public health work to make the world a better place. This is why Melinda Gates believes human-centered design is one change that could save the world. To find out what all this has to do with crappy doors, watch the video."

In memory of Naomi Miyake

10 November 2015

Naomi Miyake, a brilliant Japanese researcher, a close friend and colleague, and one of my early PhD students, died this year (2015). Here are my reflections on her carer, published in the japanese Cognitive Science Society's journal: Cognitive Studies, 22(4), 1-38. (Dec. 2015)

The "science" in the science of design

18 October 2015

Design is a complex field. Some components of design already are based upon good science, usually from the behavioral and cognitive sciences. Some are at the pre-scientific level of understanding. I believe that with a proper attitude toward evidence-based studies, these areas can also become either scientific, or at least rigorously proven to be effective when used under well-understood circumstances. Some aspects of design seem primarily based upon human creativity, sense of style, and other socially mediated conventions. These may never be scientific, but they do play a critically important role in the quality and acceptance of design. So, can design be a science? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Can it be empirically based, evidence driven? Yes. Will it have to reply on intuition and the creativity of individual designers? Sometimes, yes. Design is a multi-faceted, complex enterprise. It involves the initial choice of what to make, a deep understanding of people, of materials, and of technology. It requires understanding how people decide upon purchase, and then use products. It covers an extremely wide range of activities and different disciplines of study and training. It is this depth and richness that makes design such a wonderful, fascinating field.

Affordances: Commentary on the Special Issue of AI EDAM

18 October 2015

The Journal "Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing" published a special issue on Affordances and asked me to comment on the collection. The concept of affordances has an interesting history, starting with the keen observations and thoughts of the perceptual psychologist, J.J. Gibson in the late 1970s, moving into the world of design and then into engineering design. As a result of this disciplinary migration, the concept of affordance leads several rather separate lives within these different fields -- ecological psychology, Design, and engineering design -- with each field barely aware of the work being done in the others. All communities make valuable contributions from their perspective of the issue. I continue to look forward to a merging of disciplines, where the insights of all fields can be brought together to form a new, harmonious whole, with many new and exciting emergent properties.

Encounters with HCI pioneers

18 October 2015

From the very beginnings of time, Ben Shneiderman has been busy photographing all that he sees. Ben was active in the pre-history days of the folks who tried to understand the newly-developed computing machines, especially as they moved into people's homes, offices, and schools. Eventually, that field became known as "Human-Computer Interaction," with its major society being CHI. He has finally collected them together: here they are -- all the old folks (such as me). Such old folks portrayed by photos from their youth, so I can barely recognize some of them: I can barely recognize me.

Ready or not, the fully autonomous car is coming

18 October 2015

My Op-Ed piece for the San Diego Union-Tribune for September 26, 2015. ... Ready for cars with computers as driver? No? Good, because the computers aren't ready either. But have no doubt, they are coming. ... The tremendous saving of lives and injuries is strong support for the development of autonomous vehicles. However, the relentless automation of all that can be automated is not a good thing for society.