Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Emotion & Design

Positive computing: technology for wellbeing and human potential (Calvo & Peters)

04 January 2015

The design of human-computer systems used to focus upon the negative, the breakdowns that confused and confounded people. Now it is time to move to the next level, to focus upon the positive, systems that are enjoyable and pleasurable. We need systems that delight as well as inform, systems that create pleasure along with useful function. We need systems that are resilient, that promote control, understanding, and sometimes just plain pleasure. The design field has responded by examining the role of emotions and pleasure in design. We need to move these findings into mainstream computing.

Selective Memories (Metropolis Magazine article)

24 March 2009

"Life is filled with unpleasant experiences. Not only do we survive them, but in hindsight we tend to minimize the bad and amplify the good." This is the start of my essay "Selective Memories" published by Metropolis Magazine.

My TED talk

24 March 2009

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 My talk from 2003 is on "Design and Emotion"  (based...

Why doing user observations first is wrong

02 April 2006

How many times have you had to fight hard for the ability to do field studies and other observations at the very start of the project? How many times have you patiently explained that taking time now would be rewarded by faster time to market overall? And how many times were you successful? The HCI community has long complained about product processes that do not allow time to start with good observations. The more I examine this issue, the more I think that it is we, the HCI community, who are wrong. This includes me, for I have long championed the "study first, design second" approach. Well, I now suggest that for many projects the order is "design, then study."

Emotional Design: People and Things

22 September 2004

Products differ in their appeal on the three design dimensions, but so too do people and situations. Vegetable peelers are primarily bought for their behavior. Wall clocks might be bought for visceral appeal or reflective image. Some people are behavioral, some are visceral. Some reflective, considering what others will think -- although it is the rare person who will admit to this behavior.

Affect and machine design: Lessons for the development of autonomous machines (with Andrew Ortony and Dan Russell). (August, 2002)

01 September 2004

(Norman, D. A., Ortony, A., & Russell, D. M. (2003). Affect and machine design: Lessons for the development of autonomous machines. IBM Systems Journal, 42 (1), 38-44.. Originally presented at the IBM Autonomic Computing Summit at T J Watson Research Center, May 14-15, 2002) Abstract Human beings have evolved a rich and sophisticated set of processes for engaging with the world in which cognition and affect play two different but equal roles. Both cognition and affect can be thought of as systems for information processing. One, that of cognition, interprets and makes sense of the world. The other, affect, evaluates and judges. The affective system modulates the operating parameters of cognition and provides warning of possible dangers, thereby enhancing survivability and reliability. The study of how these two systems work together provides guidance for the design of complex autonomous systems that must deal with a variety tasks in a dynamic and often unpredictable environment.

Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better

01 September 2004

June 2002. (Also published as Norman, D. A. (2002). Emotion and design: Attractive things work better. Interactions Magazine, ix (4), 36-42). Advances in our understanding of emotion and affect have implications for the science of design. Affect changes the operating parameters of cognition: positive affect enhances creative, breadth-first thinking whereas negative affect focuses cognition, enhancing depth-first processing and minimizing distractions. Therefore, it is essential that products designed for use under stress follow good human-centered design, for stress makes people less able to cope with difficulties and less flexible in their approach to problem solving. Positive affect makes people more tolerant of minor difficulties and more flexible and creative in finding solutions. Products designed for more relaxed, pleasant occasions can enhance their usability through pleasant, aesthetic design. Aesthetics matter: attractive things work better.