Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Most recent essays

(In reverse chronological order, most recent first.)

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.

Apple's products are getting harder to use because they ignore principles of design.

10 August 2015

I was once proud to be at Apple, proud of Apple's reputation of advancing ease of use and understanding. Alas, these attributes are fast disappearing from their products in favor of pretty looks, or as designers call it "styling." A journalist has just reported my views. And Bruce Tognazzini and I are writing a detailed critique. This note gives highlights of the views and points to her interview with me..

A Product Is More than a Product -- Consider the Chair

25 July 2015

Imagine how the 21st century chair might perk up when guests arrive, autonomously transforming itself as needed. It can become a stepstool when someone needs to stand on it, or a bed, perhaps formed by enlisting other chairs so that they can to support a horizontal body or two or three. When self-organized into neat orderly rows of its collaborators, the chair can accommodate crowds. While awaiting the crowd's arrival the chairs are a memory of the future, reminding us of the event that is to come. After they leave, the same chairs serve as a memory of the past. These 21st century chairs are social, aiming to please. They will be active servants, relationship builders, and enablers of social interactions. In the 21st century designers will produce many things besides chairs, many of which will not be objects. Some will be services and experiences, such as healthcare and wellness. Some will be ideas. Is an idea a thing, a product, a service? Whatever they are called, they need to be designed not as isolated things but as complex, interrelated systems, as total experiences. As relationships.

Automatic Cars Or Distracted Drivers: We Need Automation Sooner, Not Later

03 June 2015

I have long argued that we need to go slow with automation in the automobile. There were still too many unsolved problems. I have now changed my mind. Why? Because there are far more problems with the increasing number of distractions for drivers, too many new devices, too many new temptations. Imperfect driving is potentially more dangerous than imperfect automation. Add to this the other benefits to those today who are unable to drive: the elderly, the handicapped, and of course the blind. Automation versus distraction? I bet on automation, and the sooner the better.

UC San Diego Postdoc in Human-Centered Healthcare

14 May 2015

The Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego is embarking upon a large, major project in healthcare for complex problems. We are working with the Medical School, various departments at UC San Diego, and several funding agencies in this endeavor. The emphasis is on the processes and structure associated with modern healthcare. We seek a Design Fellow to assist with a project to better understand the complex cognitive ecosystem of healthcare who can help us define, explore, and implement new processes and procedures aimed at improving medical care for complex cases.