Guidelines For Writing To Me

Writing To Me

I try to respond personally to all my mail, but this depends upon my workload, which varies between high and unreasonably high. I answer many correspondents each week, most frequently from students. I spend a lot of time at this. But please avoid asking me these things:

  1. Don't write asking me to solve your job problem or write your research paper.
  2. If you have specific questions about jobs or schools, I will try to answer them, but I must have specific questions, not vague, general ones. Start by reading my essay "How to find a job or graduate school."
  3. Don't ask me about websites--that's for Jakob Nielsen.
  4. Do not send me a questionnaire: I will not answer them: they seldom get at the important issues so they waste everyone's time.
  5. Don't ask the obvious. To answer student questions, I often do simple web searches, entering a few terms into a search engine, then emailing back the result. When I do this, I try to explain what I have done so that the students learn how to do it themselves the next time. But when senior people ask me those same sort of questions, ones for which they could have answered by themselves with a little bit of work, I tend to get annoyed, cranky, and rather irritable. Please, don't make me be rude to you.
  6. Don't ask the impossible. I sometimes get questions that are unanswerable. They are not quite in the same league as questions about the meaning of life, or how to reach world peace, but at times they feel the same to me. My rule is simple, if the question can't be answered in a paragraph, please don't ask it. I already spend roughly 3 hours a day on email, every day of the year: weekends, holidays, .. every day. Please be considerate.
  7. Don't ask for free consulting. This is how I make my living, serving on boards to help companies with their product, marketing, and managerial strategies. If you would like to hire me, see contact information for consulting and other activities.

But please do write.

I enjoy the questions and examples. I learn a lot from them, and I usually learn even more when I answer questions, so the time is worthwhile for all concerned. Just don't abuse the privilege.

contact me at don at


Updated May 26, 2019

I am declining travel requests not directly related to the University of California, San Diego Design Lab. (Not all trips are listed.)

May 31, 2019. AAAS Workshop at UC San Diego

The Design Lab: Applying the Wisdom of the University to Societal Issues. A workshop sponsored by the UCSD chapter of the American Association for Arts and Sciences (AAAS).  More information at The AAAS website

June 23-26, 2019. ACM Conferences Creativity & Cognition (C&C) and Designing Interactive Systems (DIS)
A joint conference of the two organizations, co-sponsored by the  UC San Diego Design Lab. (Steven Dow, Design Lab faculty, is Co-Chair and Co-Associate Chair of the two conferences, respectively.) and

See: Heckler, Taylor, Dow, Morris, Grant, Phatak, and Norman (2019). Exploring, Defining, & Advancing Community-Driven Design for Social Impact

August 12-16, 2019. Neuroscience and Architecture.

A Week-long course sponsored by the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego. I am presenting on the first day and then come back for a panel on the last. I objected to the emphasis on Neuroscience: that is too low a level to be of use. It is Applied Cognitive Science that is the right level. The organizers love neuroscience so they have ignored me. I'm also labeled s a Designer (which is correct), but not as a Scientist: hey, I am both!)

October 8-11. 17th annual FiRe (Future in Review) Conference.
 The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA