Essays & Articles


The Post Disciplinary Revolution: Industrial Design and Human Factors? ​Heal Yourselves

Donald A. NormanCopyright © 1998 Donald A. Norman. All rights reserved.

Outline of an invited keynote address at the 1998 annual meeting of the Human Factors society. They hated it.

We must work together as a team

  • The fault lies with the separation of powers
  • There are four legs to product development
  • Four equal legs are required for good product design, all sitting on the foundation of the business case

Some Solutions

  • Stop whining
  • Do better science
  • Do better engineering
  • Be better business people
  • Be better designers
  • Be Better
  • The Post-Disciplinary Revolution

Human Factors — Study Thyself

  • Time to be the lead discipline, not the follower
  • If the discipline is ignored once, its their fault
  • If it is routinely ignored, it our fault

Human Factors & Science

  • Need a coherent, consistent basis for Interactions of humans and artifacts
  • Design
  • Application

Human Factors & Engineering

  • Need better methods
  • Tables, handbooks organized for designers
  • fast, reliable, approximate methods
  • Good enough is good enough
  • Speed is more important than precision

Human Factors & Management

  • Speak the language of business
  • Design is a series of tradeoffs: learn how to make them
  • Product first, HF (Technology, design, marketing,) second
  • Get Promoted.

Speak the language of business

  • Until HF and ID people are in positions of power (VPs and CEOs), it will be ignored
  • Engineers and marketing people get promoted; why not HF and ID?
  • But to get promoted, you must step outside your discipline, you must understand the business side of the company. You must know when ID and HF are not important. You must understand why all four legs, plus the base, must be in balance

Human Factors & Design

  • HF people are not designers
  • So they will always be second in command
  • We need to become designers, to develop the science and engineering of human-centered design
  • Get Rid of Disciplinary Boundaries

Human Factors must partner with

  • Industrial Design
  • Graphical design
  • Technical writing
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • Management