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Don Norman's writings, reviews, and other activities, inlcuding contact information for talks and consulting.

Published: 2012-01-11T14:59:16-06:00


Thinking Fast and Slow


This is an excellent summary of the latest thinking in the psychology of thought judgment, and decision making, written by one of the foremost scholars in the area. Highly recommended. The book covers a wide range of phenomena, producing very important, counter-intuitive insights to many aspects of everyday life. I have long used Kahneman's insights, work and examples in my own thinking and writing. This is a very valuable and easy-to-read review of his lifetime of research.

The origins of the modern world


Two books that treat history from a non-European point of view, emphasizing the critical role and world leadership, especially in trade, that Asia played until the 1800s. They should be of interest to everyone, but for designers, they help reinforce the notion that western biases have affected the way we think about the world and build products. Both books point out that the claims of European/American superiority in thinking (rational, logical thought) and governance (the rise of democracy) is a modern, western myth. Read at least one of them: it will change your view of world history and of the relative importance of east and west.

Yet Another Technology Cusp: Confusion, Vendor Wars, and Opportunities


There is a technological revolution in the air, not because new principles and technologies have been discovered, but because so many past technologies have simultaneously reached a state of maturity that they can be incorporated into everyday technology. These cusps in technology produce new opportunities, but until the marketplace settles down, they also deliver considerable confusion and chaos. Each of the changes discussed here seems relatively minor and inconsequential, but taken as a whole, they pose considerable problems and potential risks.

Does Culture Matter for Product Design?


Does culture matter for product design? For the world of mass-produced products, that is, for the world of industrial design, culture might be far less important than we might have expected. Is this really true, and if so, is this a positive or negative finding?

Conversation: Jon Kolko & Don Norman mediated by Richard Anderson


Out with the Old, In with the New: A Conversation with Don Norman & Jon Kolko, mediated by Richard Anderson. The item contains photos, a transcript, and an embedded video of the event. Topics addressed included the nature of and the difference between art and design, whether design should be taught in art schools (such as AAU), Abraham Maslow, usability, what design (or all) education should be like, the problem with "design thinking" courses, the destiny of printed magazines and printed books, aging and ageism, the relationship between HCI and interaction design, Arduino, simplicity, social media, Google, privacy, design research, the context in which design occurs, the Austin Center for Design, solving wicked problems, whether designers make good entrepreneurs, politics, Herb Simon & cybernetics, the strengths & weaknesses of interconnected systems, and how designers should position themselves.

Videos and Interviews


Pointers to my talk videos, podcasts, and interviews.

The Silicon Jungle: A Novel of Deception, Power, and Internet Intrigue


This novel portrays a possible, unfortunate future, where privacy is gone and large search companies and governments can track people's every deed, even if they don't do them. The author, Shumeet Baluja, works at Google, and the startup culture depicted in the opening chapter as well as the life in the (fictitious) search company Ubatoo, are well done and extremely realistic. I've seen it all myself. Read it: you will learn how modern search takes place and the various uses to which it is being deployed. Not a pretty picture, even though we all find the results useful. The real question is whether we want this much power in the hands of powerful companies and governments. Note that the companies have much more powerful computational resources than government agencies. We have learned not to trust the government: why should we trust private, profit-driven companies?

Design Education: Brilliance Without Substance


We are now in the 21st century, but design curricula seem stuck in the mid 20th century. In the 21st century, design has broadened to include interaction and experience, services and strategies. The technologies are more sophisticated, involving advanced materials, computation, communication, sensors, and actuators. The products and services have complex interactions that have to be self-explanatory, sometimes involving other people separated by time or distance. Traditional design activities have to be supplemented with an understanding of technology, business, and human psychology. With all these changes, one would expect major changes in design education. Nope. Design education is led by craftspeople who are proud of their skills and they see no reason to change. Design education is mired in the past.

Gesture Wars


At the start of almost every technology transition, chaos rules. Competing competitors create confusion, often quite deliberate, as they develop their own unique way of doing things incompatible with all others. Today, the long-established, well-learned model of scrolling is being changed by one vendor, but not by others. Gestures proliferate, with no standards, no easy way of being reminded of them, new easy way to learn. Change is important, for it is how we make progress. Some confusion is to be expected. But many of the changes and the resulting confusions of today seem arbitrary and capricious.

Act First, Do the Research Later


Think before acting. Sounds right, doesn't it? Think before starting to design. Yup. Do some research, learn more about the requirements, the people, the activities. Then design. It all makes sense. Which is precisely why I wish to challenge it. Sometimes it makes sense to act first, think afterwards.

Digital Light Field Photography


Radical changes in the nature of photography are underway in the research labs all across the world. The first fruits of all this research are about to be released in a product available to everyday photographers. Ren Ng's thesis demonstrates a practical system for taking the photograph now and deciding what should be in focus later. And, of course, he has already started a company to make this available to everyone. Read the thesis: easy to read, enjoyable, and it will demonstrate a completely different view of photography: Don't capture an image, capture the light field.

The Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction (HCI)


High recommendations for the Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction now being assembled by Mads Soegaard and the team at The chapters that are now available are all excellent. In addition, Soegaard sent me the Table of Contents (not available to the public) and the breadth and depth of the invited contributions are quite impressive: 56 chapters covering an extremely wide range of topics, all with highly qualified authorities as authors.

The Design Dilemma: Dismay vs. Delight


I frequently find myself in a state of simultaneous dismay and delightful admiration about the end product of designers. This state can be described by contrasting the way a designer and an engineer would solve the same problem. Designers evoke great delight in their work. Engineers provide utilitarian value. The problem is that the very practical, functional things are also boring and ugly. Good designers would never allow boring and ugly to describe their work: they strive to produce delight. But sometimes that delightful result is not very practical, difficult to use, and not completely functional. Practical versus delightful: Which do you prefer? Designers approach the world with charming naiveté, coupled with artistic elegance and the art of examining issues in novel, unconstrained ways. Their solutions provide a graceful elegance and new insight, perhaps because of their lack of knowledge, their naiveté. Designers are trained as craftspeople, without any substantive knowledge of the content areas in which they do their work. This very lack of knowledge can produce profound insights that lead to advances in understanding, hence my delight. Having too much knowledge can lead to following the failed footsteps of those who preceded you.

Safety Design In -- An Interview


Jeremy Anwyl,CEO of, called me up to ask if I would like to be interviewed while reviewing the new SYNC control system for Ford Motor Company. summary: The modern car is far too complex, thus creating potential dangerous conditions. Instead of concentrating on the road, the driver controls the entertainment and comfort system: lots of controls, lots of menus, and screens that have to be watched to ensure the right item is selected.

The Hilton Hotel Alarm Clock Reconsidered


A few years ago I wrote in praise of the Hilton Alarm Clock: easy to set the alarm time, I said. I take it all back. Nice try Hilton, but there is one other important feature you neglected to provide: the clock has to tell the correct time. Hilton: Try again. This one was a nice try. Time for a new, improved version. Meanwhile, if you want a good alarm clock, carry your own. I highly recommend the clocks on modern smart phones: Both iPhone and Android Phones have easy to set, efficient alarm clocks. (Other phones might also: my experience is only with these two.) Numerical keypad to enter the time. Big, clear display. Easy to set the alarm sound. Easy to check.