Thursday, March 26, 2009

Emotional Design - Donald Norman

Commented on:
John Book

Once again I find myself getting more acquainted with Mr. Donald Norman. I must say though, that this book does present him a little differently than the two previous ones. While I have complained about how he complains about designs in the previous books, this one seemed to have a lesser amount of such complaints. Not that they aren’t legitimate concerns, but I guess I just sympathize with designers a little more and feel like the consumer do have some responsibility in learning the product rather than expecting a “perfect” design, especially with the difficulties presented by the varying degrees of standards from user to user. In Emotional Design, Norman talks about three effects a design has. Visceral, behavioral and reflective. Each design is important, but serves a different purpose. Some fear that certain designers focus too much on the behavioral part, sacrificing the visceral and reflective designs. Personally, I wouldn’t mind something looking a little less extravagant if it makes up for it in functionality, but I guess not everyone is willing to accept that compromise. Or rather, according to some, that compromise shouldn’t have been made in the first place perhaps. Norman’s fascination with robots and its role in society today and in the future occupies a good portion of the book. As more and more advanced and intelligent robots are created and used throughout society, certain concerns are raised. Human interaction with these machines are inevitable in some parts for now, but with this area of opportunity increasing rapidly, designers must find a way to integrate robots into our lives unobtrusively while satisfying the different needs. I did like some of Norman’s ideas of changing up the conventional designs of household items to work better with robots. His idea of a kitchen more suited to work with robots was amusing and seemed like something a researcher could first implement in a test house and possibly adopted by the mass later on. The problems he described with will be realized soon enough with the advancement of technology, but perhaps the rate of change will be at a pace that allows designers and engineers to adjust and fix the present problems fast enough to not hinder the success of this technology. The good thing about this is that consumers can adapt to this technology at their own pace and will not feel obligated or forced to change, thus easing the transition and perhaps lessening the burdens that designers will have. If the consumer is personally interested enough to change their current lifestyle in order to take advantage of this new technology, then hopefully they’ll also make the extra effort of learning how things should work. Overall, Emotional Design was an interesting read, especially for those who have read his previous books.


  1. "His idea of a kitchen more suited to work with robots was amusing and seemed like something a researcher could first implement in a test house and possibly adopted by the mass later on." I agree with this, but worry that the kitchen designed for a robot would be a kitchen that is impossible for a human to use. Like the drink dispenser, I would hate having that. Every time you buy drinks you would have to come home and load them up into a machine, that is a job. I see the Coca-Cola guy doing it almost everyday, he doesn't seem to enjoy it either.

  2. I did enjoy this book more than his others. The way he broke down each part was very good. I sort of agree on him with the idea that products are being designed for robots, and more stuff will have to be changed to incorporate robot usage. I think we should be able to meet half way though. If everything was designed for a robot, humans would not enjoy using it. The goal should be to design the robots more to use the stuff humans have already adapted too.

  3. I agree that creating "perfect" design that suites everyone isn't always reasonable. Different users have varying levels of experience and expertise. It's extremely difficult to design a product that is intuitive or easy enough for an inexperienced user to use, and yet sophisticated enough to satisfy the needs of a more expert user. Whether we like it or not, some products are just targeted toward different user bases.

  4. I also would rather trade a little aesthetics for more functionality any day. I think that a useful and effective product causes it to become more "attractive"