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The Design of Everyday Things Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (September 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780465067107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465067107
  • ASIN: 0465067107
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 3.3 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Anyone who designs anything to be used by humans--from physical objects to computer programs to conceptual tools--must read this book, and it is an equally tremendous read for anyone who has to use anything created by another human. It could forever change how you experience and interact with your physical surroundings, open your eyes to the perversity of bad design and the desirability of good design, and raise your expectations about how things should be designed. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Provocative." -- Time magazine

"This book is a joy--fun and of utmost importance." -- Tom Peters

More About the Author

Don Norman is a voyeur, always watching, always on the lookout for some common-day occurrence that everyone else takes for granted but that when examined, yields insight into the human condition. (If you are rushing to catch a train, how do you know if you got to the station on time? Empty platform? You probably are too late. People milling about, looking at their watches,peering down the tracks? Probably OK. Who needs technology when people are so informative, even if as an accidental byproduct of their activities.

Business Week has named him one of "the world's most influential designers," the influence from his books, essasys, courses and students, lectures, and consulting.

He takes special delight in the interaction of people and technology. "Develop the skill of observation," he councils: especially pay attention to the obvious. "Question the obvious and you will dis cover many hidden insights. What seems to be obvious often is not."

He is a fellow of many organizations and former lots of things, including VP at Apple Computer and even President of a startup. He has honorary degrees from the University of Padua (Italy) and the Technical University Delft (the Netherlands). He was awarded the Benjamin Franklin medal in Computer and Cognitive Science and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is known for his books "The Design of Everyday Things," "Emotional Design," and "The Design of Future Things," but he is most proud of his students, now all over the world, who put into practice his human-centered design philosophy. his latest book is "Living with Complexity," which argues that complexity is necessary: Our tools must match our tasks. When people cry out for simplicity, they are wrong -- people want understanding. That is not the same as simplicity -- simple thing are often the most confusing.

He is currently revising "Design of Everyday Things" to keep the message the same but update the examples. Expected publication date is August 2013.

He lives at, where you can find chapters from his books and loads of essays.

Customer Reviews

After reading this book, you will become 'aware' like never before.
The book itself provided great perspective and challenges the reader to look at everyday things from a good/bad design point of view.
Peter Chen
Norman's voice is full of humor and a real passion for the subject, and that voice is conveyed very well by the book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Michael F. Maddox on August 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although this book is a product of the 1980's, its essential premise is not dated nor obsolete. Dr. Norman vividly illustrates the good and bad of design, and provides an excellent guidebook for the understanding of basic user-centric design in products, fixtures, software, and the everyday things that make up our world.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the design and creation of software, architecture, or consumer products. You will find some dated, quaint information within its pages, such as the descriptions of the "computer notepad" and hypertext (both of which came to fruition with Palm Computers and the Web), but, as a whole, the book is a collection of relevant, interesting material. It is an excellent starting point for the study of design.
For those interested in additional study on software and user interface design (programmers, such as I), I recommend Alan Cooper's books on user interface design, and ANY of Jakob Nielsen's books. In addition, the Edward Tufte trilogy on visual representations is extremely good, although not software-specific.
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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Sauro on September 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one of the seminal works in the field of User Centered Design. Norman wrote this book well before the Windows operating system was as familiar as the Golden Arches--which only reinforces the idea that certain basic usability principles transcend all forms of objects--from glass doors to Windows Explorer.
Norman does a great job of describing why and how we successfully and unsuccessfully use everyday objects with relevant anecdotes. His stories are usually accompanied with lists of principles that explain good design and account for human behavior. For example, the fundamental principals of designing for people are to: Provide a good conceptual model, make controls visible and to constantly provide feedback to the user.
So how does one employ good user-centered design? Norman recapitulates his points at the end of the book by listing the seven UCD principles for transforming difficult tasks into easy ones:
1. Use both knowledge in the world and in the head
2. Simplify the structure of tasks
3. Make things visible
4. Get the mappings right
5. Exploit the powers of constraints-Natural & Artificial
6. Design for Error
7. When all else fails, standardize
It's mandatory reading for any usability software engineer but also an interesting and well written book for anyone who's ever pushed a "pull door" or scalded themselves in the shower (which is all of us).
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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on May 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Let me start by acknowledging that the book is not perfect. The end notes are annoying and Norman can have a tendancy to ramble and I guess that not everyone would find that charming. However, I assert that the strengths of the book more than make up for its weaknesses-- it is an important book, and one that anyone engaged in designing things for other people should read.
The central point is simple-- the needs of the user are different from the needs of the designer. The designer might want everyone's actions with his system to be precise, the user might need to have a "good enough" range of precision approximation. The designer wants to make the knobs the same so they look good together, the user wants to be able to tell quickly which knob applies to which function. It's a basic concept that can't (particularly on the Internet today) be repeated often enough.
Norman looks at the kinds of errors people make in usage and discusses how designers can plan to prevent these kind of errors. He discusses some of the basic things that users find valuable and walks the reader through some classic (and often funny, because so recognizable) design errors.
The writing is clean and (with the exception of the aforementioned rambling) very clear. Norman's voice is full of humor and a real passion for the subject, and that voice is conveyed very well by the book.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Chris Harper on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I started my first job out of college I was given a copy of this book by my boss. Since then, I've had a chance to do GUI design for the web as well as client/server applications. This book has proven invaluable. It completely changed the way I thought about design and usability. The examples given show how everything can (and should) be made more usable... every time I turn on the wrong burner on my stove, or pull on a door I should be pushing I curse the designer who should have read this. The examples may not be specifically about computer user interface design, but the lessons learned are directly applicable.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Abhinav Agarwal VINE VOICE on October 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book (1989 edition) in 2001 after reading a lot of good and excellent reviews of the book on Amazon. I got a copy from the library and read the book over a couple of days.
Let me say that this book is an excellent read for anyone who has either suffered through modern (VCR, computers) and not so modern contraptions (doors) as well as for those who actually design these things. The author has used many, many examples to drive, no, hammer the point accross that most everyday appliances that we use are (a)Not well thought designs, (b)Form seems to precede function, (c)Difficulty in using a product seems more often than not the fault of the end-user.

The book therefore is a fascinating read on how so many bright people can come up with so many not so bright designs. The book is not too big, so can be read in a relatively short period of time.

There are faults with the book too - in trying to drive home the point that many everyday things are poorly designed, the author becomes repetitive. Even with a gentle style of writing and criticism the book at times reads like a litany of complaints. And some of the author's suggestions as to what he thinks might be good design examples I couldn't agree with whole heartedly - eg. he thinks a computer mouse should not have 2 buttons, one might do.

Overall, the book is a must read. I can suggest for those who wish to read something similar but deals more with computers and modern electronics a couple of books by Alan Cooper - 'About Face' and 'The Inmates Are Running The Asylum', as well as most books by Steve McConnell.
One interesting note - the author in 1989 states that the computing power to put a small computer in one's plam was there, and within 10 years he expected such a device to become perfect. That would mean 1999. We had the Palm 3 and 5 in 1999. Perfect? Maybe not. But what strikes me is that the author in 1989 could think to give the technology 10 years to mature.
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