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Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things Paperback – May 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Techno author Norman, a professor of computer science and cofounder of a consulting firm that promotes human-centered products, extends the range of his earlier work, The Design of Everyday Things, to include the role emotion plays in consumer purchases. According to Norman, human decision making is dependent on both conscious cognition and affect (conscious or subconscious emotion). This combination is why, for example, a beautiful set of old mechanical drawing instruments greatly appealed to Norman and a colleague: they evoked nostalgia (emotion), even though they both knew the tools were not practical to use (cognition). Human reaction to design exists on three levels: visceral (appearance), behavioral (how the item performs) and reflective. The reflective dimension is what the product evokes in the user in terms of self-image or individual satisfaction. Norman's analysis of the design elements in products such as automobiles, watches and computers will pique the interest of many readers, not just those in the design or technology fields. He explores how music and sound both contribute negatively or positively to the design of electronic equipment, like the ring of a cell phone or beeps ("Engineers wanted to signal that some operation had been done.... The result is that all of our equipment beeps at us"). Norman's theories about how robots (referred to here as emotional machines) will interact with humans and the important jobs they will perform are intriguing, but weigh down an already complex text.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Computer science professor Norman also advises design firms. He brings his background in academics and business to bear on the emotional valence surrounding objects of daily use, be they kitchen utensils, automobiles, or a football coach's headset. Norman's analysis of people's emotional reactions to material objects is a delightful process, replete with surprises for readers who have rarely paused to consider why they like or loathe their belongings. He breaks down emotional reactions into three parts, labeled "visceral," "behavioral," and "reflective," asserting that "a successful design has to excel at all levels." Norman's examples of items ranging from bottles to hand tools fulfill this dictum, although he feels that designers do not often take emotion into account when formulating what an object should look like. With household robots on the horizon, Norman implores designers to redeem their mistakes in designing personal computers. His readers will take away insights galore about why shoppers say, "I want that." Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (May 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465051367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465051366
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Lars Bergstrom VINE VOICE on September 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for a fairly practical discussion of the ways that people interact with products and how more than just behavioral qualities are measured by your customers, the first half of the book will prove quite useful. It expands and ties nicely into common practices of market segmentation and usability studies, providing both concrete advice for optimizing your product for whatever your adoption goals are, as well as a theoretical framework for understanding user behavior.

There's also a large section near the end about robotics and the future. While it's interesting, it reads more like science fiction or the typical dicsussions that you have in either a mobile robot at a university or a AAAI conference. I personally think the book could've stood just as well without it.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I love Donald Norman. I love the work he does, and I love what he's taught me. I got so much from The Design of Everyday Things. I got something out of Things That Make Us Smart. I didn't get much out of this one at all.

I think this is because I'm an impatient reader. For example, I don't read fiction. I want to read facts about things I can apply in a practical way. This book is much more about theory than practical applications.

I'm sure some people love reading theory, and they will love this book. But if you're like me and really want a book to deliver information you can use on every page, you should buy The Design of Everyday Things instead, if you haven't already.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Moses Ma on February 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As I get older, I begin to see that designing is really about seeing, hearing, thinking and understanding at a higher level. If you're looking for an easy how-to for making your website or product punchier, this isn't for you. For me, the book was a perfect read. I am always hunting and gathering for the meaning of art and design, to push my own work forward, and to gain an advantage over my competitors in terms of design. Thus, Norman's book was right up my alley. His deconstruction of design into its visceral, behavioral and reflective aspects was powerful and compelling, and I believe this book is actually a manifesto that will eventually launch a new school of thought in design. The second half of the book delves into even more complex and forward-thinking issues, and I found it useful for FORCING myself to read and think out of the box. It's an absolute must-have book for anyone interested in understanding the structure of the new design revolution and transforming their perspective on the art of designing at an emotional level.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Rob Banzai on August 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is nothing in this book that changed my perception of the world like the content of "The Design of Everyday Things" but it was still interesting and entertaining, a light-hearted companion to the earlier groundbreaking book.

I enjoyed the way the theories were broken down even if I didn't always buy into them and there were plenty of good examples every step of the way. It's food for thought, just not the main course.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge fan of Donald A. Norman, and I'm working on reading every book he ever wrote. I'm now getting down to the very old and obscure ones like "Attention and Memory" (1968!). This new book combines the ideas of his previous work with some fascinating new psychological knowledge, so it is definitely worthwhile.
One thing that makes Norman such a good author is that he gives very graphic analogies to explain his ideas. One sentence that really made me think was that if robots had no idea whether something was safe or not, they could possibly just sit there, afraid to do anything - he likens this to confidence in humans. So it seems like thinking about how robots should work can only help figure out more about humans. That's why I think his new work on robotics adds yet another useful dimension to the work of a man whose focus has been a great blend of academia and business. Now he is tying more and more of those ideas together, blending them with collaboration and new research, so I hope he stays a prolific writer.
Unfortunately I was not everwhelmed by the book, but it is all very sensible and useful. I wish he had gotten more into the passion we feel when something is just superb. I have had that feeling when reading many similar books, like "The Tipping Point", "Don't Make Me Think", and even Norman's own "The Design of Everyday Things". So come to think of it, maybe writing one of those great books plus many other very good books is plenty to ask of a human being.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barry Brown on April 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Donald Norman has always written "usable" books. Easy to read and full of anecdotes and examples that nearly everyone can relate to. His classic work, The Design of Everyday Things, still sits proundly on my bookshelf; I pull it down a couple times a year when I need a mental refreshment.

This book, like its predecessors, is a fast read. It is written at a low level and nothing in it is too hard to grasp. However, it is too long. I found myself skipping whole paragraphs simply because Normas was repeating something he had written just a few sentences back. I feel the book could be half its length and not lose any content.

It's also not as inspirational as his previous books. There were none of the "a ha!" insights that permeated The Design of Everyday Things or Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles.

Still, it's a good read. The next time I'm in the store, I'll be more cognizant of the reasons why I prefer one brand over another of otherwise identical products.
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