Customer Reviews: The Design of Everyday Things
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Showing 1-10 of 20 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
on December 8, 2013
As an engineer, I wanted to like this book, I really did. But I found this book quite disappointing. Long on the obvious and short on good research or insight, longwinded and opinionated, the writer comes across as someone who is more hectoring than trying to improve the world or whatever. There does not seem to be much science or even sufficient observation to several of his examples, and he often chooses to ignore (or worse, plain does not see) the other side of the story.

For example, his improved kitchen range control diagram ignores the fact that he has decreased the burner area in comparison to the total surface area.

He says a vertical door handle signifies "pull". How so? He does not say.

In one sentence, he conflates "cultural" with "universal" ("some mappings are cultural... as in the universal standard that a rising level represents more"), without giving any examples of or insight into mappings that would differ from culture to culture, which would have been interesting to say the least.

His good examples, like the telephone, are severely dated now, and the ones that should be there are missing: controls on most cars today for example - he goes into car controls but he is rather benign towards them.

The switch arrangement that he designed for his home has worse switches (which is on and which is off?) than before, and what do the diagrams (circle with a bar thru it) mean? I daresay this experiment gives rather more insight into the writer's eccentric character than design credentials.

His explanation of why the file removal dialog does not work is wrong. It is not because the user is confirming the action not the filename (whatever does that mean?) but that the dialog becomes invisible (user automatically presses yes) after the first two dozen times it is encountered.

He has the annoying academic habit of leaving "obvious" work to the reader. For example, he does not say why the displayed clock+radio+tv+phone design is poor.

I could go on but I will not.

Norman's biography mentions that he has been an academic most of his life. However he has worked at Apple as User Experience Architect. While I don't want to infer too much from it, let me just point out that this was during Apple's worst years.
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on September 7, 2004
I found this book to be a major disappointment. The author does have a collection of anecdotes about poorly designed items he's encountered but the constant whining gets tiresome very quickly. He then promised to offer some insights into how to get the design process right but never quite managed. The best he could come up with was these four bullet points:

* make it easy to see what's possible

* make it easy to see what's not possible

* make it easy to see what happened

* make the mapping between action and effect obvious

Even if you do find those points insightful, you'll find that beyond examples of when those points are violated, there is precious little useful advice on how to achieve these things.

The physical book itself was hardly a model of good design. The margins were far too narrow with some headings disappearing completely into the binding area and random paragraphs were set in italics for no apparent reason.
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on February 2, 1999
While in University, studying Industrial Design, I would have rated it a 4 .... now I rate it a 2. It is still the rarest example of litterature on human perception affecting design. It still is unique, but you will not need to read it more than once, it is likely not to become a reference in your bookshelf BUT it is exellent for university/college level reading and book report to anyone studying psychology and or design. The book is full of anecdotes and lessons. It would be best if accompanied with a good textbook on perception. Reading some Papanek in conjunction with a perception textbook and this book will result in some well intentioned Design creativity I'm sure.
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on December 2, 2013
Good information, but it's a bit dated. Nonetheless, I'm able to take the basic information and apply it to modern day design and technology.
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on March 24, 2014
This book is hard to follow for me. Related topics are scattered in different parts of this book. Too many examples and few of them are carefully analysted. I get really tired and frustrated. I didn't give one star is becasue the materials are great and first two chapters are fun. But, overall, really poorly designed book.
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on February 19, 2013
While not completely un-readable, don't expect any "a-ha!" moments from this book. When analyzed enough, nothing makes sense. Why am I typing this review on a keyboard with my fingers instead of on a hovercard with my nose? The first few pages are interesting, then the book gets just plain tiring.
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on March 20, 2014
Dr. Norman and his Behaviorists of the 70s and 80s have turned what all GOOD designers know and practice into a science of new labels (behavior speak) applied to universal knowledge.
On the plus side he does write about some interesting subjects, i.e.: the evolution of the typewriter keyboard; for one.
However, if we are talking about design, what about the design of the book itself?
To my way of thinking and seeing, the text, layout and graphics are boring, like that of an engineer. The book lacks GOOD graphic design and GOOD illustrations which is unfortunate since the author is talking about The Design of Everyday Things.

Roy Vollmer
architect, educator, artist
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on March 9, 1999
A supposely much heralded book filled with various reviews of The Design Encounters of Doctor Norman on his Fabulous Trip to England. In other words, if you'd like some nice design theories subsumed by a psychologist's frequent travel references, then this is book for you. In all honesty, Dr. Norman had some nice ideas, but listening to him drone on about his trip to Cambridge was tiring.
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on June 26, 2007
The book is about proper design of door handles and appliance switches. Door handles should suggest by their size, shape and position if the door should be pushed, pulled or slided. The arrangement of switches should resemble the arrangement of the device, so that the right switch can be found easily. These would be two great introductory examples into the subject of easy-to-use design. But the book stays there and does not go anywhere further. This message could be conveyed in two pages instead of 257. I would expect suggestions about gathering user requirements and turning them into good design or applying intuitive design techniques to user interfaces of computer programs. Also, I think that most inconvenient designs that we encounter in everyday life that cost us a lot of time are poorly designed procedures rather than things themselves. Even though the title of the book includes "things", it could go into applying easy-to-use design principles into procedures.
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on June 30, 2009
Not exactly a page turner, it took me several months to get through this book. I enjoyed the content but the delivery was excruciating at times. Ultimately it was too textbooky for my liking. If you are looking for something that is engaging (a la anything by Malcolm Gladwell), look elsewhere.
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