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The Design of Everyday Things | [Donald A. Norman]

The Design of Everyday Things

First, businesses discovered quality as a key competitive edge; next came science. Now, Donald A. Norman, former Director of the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of California, reveals how smart design is the new frontier. The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how - and why - some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.
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Publisher's Summary

First, businesses discovered quality as a key competitive edge; next came science. Now, Donald A. Norman, former Director of the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of California, reveals how smart design is the new frontier. The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how - and why - some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©1988 Donald A. Norman (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Provocative." (Time)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (147 )
5 star
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Overall
3.9 (112 )
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Story
3.9 (117 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (27)
2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 10-29-11
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 10-29-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Badly needs updating"

    The original title for this book was "The Psychology of Everyday Things" and it has not been updated since 1988. It contains mostly pop psychology insights from the '80s rather than design ideas, so if you are looking for information on the actual design process you will be disappointed.

    Many of the psychological insights have been refined and unpdated in the two decades since publication and what must have been insightful and modern at the time now seems obvious or too simplistic.

    The performance is terrible. The narrator has a Shatner-esque delivery where he randomly speeds up and slows down his reading and then dramatically drops his volume at the end of sentances. I honestly thought there was a problem with my stereo before I figured out he was doing it on purpose.

    The author mentions in his new preface that the ideas in the book are timeless and therefore he didn't think it needed updating. However, a significant amount of speculation is done by the author about what computers in the future will be capable of--all of which has already come to pass. There is simply no need for an entire chapter fantasizing about a future where you can have an electronic appointment book.

    Apparently, the book is considered a classic in the design and engineering world, but until it is updated it only has value as a historic document.

    27 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn BEAUMONT, TX, United States 10-16-11
    Lynn BEAUMONT, TX, United States 10-16-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Much Insight a Little Dated"

    I have two rules; avoid abridgements and watch out for older texts on contemporary topics. The Design of Everyday Things was produced several years ago and it shows. While it is just filled with worthy insight, much of the material is dated.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis Hot Springs, NC, United States 10-13-11
    Dennis Hot Springs, NC, United States 10-13-11 Member Since 2010
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    "A bit dated."

    Narration is good and keeps your interest. The idea that we should blame bad design and not ourselves for mistake is stated repeatedly throughout the book. To my disappointment I found the examples to be dated. He discusses VCRs as if they were more commonly used than DVDs. At one point he said he envisioned a portable computer that could be taken anywhere plugged into a phone within 5 years. How long has the iPhone been out? It would have been nice if the book updated before making into an audiobook. Turns out that this audiobook was recently released (making it seem like it was a new book) but had been written several years ago.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas New York, NY, United States 11-13-11
    Douglas New York, NY, United States 11-13-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Classic in the Design World"
    Would you listen to The Design of Everyday Things again? Why?

    Potentially. It would be a great reference book to remind myself of good design principles.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The history behind of the important design decisions that we use in our lives (e.g. keyboard), as well as the concepts that will continue to hold over time.


    What three words best describe Peter Berkrot’s voice?

    Solid, plain, clear.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Only relevant for certain people, but at the same time for those who understand these concepts already might not learn anything new.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret DPO, AA, United States 09-08-12
    Margaret DPO, AA, United States 09-08-12 Member Since 2003
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    "Quaint"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Despite having a nominal publishing date of 2002, the examples in the book were never updated from the late 1980's. This makes the book incredibly old fashioned and quaint to listen to. Although the ideas contained are timeless, the examples (such as PBX phones and floppy disks) are so out of date they obscure the arguments of the book.


    What was most disappointing about Donald A. Norman’s story?

    The examples. They are out of date and truly irrelevant in this age.


    What three words best describe Peter Berkrot’s performance?

    strident, monotonous, and nasal


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Design of Everyday Things?

    I would update the examples to ones that are relevant today. There are adults out there now who have never seen the kind of phone systems he describes, the typewriters, or the floppy disk. Every single example from this book is from the late 1980's, and was not updated during the 2002 publication. MAJOR editing mistake.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    geektechstuff Washington, DC 06-28-14
    geektechstuff Washington, DC 06-28-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Good book, but the narrator's tone is pretentious"
    Would you listen to The Design of Everyday Things again? Why?

    I would probably read the book the second time around. This is the first time where the narrator's pretentious and condescending tone really pulled me out of the material.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    The story is great and the writing is insightful.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The door story is good.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The design and simplicity of a car versus a radio.


    Any additional comments?

    My complaint is on the audio and narrator, not the book. I would probably read the book the second time around. This is the first time where the narrator's pretentious and condescending tone really pulled me out of the material.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 10-22-12
    Jeffrey SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 10-22-12 Member Since 2007
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    "too boring to stick it out"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Prosaic, pedantic and judgmental with excessive uninteresting personal observations. maybe this is interesting to others, not me


    Would you ever listen to anything by Donald A. Norman again?

    no


    What didn’t you like about Peter Berkrot’s performance?

    bored me


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    disappointment and boredom


    Any additional comments?

    wasted my credit on this

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Orange Crush Boston, MA USA 10-01-12
    Orange Crush Boston, MA USA 10-01-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A solid engineering strategy"
    What did you love best about The Design of Everyday Things?

    I particularly like the approach the author has towards the design of systems, as something intended to be used by humans (v.s. perfect, precise manual-reading robots.) The use of examples is also extremely helpful.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Design of Everyday Things?

    Probably the explanations behind some of the near-disasters. The fact that poorly designed and somewhat misleading control panels in three mile island contributed to a near-meltdown is a great example of how good (or bad) design can make all the difference in the world.


    What about Peter Berkrot’s performance did you like?

    Peter's voice is clear, with no major accent, and good tone variation.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No extreme reaction, but it was an interesting read.


    Any additional comments?

    Some of the topics in this book are covered in later books by different authors. So, in this sense, the book is a little redundant to some other popular books on the strengths and weaknesses of the human mind as a tool for reasoning and decision-making.

    Also, towards the end of the book there is some discussion towards future improvements in design in everyday things. As this is an older book (late 80's) and some of those ideas have already made their way into mainstream products. The ideas seem a little silly/obvious 20+ years later, and I had to keep reminding myself of the age of this book when making my way through some of these "forward looking" topics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N. Busse Sun Prairie, WI United States 09-18-12
    N. Busse Sun Prairie, WI United States 09-18-12
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    "A necessary evil."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    I have had this book on my short list of books to read for almost 10 years. I saw that audible had it and figured this would be the fastest way for me to finally consume this book - it kept getting bumped down on the list of my exciting fiction.

    I work as a software engineer and it seems that every conference or class I have attended has recommended this book, and for good reason. Design as a whole is a very tough job. Non-designers are having to wear designer hats all the time and failing to understand what that means. This book sets out to explain why things go wrong and what sort of questions should be investigated. This book does that but with WAY to much background - it could (and should) have been written as a few page pamphlet and would probably have had wider acceptance and functions has a reference piece.

    This book does not spend a lit of time describing the design of everyday things. There are few (when compared to how much material is in the book) actual case studies, or examples of good or bad design. I found the material very interesting but it failed to live up to what I wanted or needed - a guide to one of the most difficult task in any engineers job, interface design.


    Any additional comments?

    I found it really interesting how a book from 1988 is not horribly out of time. There are a few points where you can tell (like when discussing the modern type writer) but the logic and points of interest apply to today as much (if not more so) then they did in the 80s and 90s.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "A True Classic"

    A true classic, also published under the title The Psychology of Everyday Things, this book has been referred to as "inspirational" by so many thought leaders and inventors I just had to read it.

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
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