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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.

©1988 Donald A. Norman (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Provocative." (Time)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Sean
  • BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States
  • 10-29-11

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.

50 of 53 people found this review helpful

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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.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Dennis
  • Hot Springs, NC, United States
  • 10-13-11

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.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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It's okay, but...

This text is often required reading for design and usability students, however in 2016 this text is very dated. I would highly suggest just reading chapters one, two, and the last chapter; everything else is just a lot of stories and examples. There are some great takeaways in this book, but they are few and far in-between.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Aj
  • 04-16-16

Old version

This is an old version of the book. The newest version includes new ideas and more relevant example. It's so old that a lot of the examples used to illustrate points are somewhat alien to the modern reader. Also the newer version has updated and refined theories. Still somewhat useful.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 05-03-17

Dated but Excellent

I really liked this book and really enjoyed the author's viewpoint and tone. This book is important, at least, for historical context, but most of the author's excellent recommendations have since become imbedded in a wide range of designs. People of my age will recall many of the bad design issues the author points out, that are now rarely seen in most new designs. Younger readers may find it surprising to learn that soon typewriters will surpass the steel pen (if they have ever seen a typewriter!)

I did not learn a lot from this book as I am observant of design and noted bad designs over my life. Also, most of the recommendations made have since become "common knowledge".

The narration I felt was excellent for the material, being completely clear and making it feel conversational and personal.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Long-winded and sorely out-dated

Useful and interesting in the beginning, however as the book continues it becomes repetitive. It also becomes painfully and increasingly obvious how old this book is and that it has not been updated. For example, he goes on for a while to describe mystical and futuristic things that actually exist now (like an iPhone or an iPad)… it just feels like the point of the book was made in the beginning and there was no need for the remaining five or six chapters.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Douglas
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 11-13-11

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 6 people found this review helpful

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Designers and Non-designers should read this

A mind-opener to what goes into designing any man-made thing. I recommend this book to all designers and non-designers.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful