Top Ten Design Quotes from Donald A. Norman

I am learning all sorts of fascinating things about how products are designed and how those designs tug at our emotional and cognitive impulses to make us decide and act in ways we just take for conscious behavior. Donald A. Norman‘s book, ‘Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Every Things’ is an awesome book for anyone how is curious about product design (who isn’t ?), filled with all kinds of big and small concepts on understanding functional and behavioral aspects a product, whether it is a twin-blade shaving razor or the 2010 Mini Cooper, and then map it to a human mind’s emotional and cognitive preferences.

After reading this book, one has a greater understanding of the worldly things, like the Macbook I am typing on now, the cup with tea on my desk, the speakers on the wall and the shapes and contours of the pen and pencils lying around. Each and every one of them have an effect on the three kinds of emotions I experience – visceral (looks), behavioral (function), reflective (inference) and together these emotions weave a story about each of those products with respect to me. Mr.Norman lays out a compelling case for making one’s product not only great functionally, but also more human centered which would result in simplifying complex problems with elegant and unobtrusive solutions.

The book is has many wonderful insights on design, a few of which I have written down and plan to drop during some office meetings to impress people. Here are some of Mr.Norman’s quotes, from this and his other books and publications.

Attractive things work better… When you wash and wax a car, it drives better, doesn’t it? Or at least feels like it does.

Everything has a personality: everything sends an emotional signal. Even where this was not the intention of the designer, the people who view the website infer personalities and experience emotions.

If functions are equated with cognition, pleasure is equated with emotion; today we want products that appeal to both cognition and emotion.

It’s the total experience that matters. And that starts from when you first hear about a product… experience is more based upon memory than reality. If your memory of the product is wonderful, you will excuse all sorts of incidental things.

It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives

The argument is not between adding features and simplicity, between adding capability and usability. The real issue is about design: designing things that have the power required for the job while maintaining understandability, the feeling of control, and the pleasure of accomplishment.

The world is complex, and so too must be the activities that we perform. But that doesn’t mean that we must live in continual frustration. No. The whole point of human-centered design is to tame complexity, to turn what would appear to be a complicated tool into one that fits the task, that is understandable, usable, enjoyable.

Any time you see signs or labels added to a device, it is an indication of bad design: a simple lock should not require instructions.

What makes something simple or complex? It’s not the number of dials or controls or how many features it has: It is whether the person using the device has a good conceptual model of how it operates.


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3 thoughts on “Top Ten Design Quotes from Donald A. Norman

  1. All this seems to be good until we hit a deadline or marketing comes in. Then initial design goes out the window and “make it work somehow” design takes over.

    1. Yeah, it seems like everyone understands the importance of good design, but at crunch time, it is the first thing that gets ignored. Every app team has its own developers and qa people, but they don’t have a dedicated design team.

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