The Design of Everyday Things

Book Cover - The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things
By Don Norman
Published by Basic Books, November 5, 2013

“”This is a starter kit for good design. It is intended to be enjoyable and informative for everyone: everyday people, technical people, designers, and nondesigners.””


Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we fail to figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door.


The fault, argues this ingenious — even liberating — book, lies not in ourselves, but in product design that ignores the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology. The problems range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable demands on memorization.


The Design of Everyday Things shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time.


In this entertaining and insightful analysis, cognitive scientist Don Norman hails excellence of design as the most important key to regaining the competitive edge in influencing consumer behavior. Now fully expanded and updated, with a new introduction by the author, 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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About the Author:

Don Norman is a co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, and holds graduate degrees in both engineering and psychology. His many books include Emotional Design, The Design of Future Things, and Living with Complexity, and The Design of Everyday Things. He lives in Silicon Valley, California.

Don has retired five times, starting in 1993. He first retired from the University of California, San Diego, where he founded the Cognitive Science department. He then joined Apple as an Apple Fellow and became the UX Architect of a three-person team called the User Experience Office. (This was the first use of the term User Experience as a job title. It wasn’t called UX yet.) His fifth retirement was in 2020, again from UC San Diego, where he established the Design Lab. His other retirements include co-director of the MMM dual degree program at Northwestern University, combining an MBA and an engineering degree with a focus on design.

He is a cofounder of CHI and received their lifetime achievement award, a fellow of numerous societies such as ACM, Human Factors and Ergonomics, Design Research Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), in the Engineering division.

Today he is an active board member at NN/g [Nielsen Norman Group] as well as a member of the nonprofit charity, The Don Norman Design Award and Summit. He is only 88 years old, so he looks forward to many more activities.

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