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485 Don Norman: The Design of Everyday Things

“The Design of Everyday Things” explores the principles of good design and how it impacts the usability and user experience of everyday objects and technology.



"The Design of Everyday Things" is a seminal work in the field of design and usability. Don Norman examines the fundamental principles that make objects easy or difficult to use, shedding light on why some designs frustrate us while others delight us. Through engaging anecdotes and thought-provoking examples, he highlights the importance of user-centered design and the need to consider human psychology and behavior in the design process. From doors and faucets to smartphones and software interfaces, Norman reveals how the design of everyday things can influence our interactions, emotions, and overall satisfaction. This book serves as a guide for designers, engineers, and anyone interested in creating intuitive and user-friendly experiences.


  1. Title: "The Design of Everyday Things" 
  2. Author: Don Norman 
  3. Publishing Year: 1988 
  4. Publisher: Basic Books 
  5. Length in Hours: 10 hours and 39 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. User-centered design: Putting the needs and abilities of users at the forefront of the design process to create intuitive and user-friendly products.
  2. Visibility and feedback: Ensuring that users can easily understand the state of an object or system through clear feedback and visible cues.
  3. Affordances and constraints: Designing objects with visible and intuitive clues about how they should be used while providing clear limitations to prevent errors.
  4. Mental models: Understanding the mental models users develop and designing systems that align with their expectations and prior knowledge.
  5. Human error and error prevention: Recognizing that humans make errors and designing systems that anticipate and prevent those errors to enhance safety and usability.

5 funny quotes

  1. "It's not you, it's the design! Don't blame yourself for struggling with that door that says 'push' when you should pull."
  2. "Ever had a conversation with your car keys? Designers love to put symbols on keys that have no relation to their actual purpose."
  3. "Ever tried to assemble furniture using instructions that seem to be written in an alien language? Join the club!"
  4. "The world is filled with alarm clocks that are so complex, they could double as rocket launchers."
  5. "Remember, it's not your fault if you accidentally press the wrong button on your smartphone. The buttons are too small and too close together!"

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "A well-designed object is one in which the design signals the likely behavior of the device."
  2. "The real problem of humanity is the following: We have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology."
  3. "Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible."
  4. "The fault lies not in the users, but in the system: the design, the technology, and the organization."
  5. "The real question is not how to make the dumb devices smart, but how to make the smart devices easier to use."

5 dilemmas

  1. Balancing aesthetics and functionality in product design: How can designers create visually appealing objects without compromising usability?
  2. Addressing the challenges of designing for diverse user groups: How can design accommodate users with different physical abilities, cultural backgrounds, and technological literacy?
  3. Tackling the trade-off between simplicity and feature richness: How can designers strike the right balance between offering useful features and overwhelming users with complexity?
  4. Managing the influence of marketing and trends on design decisions: How can designers prioritize user needs over flashy aesthetics or market demands?
  5. Ensuring ethical considerations in design: How can designers take responsibility for the potential social, environmental, and psychological impacts of their creations?

5 examples

  1. The design of doors: How door handles, hinges, and signage can lead to confusion and frustration or provide clear cues for effective use.
  2. The usability of kitchen appliances: Examining how the design of stovetop controls, microwave interfaces, and refrigerator layouts can impact ease of use.
  3. The design of car controls: Analyzing the layout and affordances of dashboard controls, steering wheel buttons, and infotainment systems.
  4. The usability of smartphones: Exploring how the design of touchscreens, icons, and app interfaces can enhance or hinder user experience.
  5. The design of office equipment: Assessing the usability of printers, copiers, and fax machines and how their interfaces can be improved for efficiency.

Referenced books

  1. "The Psychology of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman (an earlier edition of his own book, later renamed "The Design of Everyday Things")
  2. "The Timeless Way of Building" by Christopher Alexander
  3. "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art" by Scott McCloud
  4. "The Sciences of the Artificial" by Herbert A. Simon
  5. "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

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"Ever tried to assemble furniture using instructions that seem to be written in an alien language? Join the club!"

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