Quotes from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)

Donald A. Norman ·  369 pages

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“Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Principles of design:
1. Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head.
2. Simplify the structure of tasks.
3. Make things visible: bridge gulfs between Execution and Evaluation.
4. Get the mappings right.
5. Exploit the power of constraints.
6. Design for error.
7. When all else fails, standardize.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Rule of thumb: if you think something is clever and sophisticated beware-it is probably self-indulgence.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“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,”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“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, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Cognition attempts to make sense of the world: emotion assigns value.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“The idea that a person is at fault when something goes wrong is deeply entrenched in society. That’s why we blame others and even ourselves. Unfortunately, the idea that a person is at fault is imbedded in the legal system. When major accidents occur, official courts of inquiry are set up to assess the blame. More and more often the blame is attributed to “human error.” The person involved can be fined, punished, or fired. Maybe training procedures are revised. The law rests comfortably. But in my experience, human error usually is a result of poor design: it should be called system error. Humans err continually; it is an intrinsic part of our nature. System design should take this into account. Pinning the blame on the person may be a comfortable way to proceed, but why was the system ever designed so that a single act by a single person could cause calamity? Worse, blaming the person without fixing the root, underlying cause does not fix the problem: the same error is likely to be repeated by someone else.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“The vicious cycle starts: if you fail at something, you think it is your fault. Therefore you think you can’t do that task. As a result, next time you have to do the task, you believe you can’t, so you don’t even try. The result is that you can’t, just as you thought.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Finally, people have to actually purchase it. It doesn’t matter how good a product is if, in the end, nobody uses it.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“The design of everyday things is in great danger of becoming the design of superfluous, overloaded, unnecessary things.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“The problem with the designs of most engineers is that they are too logical. We have to accept human behavior the way it is, not the way we would wish it to be.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“When things go right, people credit their own abilities and intelligence. The onlookers do the reverse. When they see things go well for someone else, they sometimes credit the environment, or luck.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“A story tells of Henry Ford’s buying scrapped Ford cars and having his engineers disassemble them to see which parts failed and which were still in good shape. Engineers assumed this was done to find the weak parts and make them stronger. Nope. Ford explained that he wanted to find the parts that were still in good shape. The company could save money if they redesigned these parts to fail at the same time as the others.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Two of the most important characteristics of good design are discoverability and understanding.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“The vicious cycle starts: if you fail at something, you think it is your fault. Therefore you think you can’t do that task. As a result, next time you have to do the task, you believe you can’t, so you don’t even try. The result is that you can’t, just as you thought. You’re trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Norman’s Law: The day the product team is announced, it is behind schedule and over its budget.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“One way of overcoming the fear of the new is to make it look like the old.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“If designers and researchers do not sometimes fail, it is a sign that they are not trying hard enough—they are not thinking the great creative thoughts that will provide breakthroughs in how we do things. It is possible to avoid failure, to always be safe. But that is also the route to a dull, uninteresting life.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“original ideas are the easy part. Actually producing the idea as a successful product is what is hard.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“In design, one of the most difficult activities is to get the specifications right:”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“In the university, professors make up artificial problems. In the real world, the problems do not come in nice, neat packages. They have to be discovered.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“It is easy to design devices that work well when everything goes as planned. The hard and necessary part of design is to make things work well even when things do not go as planned.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Because retrieval is a reconstructive process, it can be erroneous. We may reconstruct events the way we would prefer to remember them, rather than the way we experienced them. It is relatively easy to bias people so that they form false memories, “remembering” events in their lives with great clarity, even though they never occurred. This is one reason that eyewitness testimony in courts of law is so problematic: eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. A huge number of psychological experiments show how easy it is to implant false memories into people’s minds so convincingly that people refuse to admit that the memory is of an event that never happened.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“When people fail to follow these bizarre, secret rules, and the machine does the wrong thing, its operators are blamed for not understanding the machine, for not following its rigid specifications. With everyday objects, the result is frustration. With complex devices and commercial and industrial processes, the resulting difficulties can lead to accidents, injuries, and even deaths. It is time to reverse the situation: to cast the blame upon the machines and their design. It is the machine and its design that are at fault. It is the duty of machines and those who design them to understand people. It is not our duty to understand the arbitrary, meaningless dictates of machines.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“With the passage of time, the psychology of people stays the same, but the tools and objects in the world change.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“It is the duty of machines and those who design them to understand people. It is not our duty to understand the arbitrary, meaningless dictates of machines.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“Affordances define what actions are possible. Signifiers specify how people discover those possibilities: signifiers are signs, perceptible
signals of what can be done. Signifiers are of far more importance to designers than are affordances.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


“A device is easy to use when the set of possible actions is visible, when the controls and displays exploit natural mappings.”
― Donald A. Norman, quote from Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)


About the author

Donald A. Norman
Born date December 25, 1935
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