Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things

ISBN: 0965810305
ISBN 13: 9780965810302
By: Donald A. Norman

Check Price Now


Currently Reading Design Interaction Design Non Fiction Nonfiction Psychology Science To Read Usability Ux

Reader's Thoughts

Nick Gotch

The first (and larger) part of Emotional Design is classic Norman: thorough analysis, dissection, and reflection on why and how the design of different things affects us. This part gets into some fascinating ideas that can definitely help any kind of designer make a better product. There's no shortage of theories put forth (with good backing) for why and how we connect with things.Norman breaks down our emotional reaction and connection to different things into three groups: visceral, behavioral, & reflective. He does a good job citing cases when these three apply and gets across a firm understanding of what makes each up.For the most part, there're plenty of colorful references and products that keep the reader's attention during all this narration. There are a few parts that might be a little dry but they're short and don't really take much away from the overall enjoyment of the book.That's the "traditional" side to the book. But then Mr. Norman seems to venture off into the realm of Sci-Fi near the end of the book when he gets into machines WITH emotions: robots in the future. He cites Isaac Asimov's 4 Laws and really delves into philosophical discussion.Now I personally thought this was great, afterall I just eat up sci-fi and futurist stuff. So for me, this was fun & no great departure from what I usually read; however, I'm not sure it fits in line with the "traditional" reader of this kind of book. For instance, the typical business design student or engineer could gain a great deal from the first half of this book but might feel out of place by the end.Personally I feel the book's a great read with lots of nice tips & ideas. And if you're a designer of anything the book can surely help you grow. Just might not need the last two or so chapters unless you're plannng on building a C3P0 droid in your cellar.


The first half of this book is very interesting - how brain works toward everything - visceral level, behavioral level and at reflective level. To understand how people love or hate products or services, you cannot ask questions after people used your prototypes. You have to observe while they are using, to understand their visceral level reaction (unconscious reaction). We should apply to our work.The second half of this book is completely out of my interest - robot design/function/communication to human etc.

Stephanie W

I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this is a book you can aptly judge. The cover depicts a juicer that is mechanical and feminine at the same time. It has sharp edges beautifully paired with delicate, sensual curves. It is supposedly not meant for juicing actual fruit, but it is certainly a conversation starter.This book was full of great anecdotes about the random stuff we have that we are attached to for no apparent reason. I have a hand mixer in my house that used to be white but has faded to a off yellow due to age. It works better than anything else and is a conversation starter because of the now defunct Montgomery Ward logo on the side. My collection of books are a testament to my identity, and our coffee table books show the world our varied interests.I enjoyed the book in the first half when it was about aspects of design. However, the later half about AI and robots seemed fade in and out. it did not hold my interest as much as I would have liked. If they had stuck to the aspects of what makes the Mini or Macbook Pro or titled teapots desirable, I would have enjoyed it more than a deviation in the later half of the story.


Donald Norman is a pretty big inspiration to me, being the first person who got me to think about the why of design. His book swings from a bit of psychology on over to product designers' roles in shaping the world we live in. His perspective is that each object in our environment has a psychological effect on people by its very presence and by how we interact with it (or don't).I still chuckle at the resounding failures of many so-called "Norman doors" with the wrong affordances, and the hasty hand-written notes often needed to explain things that run contrary to human intuition ("cancel for credit", for instance).

Elia Nelson

I love about this book the same thing I love about his first book - the examples are interesting, relevant, and extremely well described. The book might be even better without the slightly bizarre focus on social robotics at the end of it. But his point, that we do form emotional attachments to things, that those attachments are exaggerated when the objects can respond to us, and that those attachments genuinely affect how well something works, are important ones. When my friends and family ask just exactly what it is I'm studying in grad school, and then want to know more, this is the most readable book that I can direct them to.

Jesse Bowline

On its face, Emotional Design seems like it would be the perfect thing for me, a book about why design matters. Which it does. Obviously.However, in actually reading it, I encountered some problems, partially on me and partially on Donald A. Norman.For my part, I prefer books that tell stories. For this reason, I find many non-fiction books to be a bit dry for my taste. I fully accept that it's a matter of my personal opinion and not a reflection on the work itself when I read a book that doesn't have a driving narrative and find it somewhat unsatisfying.That said, there are two things that stood out as flaws in the book, which is not a significant number. However, since these two flaws were spread through about three quarters of the page count, it had a seriously deleterious effect on me.First, I feel that entirely too much time is spend justifying the argument. Nearly 200 pages are spent laying out a thesis, detailing points to justify the thesis, listing a point, using an anecdote to illustrate, repeat. This is valid scientific writing, sure, but the point he eventually makes could have been told much more concisely in twenty pages. I don't like it when stories take too long to make their points; it follows that I would be frustrated when a scientific article does the same.Following this lengthy introduction, however, is some very interesting study the thesis he sets forth. For the length of time that he spends on this subject, the read is engrossing and is, in fact, exactly what I was expecting.That is a roundabout way of bringing us to the second problem, which is robots. Now, don't get me wrong, robots are awesome, and I'm not just saying that so that they don't kill me in the first wave of the robo revolution. Nevertheless, when you are writing a book about the emotion of design (which, strangely, seems to be what the subject was intended to be), it doesn't seem sensible to spend half a chapter talking about said topic and then using the rest of the book to talk about all the things that robots might do in the future.The first section on robots was well-justified and informative. It just seems that in researching the information for that section, Norman started thinking about how awesome it would be if robots could do everything. Note the "would, could, might, etc." language there. This isn't a book of futurism, it's a book on design, and it's for laypeople. Talking about how things might be and what they should do is not going to be as useful as talking about the way things are.That's what ultimately unraveled the book for me. Still, it was enjoyable, and to a more scientifically inclined mind or someone who wants to read a book about the future of robots, I can see this being an engrossing read.


We are surrounded by things, and the way we relate to them is as important as the way they impact us. Design is the art, science and technology that address the shape, role, functionality and appeal of things (mostly artificial). The author developed a set of ideas about design throughout is winded career in and out of academia, and this book captures a part of those while hinting at how he reached them and how possibly he is still making up his mind about them. Indeed the author shows even in this rather informal treatise that he knows bunches, but honestly he is a bit too much self-spoken (as he also shows in at least one TED talk on this subject matter) to be invisible as the greatest expert guides should be. But that's about the defect of the text--quite personal, though this is maybe inevitable or at least allowed in design for evident reasons.Norman purports a few interesting things here. First, things work better when they are nicer. Not because there is a metaphysical causality between the function and attraction, but because excited or amused users are more tolerant to faults and are more creative as they are in cognitive ease, thus can find by themselves solutions to (minor) problems and understand better in general how things actually works. This led Norman, in comparison to his earlier address of function only, to appreciate the role of appeal, aesthetics and emotions in design. Together with his colleagues at Northwestern University he then proposed a theory of emotion scaffolded around three levels: visceral (reactive), behavioral (functional) and reflective (contemplative). The books is about the description of these levels, how a good design is complete when all of them are addressed satisfactorily, and viceversa how to improve the standard design of things in view of this assets. He then dedicates two chapters to robots and claims that they need emotions to work better, as other roboticists are also claiming. In the second he presents an overview of the future and comments on the need/application of Asimov's laws for robots, yet he fails to mention that all of this is longly disputed in the hypothesis of the Singularity--rather odd, as he seems pretty up-to-date for the rest of the book (to the point that sometime one is left to wonder whether the ideas presented are all his or sneaked from some other sources). The book concludes with the exaltation of customization as the ultimate design tool in the hands of everyone (so that anyone cannot not be a designer, as simply as in the way (s)he puts chairs in the house and uses tools), on possible mass production tailored to individuality (loss of ancient crafts en passing), and the need of things that age gracefully with the user to enforce the bond with them.Norman gives his best when he comments on the rationale of actual designs, often showed in pictures, and how to appreciate them. His style is simple and flowing, though at times it shows him mostly thinking aloud. A stimulating read overall, to look at things ordinary in a more subtle way.


This book is for the most part, a very good distillation of what is good and bad about product design of all kinds. It's subtly humorous and very detailed in its dissection of what makes up a user experience. It ties in very well actually with Alan Cooper's book on software design and vice versa. It's well thought out and adequately concise for the range of topics it covers.The only problem I really had with this book, was Norman's obsession with robots. The robot section gets a little agonizing to read through, especially with his unsubstantiated claim that they must have human-like emotions. Though his definition of 'robot emotions' technically drifts from that of our own, calling it that is just too close to the general term.If there's one thing I don't need, it's an angry robot.Otherwise though, I found it helpful to my work and enjoyable to read.

Erika RS

This book was interesting but disappointing. The first half was a fascinating addendum to The Design of Everyday Things. This part of the book talked about the role of emotions in design and usability. Things that are more pleasurable to use are easier to use than something with the same basic design that is not a pleasure to use. The psychological basis for this claim is that when people are enjoying what they are using, they can take a more creative view at any problems they encounter during the interaction. Furthermore, when you enjoy using something, you may be more willing to forgive problems. Delightful design cannot rescue an unusable design, but all else being equal, the delightful design will seem easier to use and cause greater attachment. Another reason that emotion is important in design is that users' relationships to objects are built on more than just the perceived usability and pleasure in using the items. Emotion is important because it taps into higher level human concerns such as image and status.The second part of the book felt out of place. It discussed robots and why they need to have some equivalent of emotions. The discussion was interesting, but it did not seem to really fit with the description given by the title ("why we love (or hate) everyday things). It felt like the second part of the book was bolted on because the first part was not long enough to be a book on its own. Because it went so contrary to my expectations for the rest of the book, I just could not enjoy it, even though it may have been interesting on its own.Overall, I would say that the first first of the book should be considered required reading if you have read The Design of Everyday Things. The second half you can take or leave depending on how interested you are in robots.


Donald Norman has some interesting thoughts on the emotional component of design and how it intersects with psychology. Unfortunately, the book veers off into a musing about the future, including two whole chapters dedicated to speculating about robots.Norman also has a tendency to repeat himself and reuse quotes, which makes the book tedious to read. Additionally, his frequent gripes about the design of personal computers and electronics haven't aged well and seem anachronistic in the age of iPods and iPads. Perhaps the reader can find some value in considering what changed in the design of these technologies to make them so much more tolerable--even pleasant--to use than their predecessors a decade ago.What could have been a concise and insightful treatise on the emotional component of design dragged out into a disjointed ramble that read like a collection of a designer's blog posts. Read for the first half, but don't feel guilty for ditching it after that.


This book was an amazing discussion of the psychology behind the stuff we love. I particularly enjoyed how much it spoke to our social networking tools. Our desire to connect with tech is discussed. The chapter on the future of robots also spoke quite a bit to educational design. the author, was a Cognitive and Computer Scientist who studied how well things work. During this his time studying this he noted the frustration and devotion people developed with certain products. My most valuable lesson from this book was the importance necessity of considering the affective and emotional side to design. This is especially vital in designing learning experiences. Learning is very much an emotional endeavor. We learn stuff that tugs at our emotion. We learn because we value the skill or information. All in all a terrific book that if you are a designer, educator or technologist you really ought to read.The book is very accessible despite the academic credentials of Donald A. NormanDonald A. Norman

Manolo Frias

This is a good book to understand why we need to take into account emotions when designing anything, being a chair, a map, or a document.It explains why some designs fail ("mainly because designers and engineers are often self-centered") and why some succeed ("emotions change the way the human mind solves problems").It is full of good examples but I feel that it would need a new edition to update them. This book was written in 2004 before iPhone and Facebook!The last part about robots was for me nonsense.


A older, more seasoned Norman revises his old "function over design" paradigm with this book about third-wave design. No longer are design and usability at odds, but rather they complement each other. Why do you feel more confidently when you are well dressed? Why does your car drive a little bit better after a car wash?The first half of the book is a wonderful guide into this merger for the first half of the book. However, it starts delving into movie psychology and robotics about half way through with little explaination as to why. One wonders if Norman just wanted to write about his current fancy.Still, this is another light but intriguing read into the world of product design.

Areeg Samy

Emotional Design is a must read for all designers and for industrial designers in specific. It covers the all the psychological, emotional and mental aspects related to any design on the 3 emotional levels; visceral, behavioral and reflective. It points out how form and function could help introduce the product to the user and how trust and emotional attachtment to some products are built. In the last 3 chapters, the book takes a futuristic drift and discusses machines, their relation to humans and users, how to develop them to be part of the society through emotional development. At some point, Norman starts drawing a possible picture of the future of robots in societies. To me it's a little bit inhumane, replacing actual humans with robots in everyday jobs even in social activities is exceeding the limit of using technology to facilitate our lives, to physically replacing our lives. But all in all, the book is essential for emotional design basics and it's enhanced with examples, pictures and users' feedbacks.

Jessamyn Smallenburg

Donald Norman's book on the emotional design of tangible things beautifully illustrates the ways in which objects can impact our emotions. To describe the way human emotions can be evoked, Norman uses descriptive examples, including the power of music to elicit strong feelings. The final portions of his book consider artificial intelligence, the current state of affairs, and where we might be headed in the future in terms of robotics. This book is comprehensive in the number of subjects covered in order to illustrate the powerful impact designs have on human emotions.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *