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

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

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Reader's Thoughts


Anyone who designs anything must read this book. The biggest takeaway - the lesson I still remember years later - is that when someone hates or gets frustrated with your creation, it's not their fault. They aren't stupid. They're human. Your design is wrong. Many more valuable lessons are in this book. Enthusiastically recommended.


Another masterpiece from Donald Norman. Dr. Norman focuses this time on the aesthetics of objects and the impact it has on their usability. The postulate is simple: if you want people to use objects you design for them, you better make them look nice.Humans are emotional animals, our emotions and senses guide our lives. The first emotions we get from objects are visuals and should encourage us to use them. If you pass the “visceral” test, there are chances that people start using the object you designed, just because you created a desire for it.I can only regret the repetitiveness of the book which hammers the same message over and over again. This is an excellent complement to the “Design of everyday things”.


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.

Stefano Bussolon

This is the only book written by Norman I would not recommend. It is based on a theory of emotion and cognition that have never been confirmed and supported outside the ux community. Our mind don't works like that, we don't have 3 brains, and everything is much more complicated.


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.


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.

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.


Like always, Don Norman is very insightful and thoughtful about how design interacts with us. Like his style and his other books, some chapters are rather long and proves the same point. However i cherish his books in my book shelf


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).


In the epilogue of this book, Don Norman expresses his gratitude to a myriad of people who helped him organize many years worth of disparate notes into a cohesive book. For me, ‘Emotional Design’ remained rather disconnected. Not in an altogether bad way, the book reads like the (slightly rambling) classroom lecture from a venerable guru …with the reader left to pull it all together.Norman offers an illuminating model - distinguishing between 3 layers of design: visceral, behavioral and reflective - to understand why people like the objects they do. And like ‘Design of Everyday Things’ he explores this model with numerous fun and apropos examples. But soon the book wanders from discussion of this cognitive model to pondering on the future of design. According to Norman this future will be marked by our increased dependence on smart robots in every facet of life, where the more we grow to depend on these servants of our own making – functionally and emotionally - the more the line between man and robot will become less and less clear. All this talk of material stuff and robotic servitude makes ‘Emotional Design’ a testament to American consumerism and I was moderately disappointed by the lack of freshness here. A worthwhile read from the man who brought us ‘The Design of Everyday Things’, but ultimately one that falls in the category of ‘plane book’. That is, the type of book I read on a plane because I know I’ll have no other escape.


Although I enjoyed it (probably more than I expected to), and although I can see how all parts of the book relate to one another, I still came away from this book feeling like it was actually two books smushed together, one about the way human beings form attachments to objects, and one about the evolution of emotion in robots--the objects forming attachments in return. And despite being only a few years old (2005), it still felt quite dated when talking about technology (particularly things like mobile phones and the internet; it did not seem to anticipate the rapid convergence of all types of communication). I was particularly interested in the way our emotional relationship to objects affects our productivity; if nothing else, this book has certainly prompted me to explore that a little more.


I just weeded this book out of my bookshelves, after four years and moving it across the country and into (and out of) four separate apartments. I took it off the shelf, removed the bookmark that had been optimistically marking a quarter of the way through the book, and I put the book in my stack of books to be given away.I give up. I will never finish this book. The writing style is impenetrable and boring, which means that even though the premise of the book is fascinating--how form affects whether we like or hate an object, regardless of its function--I couldn't force my way through the prose to engage in the ideas.Disappointing.

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.

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.

Almuerto Velorio

..... en así muchos objetos para humanos son un espejo de si mismos, con rostro y gesticulan.....

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