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

Johanna Lynn

This was a belated follow-up to Norman's Design of Everyday Things, where he neglected an important psychological factor in design--emotion, the visceral evocation of attachment to objects in our lives. This book addresses that aspect.


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

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.


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.


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.

Almuerto Velorio

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

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.

Michael Scott

(I chose to write this review only after reading both Emotional Design and The Design of Everyday Things. The wait was worthwhile.) Emotional Design focuses on the aesthetics of things, that is, on what makes an object desirable (for a human). Just like the influential late-1980s book by Norman, The Design of Everyday Things, this book marks a belief shift, from performance and usability, to catering to human impulse and cognitive responses. In other words, Norman argues that we are no longer interested exclusively in performance and function, and that emotion plays an important role in what we think about objects.Norman introduces a framework for our response to objects, with three layers. The visceral layer is where humans react to thrills, colors, lighting, etc.; there is little or no thinking involved at this layer. For example, when the camera angle points upwards to the face of the character, we understand (as a gut feeling, or sensation) that the character is a hero. At the behavioral layer, humans think about the properties of the object, and place themselves in the role of users/participants. This is the layer where humans appreciate the functionality, usability, and performance of objects. At the reflective layer, humans take a metaphorical step back and analyze the object and the way they can interact with it. For example, even a colorless and useless (broken) object can appeal at this layer to humans, who may be attracted by a story that includes the object (how the object was broken during a war, while in the pocket of a long-gone grandparent).The book abounds in excellent writing and ideas (for a rather technical mind). Here are three things I've noticed, at very different levels. Norman argues in Chapter 5 that "the real power of Instant Messaging isn't the message [...] it's the presence detection. Knowing that someone is there." I was wondering since the first mention in this book of the word robot about Asimov's "Laws of Robotics", and thought that Norman is focusing much on the individual objects and not about groups, so (1) Was he going to discuss these laws? (2) Was he going to discuss the Zeroth Law? To my real, deep surprise, Norman did both, and quite excellently so. (This alone increased the rating I've given this book by a star.) I was also very interested to read about personalization and customization, two issues I'm struggling with in my own designs. There's not much about them in this book, but there's something. For the rest ... there's too much to discuss in this review.While I enjoyed the book and I liked much of it, I was less impressed with its novelty and depth. First, I am not sure about the novelty of this position. For once, in computer science and in particular in computer-human interaction and computer graphics the importance of aesthetics was understood much earlier, perhaps even from the beginning of the 1990s (see the focus of the SIGGRAPH conferences of that era). The researchers of entertainment, especially movies, have developed very similar frameworks much earlier; Norman refers to Jon Boorstin's The Hollywood Eye: What Makes Movies Work (1990). Second, I am sure many must have raised this objection, but Norman's view is very much rich-country oriented. There are billions of people to which Norman's book surely does not yet apply, and Norman should have mentioned this. Third, some of the treatment of the more technical aspects, such as deadlocks when contending for resources and its potential solutions, is truly naive.Overall, a very good and modern book on design, with an almost exclusive focus on aesthetics. Perhaps not as good as The Design of Everyday Things, but an excellent companion. Rec: must-read for every designer of user-facing products.


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.


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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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