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

ISBN: 0465051367
ISBN 13: 9780465051366
By: Donald A. Norman

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About this book

Did you ever wonder why cheap wine tastes better in fancy glasses? Why sales of Macintosh computers soared when Apple introduced the colorful iMac? New research on emotion and cognition has shown that attractive things really do work better, as Donald Norman amply demonstrates in this fascinating book, which has garnered acclaim everywhere from Scientific American to The New Yorker.Emotional Design articulates the profound influence of the feelings that objects evoke, from our willingness to spend thousands of dollars on Gucci bags and Rolex watches, to the impact of emotion on the everyday objects of tomorrow.Norman draws on a wealth of examples and the latest scientific insights to present a bold exploration of the objects in our everyday world. Emotional Design will appeal not only to designers and manufacturers but also to managers, psychologists, and general readers who love to think about their stuff.

Reader's Thoughts

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.


"With positive affect, you are more likely to see the forest than the trees, to prefer the big picture and not to concentrate upon details. On the other hand, when you are sad or anxious, feeling negative affect, you are more likely to see the trees before the forest, the details before the big picture" (Norman, 2005: 26)Well, is it something like, when I feel distracted by a problem, I become too worried about a thing? Or, does it mean that negative affect brings me into scary situations, which are felt very friendly by those who have positive affect? These lines have left me a question. A very big question I must discover the answer. However, I have my own idea that negative state will make me more sensitive and responsive to danger. Does my rational make sense?

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.


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


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.


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.

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.

Dave Peticolas

Norman's first book focused on practical usability in everyday things. This time around he is concerned with their meaning and significance in people's lives. And it's another good read.


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.


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.

Almuerto Velorio

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


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”.


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.

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.

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.

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