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


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.

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.


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.


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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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 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).

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.


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.


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.

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