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

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

Check Price Now


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

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.

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.


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.

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.

Montgomery Webster

Serious waste of my time. I did love The Design of Everyday Things though, but generally do not like these practical books. They always seem to have a few pages of useful information that are then expanded to fill the book. Emotional Design does not have exactly the same problem. Instead, there is only one line of information, then a lot of small useless stories and ideas. In some ways that is better, but either way is not worth my time.Here is what you need to know:There are three levels of design: visceral (objective look), behavioral (touch and performance), and reflective (thoughts or feelings).


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


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.


I was happy with this book, but think I like the Design of Everyday Things better overall.Was a bit bored by the last chapter on the future of robots.Have the sneaking feeling that I'll "get" this book a lot better in a few years' extra maturity.Notes for future Eric:Some nice ideas though, the soundbite "our emotions make us smart" will probably stick with me for some time. Now noting the visceral, behavioural and reflective split for future reference. Definitely liked the point that emotions are a quick and easy way for our brain to bubble information up to our higher levels (a way to prune the search space), a powerful tool for processing the world. Also liked his points about natural emotions as part of the user interface (but not the fake-smile kind). Would like to reread chapter 4 again someday on making this fun and playful.

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.

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.


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).


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”.

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.


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.

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.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published.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