The Design of Everyday Things Book Summary - The Design of Everyday Things Book explained in key points
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The Design of Everyday Things summary

Donald A. Norman

The cognitive psychology of good design

4.3 (335 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

"The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman explores how design impacts our daily lives. It discusses the importance of intuitive design and the consequences of poorly designed products.

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    The Design of Everyday Things
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    Products that are difficult to use or understand are the result of faulty design – not stupid users.

    Have you ever found it impossible to get a new device working, like the remote control of a new TV set? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have difficulties using seemingly simple everyday products and often believe that they themselves are the problem. In actuality, the problem is bad design.

    Bad design is the result of neglecting the relation between users and technology; good design brings technology and people together.

    Imagine a TV remote. It’s capable of connecting and controlling all the devices – DVD players, satellites, game consoles, etc. – that are part of a home entertainment system. But in an effort to connect to so many devices, designers cram remotes full of confusing buttons and options – which makes them hard for people to use.

    And although people may think that they’re too stupid to use a simple TV remote, the real culprit is the bad design that fails to connect the user and the technology.

    So why does bad design happen?

    In the modern world, one of the main causes of bad design is the incredibly rapid development of technology.

    Take the way that cell phones have changed over the past fifteen years. They transitioned from touch pads to touch screens, and their main function is no longer just to make phone calls: now it includes texting, taking pictures, e-mailing, etc. While it’s convenient to have everything on one device, it also makes those devices prone to becoming overly complicated.

    The ever-changing and developing nature of technology make it harder than ever for designers to make new products that are still easy to use. That’s why designers must always keep in mind that no matter how revolutionary a technology is, if it’s difficult or impossible to use, it will be useless to the consumer.

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    What is The Design of Everyday Things about?

    This book explores the cognitive psychology of good design and what makes a product that responds to users’ needs. The author develops the common barriers to good design, how to reduce and fix errors, and how to bring users and technology closer together.

    The Design of Everyday Things Review

    The Design of Everyday Things (1988) is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the impact of design on our daily lives. Here's why this book stands out:

    • With its clear and concise explanations of design principles, it provides a practical framework for creating user-friendly products and interfaces.
    • By examining real-life examples and case studies, the book highlights the importance of usability and the consequences of poor design, making it relevant and eye-opening.
    • The author's engaging storytelling and insights into human behavior hold the reader's attention, ensuring a captivating and enjoyable reading experience.

    Best quote from The Design of Everyday Things

    The important message is that good design can prevent slips and mistakes. Design can save lives.

    —Donald A. Norman
    example alt text

    Who should read The Design of Everyday Things?

    • Designers, product managers, distributors, creators and manufacturers
    • Anyone who teaches design or other disciplines requiring creativity and inventiveness from their employees

    About the Author

    Donald Norman is Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego. His other books include the best-selling Emotional Design and Living with Complexity.

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    The Design of Everyday Things FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Design of Everyday Things?

    The main message of The Design of Everyday Things is to understand the principles of good design to create intuitive and user-friendly products.

    How long does it take to read The Design of Everyday Things?

    The reading time for The Design of Everyday Things varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Design of Everyday Things a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Design of Everyday Things is worth reading because it provides valuable insights on how good design enhances user experience and solves common usability issues.

    Who is the author of The Design of Everyday Things?

    The author of The Design of Everyday Things is Donald A. Norman.

    What to read after The Design of Everyday Things?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Design of Everyday Things, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan M. Weinschenk
    • Structures by James Edward Gordon
    • Do Design by Alan Moore
    • Don't Make Me Think, Revisited by Steve Krug
    • Change by Design by Tim Brown
    • Emotional Design by Donald A. Norman
    • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel
    • The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
    • How to Speak Machine by John Maeda