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The Design of Everyday Things

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  35,687 ratings  ·  2,448 reviews
Anyone who designs anything to be used by humans -- from physical objects to computer programs to conceptual tools -- must read this book, and it is an equally tremendous read for anyone who has to use anything created by another human. It could forever change how you experience and interact with your physical surroundings, open your eyes to the perversity of bad design an ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 19th 2002 by Basic Books (first published 1988)
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Lynn Ellen This book is in the public domain and you can easily get free PDF copies online. I use it often when teaching Design Technology at the IBDP level.
This book is in the public domain and you can easily get free PDF copies online. I use it often when teaching Design Technology at the IBDP level.
Andrew Eggenberger Tap on “Book Details,” then “Editions.” From there you can switch to the revised and updated edition.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. NormanDon't Make Me Think, Revisited by Steve KrugUniversal Principles of Design by William LidwellAbout Face 3 by Alan CooperThe Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett
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Mario the lone bookwolf
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 0-technology
A praising of human creativity and problem-solving skills, shown on so normal and average examples one could never imagine that their history is so suspenseful.

Gosh, I didn´t know that there was such a huge bunch of other disciplines involved in the creation of everyday objects and how much scientific effort is made to pimp every single aspect until perfection.

Norman shows many examples of what works why, how even simple and banal seeming objects are filled with deep thoughts about each possible
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
After reading this you will never look at any man-made object the same. You will question everything from doors to tea kettles to the most sophisticated computer program. The next time you fumble with an answering machine, web page, or light switch you will think back to the lessons from this book. It is almost liberating once you can see beyond the design of everyday things.

I highly recommend this book for anyone. You absolutely must read it if you will ever be in a position to create something
Philip Mcallister
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
For a book that a lot of people rave about as being a 'bible of usability', I have to say it was one of the worst written and designed books I have ever been unfortunate enough to read. ...more
Jan 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Too general to be valuable. Too many sentences like this: "Each discipline has a different perspective of the relative importance of the many factors that make up a product." ...more
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This took me FOREVER to read - but it isn't the book's fault. It was me just picking it up at odd moments & it giving me a lot to think about each time. I don't design every day things, so had absolutely no need to read this book, but found it extremely interesting. If you have any part in designing anything, you MUST read this book.

Norman points out the obvious - things I took for granted - & made me think about them in an entirely new light. He breaks down the simplest devices into their bas
Rod Hilton
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Whenever programmers ask other programmers for book suggestions, there's always some smartass that says something like "The Art of War" because of blah blah blah about corporate politics. Hoo boy you're clever, you suggested a non-programming book, way to not play by the rules. You really march to the beat of your own drum there, slick.

Similarly, I constantly see "The Design of Everyday Things" suggested in these kinds of conversations. I think it's supposed to give engineers great insights into
Apr 15, 2008 added it
Shelves: partly-read
Couldn't get in to it. Maybe I'll try again at a different time. On a side note, I found it odd that a book about user-centered design had line-broken right-justified headings and baffling use of italics. ...more
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever stood in front of a door, or a microwave, absolutely flummoxed, because the damned thing gave you no clue whatsoever how to open it. If so (even, I venture to think, if not), you will enjoy this book. In clear, coruscating prose he exposes the miserable flaws in the design of everyday objects which conspire to make our lives less convenient, more miserable, and sometimes more dangerous.

The book is not just an exposé of the appalling laziness and hostility to consumers that is commo
Nick Black
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Jeff Garzik
Jeff Garzik gave me a copy of this back when he was building the Linux network stack in Home Park; I'd seen it praised by a few other people by that time as well (via the GT newsgroups, most likely). I was underwhelmed -- there were a few good case analyses (the oven UI I recall being particularly effective), but very little usable, general principles came out of the read. I went back in 2006, thinking I'd perhaps missed something, but didn't find much more. then again, i'm probably not the targ ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
This book is more for knowledge than for enjoyment. The writing is rather dry and textbook-like with many abstract/theoretical concepts and ideas. I feel like taking a short course in design, which is still quite helpful. Nevertheless, I was expecting more of "smart" designs, more fun and strange and inspiring stories, but Norman isn't there to entertain but to educate and so there are examples mostly to illustrate concepts and processes. Naturally I was a bit disappointed, but still in general ...more
Yevgeniy Brikman
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book has several very important ideas:

* Even if you aren't professional designer, you still use design everywhere in your life, including how you design your house, your resume, a report, some code, etc.

* Design is all about focusing on people's needs and abilities. You may think you know what those are by the virtue of being a human, but you don't, as most human actions are unconscious. Therefore, to be a good designer, you need to learn some psychology.

* Good design is all about finding t
Jun 06, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was written in a decade before authors learned how to write stimulating non-fiction.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
The Design of Everyday Things (DOET) is the story of doors, faucets and keyboards; it's the tale of rangetops and refrigerators. Donald Norman beckons the reader to look at the common objects they deal with every day in new and methodical ways. And he offers this central question; what makes an object well-designed as opposed to poorly-designed?

But on the question of design DOET, itself an everyday object, rates poorly. Norman's discussion of individual items proves inconsistent and rarely syst
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent piece of non-fiction. This book is a prescribed textbook for a course on computer interface design that I'm doing.

Once I really started reading it, I almost couldn't put it down - it was so interesting that it almost read like fiction - none of the dry dust usually found in conventional textbooks.

Very well and humorously presented, and a must for engineers, designers, manufacturers and inventors everywhere!
Manas Saloi
Mar 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Finally managed to complete it. Woohooo. Only took 7 years.
David Bjelland
BLUF: A good-to-great primer on human-centered design, albeit one that's lighter on examples and political introspection than I'd hoped for.

Longer take:
I'll admit: since first hearing about "Norman doors" in college and then seeing the hilarious "second degree burn kettle" on the cover, I'd built up the idea in my head of this book being some sort of righteous crusade against poorly-designed objects. I looked forward to hours of chuckling along as he gave instances of abominably unusable produc
Kater Cheek
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
I got this as an audiobook, based on the fact that it falls within my usual taste for non fiction and because it's been referred to by many other books. In many ways, this is a classic book that inspired many people to think more seriously about design. At least, that's my impression, garnered from the unreasonably long introduction in which the author talks about how great and important his book is.

Confession time: I didn't finish the book. I got down to about the last hour and ten minutes and
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
DoeT isn't the world's best written book—Norman's style is too often kvetchy-casual, sounding more like a modern-day ranty blog post than a classic of academic design writing.

But that is only one way in which this book is ahead of its time. The observations and recommendations regarding usable design here hold to extremely well 25 years later; even though Norman's examples concern ancient phone systems and slide projectors, it all translates perfectly well to virtual touchscreen UIs of today. A
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
A classic for a reason. The examples are dated, but if you still remember rotary dial telephones (maybe over 30 years of age?) you'll be fine with them. Since Norman more or less predicts iPhones and iPads in this book, I'd love to read an update chapter from him in the next edition.

The principles are still accurate and useful, and Norman makes a solid case for why my inability to get through doorways safely is actually the fault of the manufacturers. People using products are busy, they have t
Bryan Alexander
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology, design
A splendid book that I finally got around to reading, The Design of Everyday Things walks us through exactly what the title promises. Norman explores phones, doors, car keys, VCRs, water faucets, and signage, looking for principles that show how these work well or poorly.

Despite the author being a psychologist, the books is beautifully bereft of jargon. It reads like Asimov's nonfiction: accessible, brisk, pedagogically attuned, and often witty.

One nice assumption: that the user (you) is usually
Rob Adey
Sensible thinking, but does come across at times like an 80s observational comedy routine about motion sensitive taps.
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think there is really only one gif to sum this book up properly:

This book, although the examples are dated (as listed in nearly every review), is quite fabulous. The original title was actually "The Psychology of Everyday Things" which was less friendly to the average person, but quite accurate.

Like I said in a previous update, I feel like this book should be required reading for any type of designer, but somehow I had missed it until now. Great detail about design methodologies, constraints,
Brian Rosenblat

Can't believe I hadn't read this before.

There's a lot of wisdom in this book. I'd highly recommend for anyone pursuing a career in design, product, marketing, or tech, or anyone who just wants to build great products.

Internalize these ideas and put them into practice and you will create better products that will impact people's lives.
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you can't figure out how to use a simple device, it's poorly designed. Fancy designs that take away usage cues suck. His prime example are 'Norman doors' (Yes, named for him & his example by others over the years.) those without visibly hinged sides or handles. It can take several seconds to figure out how to operate them. Not a big deal? We deal with thousands devices regularly & poor design means a lot of frustration & wasted time. It can also mean accidents, even fatalities.

Norman started
This was alright.

This book came out around 1988 and was updated in 2002. That's not a problem through most of it. there are timeless principles here that will make any designer of consumer goods better at his job. These principles will also help the rest of us to be smarter consumers or just smarter people. I'm a man before I'm a consumer. tell you!

It's little dry in places and there were points when it occurred to me that this book would really benefit from an update but if you take
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design
This a required read for anyone who wants to design things for humans to use, but it was more like a textbook than I hoped when I picked it up. Lots of design vocabulary and lots of fairly common-sense principles. Don Norman is definitely one of the early design thinkers and this is where he talks about it all.

Big takeaways:
Signifiers and feedback are key in designing something. The user needs to be able to quickly understand what it can do (affordances) and get immediate and appropriate feedb
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, craft
The main question in my mind after listening to this audiobook is easily enough answered: How old IS this book, anyhow? In the introduction the author talks about how the book isn't dated. Well, it was originally published in 1988. One of the pieces of technology most discussed is the videocassette recorder. The VCR. The computers being discussed are about a step beyond the ones that were capable of adding three numbers together using a bank of systems that would fill a room.

Some of the book is
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brian by: Michael Economy
(4.0) Some good stuff in here, though it's certainly dated

I'll be looking up some of his other books to see if he's as good at predicting and suggesting product improvements as he was back then.

I think he makes concrete some really common sense ways to approach and analyze designs of products that humans use. It's certainly entertaining to point out ridiculous products, interfaces etc., but that's kind of 'negative design': what not to do. That doesn't actually help you do it right. Fortunately,
Parika Kumar
Jul 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Read it back in 2018. Opened my eyes towards value of user centered research. Since I'm now reading Invisible Women, I realise how design completely eliminates women from the picture and why disaggregated data is paramount for a good design centered product.

And yes, this is a very unfair review of the book, so would it help if I say this is a kick-ass read? 😛
May 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, design
I'm just going to be real. This book was incredibly boring. I picked it up because I was told it was a classic of the field and would be useful to have in my reading repertoire. And truthfully, the only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is because of the impact this book has clearly had on the design field. I'm sure at the time of its original release, this book was light years ahead of others in the way that it thought about design. I can definitely see how its concepts have become a ma ...more
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Donald Arthur Norman is a professor emeritus of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego and a Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University, where he also co-directs the dual degree MBA + Engineering degree program between the Kellogg school and Northwestern Engineering. Norman is on numerous company advisory boards, including the editorial board of Encyclopædia Bri ...more

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