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The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
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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 systematic; sometimes he includes examples of both good and bad design (such as when he analyzes doors), but oftentimes he only mentions the bad (such as when he talks about office phone systems.) He rarely offers suggestions for superior designs and organizes everything by psychological concepts that often prove vague or arcane; section headings include 'Memory is Knowledge in the Head' and 'Using Sound for Visibility.'

Even more fundamentally, explanatory pictures rarely occupy the same page as the text that references them, forcing the reader to page back and forth. That the typesetting for his book is so awkward feels especially glaring as that's the sort of basic design flaw DOET seeks to expose.

To Norman's credit, he shows passion for the subject and writes engagingly when he isn't listing psychological vocabulary words. And the subject of design is fascinating; relevant to everyone, applicable to all areas of life and endlessly detailed. And Norman routinely finds interesting digressions; applying design principles to Legos or charting every plausible game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

And I found myself agreeing with Norman's core philosophy. He argues that function should supersede features and usability is more important than aesthetics. He also takes the stance that if you can't figure out a gadget, it probably isn't your fault and he goes into detail about how common this sort of confusion is.

Norman takes a decidedly pro-humanity outlook in a book all about objects; just one more irony. After all, DOET is a poorly-designed study of design regarding a mundane subject that fascinates.

Edited 2/19/2019
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November, 2017 – Finished Reading
December 22, 2017 – Shelved
December 22, 2017 – Shelved as: book-club

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message 1: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Norman doors and all that jazz. The more you know and think about such things, the more you see them and get annoyed! Good luck!


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