The Design of Everyday Things

October 20th, 2010 in Home Categories by 0 Comments

Chapter 1 of ‘The Design of Everyday Things”, The Psychopathology of Everyday Things” by Donald. A. Norman


  • Humans are clumsy when they use products that are badly conceived and designed.
  • A (big) example of mechanical error blamed on the operator is Three Mile Island.
  • There is a difference between knowledge and information.

The Psychopathology of Everyday Things

  • There is too much poor design in the world, that’s why most people can’t use all the objects they own.
  • It is possible to not be able to open doors. They might be pretty, but will provide no clue on how to use them.
  • Visibility is important principle of design.
  • Natural signals are part of natural design.
  • Simple devices are getting more and more functions, which is a bad thing.
  • There is a possibility that the psychology of materials matters.
  • The affordances of materials (what it is meant to do, or be used) can be a blessing and a curse.
  • False casualty leads to superstition.
  • Everyday things are made of many parts.
  • We figure out how things work from their visible structure: affordances, constraints, and mappings.
  • People can figure out how scissors work via its visible structure. The opposite would be a digital watch.
  • When designing for people, designers must (1) provide a good conceptual model & (2) make things visible.
  • Users can predict the outcome with a good conceptual model.
  • Designers must talk to the users, otherwise users will end with the wrong mental model.
  • The mental model is based off the system image (perceived actions and visible structure).
  • Have to make instructions easy to remember when in stress.
  • Some features are just useless.
  • Bad products are a result of lack of visibility & poor conceptual model.
  • Designers can come up with features for almost any situation.
  • A car has good design due to having things visible, good mappings, and natural relationships.
  • Single controls are actually good.
  • When there are more functions than controls, we begin to have an issue.
  • It is best in design when people have to remember less. This means a good relationship between placement of the control and what it does.
  • “Good design takes cares, planning, and thought. It takes conscious attention to the needs of the user.”
  • The paradox of technology (added functionality means added complexity) is fast approaching.
  • Feedback is important.
  • There will always be the battle of cost versus usability.
  • If a design fails, designers will not try to fix it, because they are afraid it will be ignored.
  • The development of technology: High complexity, followed by low complexity (comfort level), then back up to high complexity.
  • Once the product is stabled, anything added after adds to the complexity.
  • “Whenever the number of functions and required operations exceeds the number of controls, the design becomes arbitrary, unnatural, and complicated.”
  • Clever design can minimize the paradox of technology.

Author: ezraezra

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