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The Design of Future Things Paperback – 4 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (4 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002283
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"written with wit, authority and the pragmatic, everyman touch that probably made Norman so good at his job in the first place." BBC Focus Magazine --BBC Focus Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Donald A. Norman is the Breed Professor of Design at Northwestern University, a former Vice President at Apple Computer, and a partner in the Nielsen Norman Group Consulting Firm, which consults with corporations on design. He is the author of a number of books on design, including Emotional Design and The Design of Everyday Things. He lives in Palo Alto, California, and Evanston, Illinois.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Odibus on 6 Jun. 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was extremely intrigued by what Donald Norman was going to say about the design of future things, especially given his insights from previous books. The content is sparse: some interesting views of designing human/machine interactions to be more like human/horse (tight-rein, loose-rein, etc.) and technology that assists our lives rather than automate chunks of it. There's also a rather odd dialogue at the end of the book where he interviews a machine to get their perspective...

The bulk of the information in the book appears to be gleaned from the conference circuit and some industrial tourism -- the remainder references his earlier books.

This book could have been summarised, with no loss of information, in a four thousand word essay, and the impression you're left with was that the author took his conference presentation and after dinner anecdotes, then quickly wrote a book around them -- there is little in the way of substance in this short book. (This view is exacerbated by the repetition and easy-going, colloquial style, not to mention the large font size and leading!)

Save your pennies for his earlier books
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Reviewer on 7 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
The book is interesting, but having finished it, I don't feel like I've taken a great deal from it. He raises a number of interesting ideas worth considering when designing for human-machine interaction, but he seems to labour his points, repeating the same ideas again and again. The various chapters draw the same conclusions and are not very distinct from one another. You could read any one chapter individually and develop a sound understanding of most of the ideas he presents.

He references his own books on a number of occasions that became a little tiring, and the book seems almost a little self-indulgent. The afterword is just bizarre and a little patronising. Having abandoned "The Design of Everyday Things" halfway through, as a little voice in my head shouted *ok, I get it, think about people more*, I was determined to finish this one, though I am left feeling a little disappointed.
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By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
I have always been a big fan of good design, but have never really had an opportunity to read much about it from those who make design their living. Recently, thanks to some advanced prototyping and manufacturing tools that have become widely accessible, I've been dabbling into design and have made a few of my own gadgets. At the same time I came across this book in the local public library, and thought it would be a good reading material to go with my fledgling design hobby. However, the book turned into a bit of a disappointment.

This book is neither an introduction to the design concepts and techniques, nor a wide-ranging look at the future of design. It comes closer to the latter paradigm, but the narrowness of its subjects and the shallowness of approach don't lend themselves easily to the deeply thoughtful look at the design of the future things. The book takes a closer look at the issues that pertain to the design of a few interesting "futuristic" technologies (self-driving cars in particular feature prominently), and presents the case to the reader that what we would want out of these technologies may in fact not be either the safest or the best designed solution when it comes to their implementations. The book offers a few insightful observations, and a short checklist of good design principles. Many of these are pretty good overall, but the brunt of their points could have been summarized into an essay that is perhaps a third of the size of this, already very thin, book.

If you are looking for some casual musings by an authority on the subject of design, then this book might be for you. Otherwise you may want to read something that is a bit more technical and systematic. From what I've heard about it, The Design of Everyday Things might be a much better read on this subject. I'll try to check it out at some point in the future.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this because I enjoyed "The psychology of everyday things" by the same author. He combines practical information with interesting comments about how the mind works and how people react to good design. Well worth reading
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Good but not Great 5 Jan. 2008
By Rob S. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting read. Ranks in this order:

(1) Design of Everyday Things
(2) Emotional Design
(distant 3rd) Design of Future Things

It wasn't "bad" it simply wasn't as interesting as the others. Whereas at the end of (1) and (2) I felt enlightened - that Norman was breaking new ground. At the end of Future Things I felt he had spent much of the time repeating himself, that the book could have been half the length.

Good book, but I would skip.
89 of 101 people found the following review helpful
Decent, not essential 21 Nov. 2007
By Andrew Otwell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Though the title's similar, this is no Design of Everyday Things. This book's very strongly focussed on design ideas for automobile automation, smart cruise control and the like, which gets a little tedious. Surprisingly, Norman also barely explores transportation possibilities beyond the car, and there's no discussion at all of sustainability, how cities and transportation habits are changing, or really any context at all. I guess Norman sees a one-man, one-exhaust pipe future for us.

In other ways, the book feels very much like the product of the last generation of attitudes about technology: there's basically no discussion of the web, or really anything about products that might have both online and physical manifestations. There's certainly some interesting stuff about how people adapt to increasing automation and lack of control in their cars or homes, but no essential insights nor much about the implications of generalized ambient computing and automation, something Adam Greenfield deals with very thoughtfully in Everyware.
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Okay, but no Design of Everyday Things 17 Dec. 2007
By Craig Ogg - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Norman's book Design of Everyday Things had a profound effect both on the way I perceive the world and how I design. I have bought every consumer book he has written since then, and have always come away disappointed.

I am giving this book only 3 stars because I felt it became repetitive after a while, having covered the points adequately in the first half of the book. Not up to the quality I expect of Norman.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great author, but could have been a better book 26 Oct. 2010
By Rob Wilcox - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Design of Future things could have been a much better book, but it has its value.

Norman has a distinguished career as engineer, cognitive scientist and champion for good design before it was fashionable. The book's weakness is its trade book focus on the general reader. It needs to be more engaging and expand beyond a focus on automobile and home automation R&D laboratories.

Its value are proposed principles for human-intelligent machine interaction: provide rich natural and continuous signals; be predictable; provide a good conceptual model; understandable output; and exploit natural mappings. Given the immaturity of the field, these are a very rough starting point. They will be replaced or evolved as broad real experience with intelligent machines evolves.

More important are the recommended readings: suggestions on important technical books and researchers on intelligent machine topics.

Norman's trade book philosophy omits conventional footnotes, though a page linked notes section allows limited references for the reader to go deeper.

A book copyright 2007 would have been written in 2006-6, but missing completely are developments in mobile, gaming, simulation, search, language translation, health care; and the potential of network-backed intelligence in the cloud. Discussion of intelligent social network interaction systems, or social network driven intelligence are absent. Norman also omits the impact of generational adoption and the signaling theory value of technology adoption by individuals.

The book could have omitted science fiction-style dialogs between fictional humans and Norman's fictional future machines. A better approach would have been to critique the interactions in popular film, with online film clip references. A more important focus could have been lessons from the evolution of artificial intelligence research and its disappointments; and ethnographic studies of current early intelligent systems, across cultures. We are sure to see unexpected variety in design theory across developers and academics in diverse world cultures.

Nonetheless, we look forward to the author's next significant book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Not Impressed 20 April 2008
By Brian C. Clark - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Much of the book reiterates and repeats the same points over and
over again about communication between machines and man but I found
that it was very limited in scope. From what I have read in technology
advances I am forced to conclude that this author has not done adequate
research to write what the title suggest which is a much wider scope than what is written within its chapters. A more correct title would be
"The communication between man and machine" or "Communication between
future home appliances, cars and furniture with man". It patronizes
computers as hardly being suitable candidates for future sentience.

Given that we have had millions of years to evolve I hardly think
that this could be concluded from only about 60 years of computer
technology...certainly in light of the fact that all of NASA's expensive computers in the 1960's Apollo era filling out an entire room does not approach the computing power of even a single laptop computer today.

In general buying a book about future technology is not as informative as
reading about articles on a daily or weekly basis because the shear
breadth of the subject does not do well in book form where it quickly
becomes outdated. If you are reading about history, language an
autobiography and so on you are more likely to be adequately informed
because it is not an evolving topic and only a few new things get discovered over the years to amend to what you already know. On the
other hand if you are reading about PAST technology such as the works
of Tesla and his D.C. motors then you are on a topic which fits into
history which is adequately constrained in its breadth and is not
evolving unless you believe Tesla is somehow alive like Elvis and is still inventing new machines that no one can can guess at.
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