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The Design of Future Things
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2008
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
on 7 September 2009
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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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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on 28 January 2011
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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