on 17 July 2005
While this book was at times fascinating, entertaining and easy to read, I believe that it was not as inspirational as Norman's classic book, The Design of Everyday Things. The first half of the book serves as a useful overview into the psychological theory of emotion and is written in simple and plain English. However, the second half of the book goes on to discuss how we may interact with robots and machines in the future and while interesting to read, it does become slightly repetitive at times.
This book is not up to the same (very high) standard as some of Norman's previous work, but is still an interesting, insightful and easy read. Definitely worth a look!
on 5 January 2007
Understanding the emotions consumers feel about the objects you sell can help your business make the most of its product designs. Expert Donald Norman explains how being attractive, fun and enjoyable makes a product better. He explains that the emotions which affect purchase decisions are based on three aspects of design: "visceral" (appearance), "behavioral" (performance) and "reflective" (memories and experiences). He provides interesting case studies to show how objects evoke emotions. Norman's central theme is that "attractive things work better." And, the book works best when he hews to that theme; the last section, where he veers into a discussion of robots, doesn't seem as pertinent or as strong. We recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand how design affects emotions, and how emotions affect purchasing decisions.
I really enjoyed The Psychology of Everyday Things, but I found this book disappointing. Donald Norman makes some comments that make him sound like an out-of-touch IT teacher at school rather than a master of clever design.
The suggestion that we might one day all have clever boxes in rooms of our houses, say that showed us how to do auto repairs in the garage, or cook a recipe in the kitchen, seem to have bypassed entirely the concepts of the Internet, Wi-Fi, and LCD flatscreens. Why re-invent the wheel? Similarly, how could a book on the way thought and emotion interact in the design of products possibly neglect to include the Apple IPod? This thing has totally revolutionised consumer electronics but instead we're treated to a chapter about the design of kettles.
There's the kernels of some good ideas in here, but they're not followed through with particularly impressive thinking. I'd be very interested to see someone else tackle this area from a more modern perspective.
on 25 April 2011
I looked forward very much to reading Donald Norman's next 'big number' after his fantastic text 'Design of Everyday Things'. 'Emotional Design' starts well with the introduction of the 'visceral, behavioural, reflective' level of user engagement, but from then on, conceptually, it all goes downhill.
The first three chapters offer new insightful material which explains how to take into account emotion in design, but the later chapters,'Fun and Games', 'People and Places', and 'Emotional Machines' (read: Robots for everything) really don't seem to go anywhere new.
To be honest, the idea of robots serving up everything does not inspire me in the same way as it does Donald Norman. It just seems like a lot more machinery to maintain and manage, at a time when we need to become more skilful ourselves, rather than deskilling ourselves and handing on our intelligence to machines.
I work with 'smart' buildings, and see just how often machinery breaks down. It's depressing.
Coming back to Donald Norman's book - the fact that it has been put together from a variety of separate sources shows. It is really an edited book of his conference talks and other events, and it would be more honest to sell it like this.
This is a very good book about the many levels of design. Often, you can get something that works well, but is ugly; conversely, you can get something that looks great but doesn't really work. The great service of this book is that Prof. Norman creates a useful framework to categorise and analyse these things. It is thoughtful, often funny, and in my experience covers the field accurately and concisely.
First, according to Norman, there is the behavioral level, that is, how the thing functions. This is how many people, in particular Americans, approach the objects that they buy: if it works and is durable yet not expensive, it is a good deal. Second, there is the visceral level, which is the (perhaps innate and genetically programmed) reaction that a buyer had to the appearence of something bought. It is about beauty, the appearence of safety, and the like. Third, there is the reflective level, which includes the personal associations of the consumer as well as the intended subtexts that a designer might attempt to incorporate. THe latter two are more favored by the design-loving cultural elites in continental Europe, and they are prepared to pay a lot for them as well as discard still-usable goods for the latest fashion. It is an entirely different mentality and linked to personal pleasure and a sense of emotional satisfaction that come from these objects, which blur the line of design and art.
While all products reflect these three levels, more often than not one is favored by any given firm in the product design process. Target goes for level one with its cheap and useful products, but with Graves' and Starck's designer goods is attempting to appraoch the other levels. With its ironic and - let's admit it - obscure products of the Droog design Collective, the reflective level is favored; for example, its very ugly "dresser" (actually separate drawers lashed together with heavy straps by the consumer) is supposed to remind us of moving and even nomadic life. While I enjoy the idea of these Droog subtexts, I would never want to have one in my house. In contrast, Alessi combines beauty and reflection in some of the best household objects currently manufactured, but they don't always work well; for example, the Starck lemon juicer is beautiful and evokes almost a haunting feeling in some, but you can't really juice lemons with it; or take the (functionally more successful) Mami pots series: they are gently curved, evoking the clay pots of the Italian grandmother's hearth (or even a breast) and yet are simply beautiful. You can't do much better than this in terms of quick analysis with a clear framework. There are also some flashes of humor in the book, which helps it to move along.
Nonetheless, there are many long sections where Norman goes off on tangents that I found uninteresting. Sure, he speculates on innumerable product design possibilities, which may or may not interest (many of them felt like filler to me). But what really bored me was the academic tone of the book, which skims along psych research and in particular cognitive psych. While is makes it more academic, in my opinion it addes nothing to the design insights in the book, which was why I for one bought it.
Many of the reviewers here were hard on Norman for his last two chapters on robotics and artificial intelligence in computers. These are not my field, but I think that his choice to include them is legitimate in that both areas will certainly become a frontier of design in the near future. I got some useful opinions out of it in that I thought about how frustrating computers are and how they could be better.
Recommended with these caveats in mind. I learned a lot from this book.
on 11 January 2014
Norman is one of the world's leaders of emotional design. This book is simple, the ultimate level of complexity, and it provides an excellent overview of what emotional design is and where emotions themselves originate. Every designer, web developer, or anyone who is simply interested in products themselves needs to read this book. You will love it.
on 26 August 2014
For anyone in any profession, especially Product Design, this book is a bible for truely understanding why us humans behave the way we do when interacting with the objects in the world around us. I thought I knew a lot about Product Design, but this book has given me a new dimension to think about when designing products. Highly highly reccomended book!
on 15 July 2009
Definitely an interesting book, but don't expect the sort of practical guidance found in Donald Norman's most well-known previous work. This is more of an essay on the importance of emotion to interaction, counter to the usual view that function and aesthetics are independent. It also takes a surprising direction in the last few chapters, but I won't spoil it for you.