2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
very useful perspective, though digresses a bit too often,
This review is from: Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things (Paperback)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.