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[Book Review] The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman March 14, 2008

Posted by Pankaj Chawla in Book Review, Don Norman, Interaction Design.
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My Dad is 64 years old, worked all his life for the government doing accounts and audits of all major government offices and companies. He has a majors in Mathematics and is pretty good with taking apart and reassembling gadgets ranging from his scooter in his early days to TVs to radios and whatever gadget norman.jpghe can get his hands on.  To sum up he is also an engineer at heart. Now you must be wondering whats it got to do with the book review and that too of a book on design. What could a Maths major doing accounts all his life for living and tearing apart gadgets in his free time have to do with design. Till yesterday I couldnt also make the link till I saw the book “The Design of Everyday Things” in his hand. I must have a hundred books on my bookshelf and most of them are on C++, Software Design, Interaction design, Agile, OOAD and whatever a techie generally reads to keep himself upto date with ever changing technology and this one is the latest addition. The funny thing is that he never picked a book from my book shelf ever until three days back. Maybe its got a title which connects with a normal non-techie guy. So here was my dad reading this book for last three days and I happen to notice it yesterday and this is how our conversation unfolded:

Me: Are you reading this book?

Dad: Yes, I was getting bored and picked it up. I must say its pretty interesting.

Me: (Smiles)

Dad: I mean its so obvious whats written in the book. How come nobody is noticing and we still have so many badly designed products everyday.

Me: Ya it is obvious but maybe we get used to things.

Dad: Yes, but I can’t understand how come. I mean if it is written here it must be known. People should be knowing it.

Me: (Smiles again) Dad, this book was written in 1988!

Dad: What ??? Its been 20 years and……………………………………..


(I wondered if it will make a difference if reading this book is mandated for everybody who is involved in creation of the products of the new age)

So go ahead, grab a copy of this book and read it through. As somebody put it, this book is like a virus, it will infect you and you will never look at the world the same way again. Switching on a light will no more be an unimportant unnoticed act of daily life but something that will spark a brain wave everytime you look at a power switch and interact with it. As Don said “Everyone is a designer”, maybe this book does bring out that designer self out in the open; one may not start designing new products but one sure will start questioning the behaviour of a product and keep wondering if it could be made better.    



1. Rafael López Callejón - March 15, 2008

Dear Mr. Chawla
In this book Mr Norman says that people like things that are easy to use. Twenty years later. Without giving back the money to anyone and without asking for pardon, he wrote another book “Emotional Desing” in wich Mr Norman says absolutely the contrary.

2. Kaushik Ghosh - March 17, 2008

Though I agree with Mr. Rafael, I have to say…the book was absolutely a first when it comes to cognitive engineering and Psychology applied to everyday life. It is quite surprising that such detailed engineering knowledge that has directly to do with our everyday sensory experiences, is available only with a few technical fraternities and not a part of basic life skills inputs at a schooling curriculum. It indeed changes the perception of even a layman.
About the ‘Emotional Design’, Don Norman discusses a very deep encoding process at our visceral level that responds to the emotional state of the human users. This book is definitely the next step after the ‘everyday design’ where he sheds more light on the human sensory interpretations in a better and more human way. I recently wrote a post on this here:

3. Leopoldne - March 26, 2008

nice work, man

4. Prerna - April 11, 2008

The way u have put down everything is inspiring me also to get hold of this book…so nxt time…when i’ll b there…tell dad to finish it fast…

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