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on March 2, 2004
great for artists, designers, programmers, architects, actually pretty much anyone who has an interest in they way things work, creative process, and design.
This challenges the notion of lazy design, and goes against the issue of designing things the same way becuase that's the way it's always been done. Rewinds the design process and starts over. Shows design flubs and goes through the thought process and the intentions behind them. VERY interesting book, love the photographs and diagrams.
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on December 26, 2012
Norman has written a great 'big picture' book on design. It deals with the concepts of design through example, and in no specific way. The ideas can be applied to any type of design, and he explains the logic behind such examples and ideas so that they make sense.

The book is clearly illustrated, and quite interesting to read, I think because so many of the examples are simple things, everyday things, and things that have come and gone throughout many readers' pop-culture life spans. It doesn't seem to me a book merely for designers, but for anyone. It's full of logical advice on the topic of creating things. Design is like rhetoric or syntax...anything we create has to be created in some way. And the way has a quality...knowing about 'big picture' design can help raise that quality.
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on August 19, 2003
Okay, the guy makes his points rather well. But there are a few things about this book that I found very frustrating.
He keeps jumping around between plain text and italics. Some headings are all in caps, some are not. Some headings are left justified, some right justified. I'm sure there's a meaningful structure to this in the author's own mind, but when you can only see two pages at a time it's impossible for the reader to see what that structure is. Big headings and smaller subheadings would be a better layout, with the anecdotes in a blockquote format rather than the off-putting italics. The author really needs to practice a bit of what he preaches.
Also, it could use an update. For example there's this paragraph that promises that within five years we'll have a handheld device that will allow us to keep track of appointments, take notes etc. 10 out of 10 for accurate prediction of the PDA, but it's time to update the text. Then the photos are pretty old as well. Makes it look like the book hasn't changed since the early 80s and left me wondering if he's aware of the design of modern everyday things or the fact that computer users are better educated now than they used to be, or if he knows that user interfaces have improved at all.
I think that the original title, the Psychology of Everyday Things would have been a more accurate title for the book since a lot of time is spent describing the minute details of human thought. Maybe a subtitle would be in order, something like "What designers need to know about the psychology of consumers."
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on July 19, 2003
Don Norman's POET (this book was initially called Psychology of Everyday Things) is a required text in many human-machine interaction programs around the world for a good reason: it is a wonderfully accessible (to novices), yet comprehensive primer on ergonomics covering topics ranging from conceptual models and mappings to memory and errors.
Don applies a plethora of cognitive psychology principles to explain why some devices just don't work well for us, humans, while others--those designed with the human in mind--do. If you are a student of human-computer interaction you can easily apply Norman's concepts in designing more usable GUI's. In fact, I have used this book as a foundation for the first chapter of my own web interface design book, at Paul gokin dot com, in which I have applied many of Norman's design principle to web GUI design.
What makes this book special, however, is that Norman supports his points with vivid real world examples, transforming what could be a dull, scholarly treatise into a page-turner. In fact it is the examples that had stayed with me for years after I put the book down.
Regardless of what your design challenge is, if you're designing it to be used by a human, this book is a must read.
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on November 24, 2002
I read this book because I saw the author on TechTV and because I thought it sounded interesting. Please excuse the colloquial form of this review because I feel it gives the most insight about the book! I started reading this book and found it quite interesting. Although some topics were a little "over my head" so to speak I think I am able to convey the general nature of the book. It talks about different aspects that are critical to good usability in design. It often used bad examples of design to show how they could have been created better. In its thorough explanation of the spatial relation of objects to their buttons I found it interesting that light switches could be arranged so that there wouldn't be a mystery as to what light they turned on. It also talked about how usability is often given up to other details such as manufacturability and aesthetics. It is a comprehensive resource for information regarding the design of products or systems that are easy to use. The pictures are somewhat outdated as mentioned in an other review. Also color pictures would have been nice although they drive publication costs to a higher price. Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the inner workings of products and the philosophy behind the usability of these products!
-9th Grade Student (2002)-
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on November 23, 2001
Previously titled as "The Psychology of Everyday Things", another title for this book might well have been "The Usability of Everyday Things." Norman successfully helps designers think through some of the usability issues associated with their designs. As someone who attempts to design easy-to-use software, the issues raised in this book are very helpful.
According to Norman, "clever" or "unique" designs may often win awards, but these same designs may often be difficult to use. Usability needs to receive greater attention when designers are hard at work, but design considerations are frequently driven by appearance and price. I think Norman's book would be interesting reading for consumers as well as designers, especially since consumers often purchase items based on appearance and price rather than usability.
Some may find the examples used in the book to be a bit dated, but the principles behind the examples clearly still apply. The only area of the book that I think needs careful reading is in the discussion of how memory and the human mind work. Though very interesting, there is much in this section that is simply theoretical and needs to be taken as such. It would be interesting to read some more recent information in this area to see how the theories have shifted in the last decade.
Regardless of these issues, the principles enumerated in the book will prove very helpful to those in any industry who are responsible for the design of everyday things.
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on November 1, 2001
While many parts of this book are somewhat dated it makes one wonder why some of the very poor design fundamentals pointed out in the book continue today. Why is it that you still find new buildings going up with a pull bar on a door that needs to be pushed to be opened? I even encountered a sliding door last week that had a vertical pull bar. How would a person know by looking at the door that it should be slid instead of pulled? Of course, you don't know and that is the sort of thing that is covered in this book. There is really no reason not to make things much easier to use except poor design.
How relevant is this book? I became exposed to it as required reading for computer engineering studies. Maybe the next generation of designers will be able to think ahead about things and design them better. Heaven knows it won't hurt Microsoft to have someone who understands a user interface better.
So, is it of value to people other than designers? I think so. For one thing it has changed the way that I look at things and when choosing a purchase I look at design considerations. After all, why shouldn't I pick the one that is better designed on the outside? Maybe that reflects a better design on the inside. I've even found that I think of things I learned in this book when doing something around the house such as adding a set of doors to enclose my bookcase or when I enclosed my porch. It has affected a lot of things that I do not to mention it is simply a delightful read and written in a very easy style.
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on October 16, 2001
I read this book (1989 edition) in 2001 after reading a lot of good and excellent reviews of the book on Amazon. I got a copy from the library and read the book over a couple of days.
Let me say that this book is an excellent read for anyone who has either suffered through modern (VCR, computers) and not so modern contraptions (doors) as well as for those who actually design these things. The author has used many, many examples to drive, no, hammer the point accross that most everyday appliances that we use are (a)Not well thought designs, (b)Form seems to precede function, (c)Difficulty in using a product seems more often than not the fault of the end-user.

The book therefore is a fascinating read on how so many bright people can come up with so many not so bright designs. The book is not too big, so can be read in a relatively short period of time.

There are faults with the book too - in trying to drive home the point that many everyday things are poorly designed, the author becomes repetitive. Even with a gentle style of writing and criticism the book at times reads like a litany of complaints. And some of the author's suggestions as to what he thinks might be good design examples I couldn't agree with whole heartedly - eg. he thinks a computer mouse should not have 2 buttons, one might do.

Overall, the book is a must read. I can suggest for those who wish to read something similar but deals more with computers and modern electronics a couple of books by Alan Cooper - 'About Face' and 'The Inmates Are Running The Asylum', as well as most books by Steve McConnell.
One interesting note - the author in 1989 states that the computing power to put a small computer in one's plam was there, and within 10 years he expected such a device to become perfect. That would mean 1999. We had the Palm 3 and 5 in 1999. Perfect? Maybe not. But what strikes me is that the author in 1989 could think to give the technology 10 years to mature.
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on August 4, 2000
Although this book is a product of the 1980's, its essential premise is not dated nor obsolete. Dr. Norman vividly illustrates the good and bad of design, and provides an excellent guidebook for the understanding of basic user-centric design in products, fixtures, software, and the everyday things that make up our world.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the design and creation of software, architecture, or consumer products. You will find some dated, quaint information within its pages, such as the descriptions of the "computer notepad" and hypertext (both of which came to fruition with Palm Computers and the Web), but, as a whole, the book is a collection of relevant, interesting material. It is an excellent starting point for the study of design.
For those interested in additional study on software and user interface design (programmers, such as I), I recommend Alan Cooper's books on user interface design, and ANY of Jakob Nielsen's books. In addition, the Edward Tufte trilogy on visual representations is extremely good, although not software-specific.
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on May 9, 2000
Let me start by acknowledging that the book is not perfect. The end notes are annoying and Norman can have a tendancy to ramble and I guess that not everyone would find that charming. However, I assert that the strengths of the book more than make up for its weaknesses-- it is an important book, and one that anyone engaged in designing things for other people should read.
The central point is simple-- the needs of the user are different from the needs of the designer. The designer might want everyone's actions with his system to be precise, the user might need to have a "good enough" range of precision approximation. The designer wants to make the knobs the same so they look good together, the user wants to be able to tell quickly which knob applies to which function. It's a basic concept that can't (particularly on the Internet today) be repeated often enough.
Norman looks at the kinds of errors people make in usage and discusses how designers can plan to prevent these kind of errors. He discusses some of the basic things that users find valuable and walks the reader through some classic (and often funny, because so recognizable) design errors.
The writing is clean and (with the exception of the aforementioned rambling) very clear. Norman's voice is full of humor and a real passion for the subject, and that voice is conveyed very well by the book.
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