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Donald A. Norman

Business Week has named Don Norman as one of the world’s most influential designers. He has been both a professor and an executive: he was Vice President of Advanced Technology at Apple; his company, the Nielsen Norman Group, helps companies produce human-centered products and services; he has been on the faculty at Harvard, the University of California, San Diego, Northwestern University, and KAIST, in South Korea. He is the author of many books, including The Design of Everyday Things, The Invisible Computer (MIT Press, 1998), Emotional Design, and The Design of Future Things.

Titles by This Author

Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we try to figure out the shower control in a hotel or attempt to navigate an unfamiliar television set or stove. When The Design of Everyday Things was published in 1988, cognitive scientist Don Norman provocatively proposed that the fault lies not in ourselves, but in design that ignores the needs and psychology of people. Fully revised to keep the timeless principles of psychology up to date with ever-changing new technologies, The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful appeal for good design, and a reminder of how—and why—some products satisfy while others only disappoint.

If only today’s technology were simpler! It’s the universal lament, but it’s wrong. We don't want simplicity. Simple tools are not up to the task. The world is complex; our tools need to match that complexity. Simplicity turns out to be more complex than we thought. In this provocative and informative book, Don Norman writes that the complexity of our technology must mirror the complexity and richness of our lives. It’s not complexity that’s the problem, it’s bad design. Bad design complicates things unnecessarily and confuses us. Good design can tame complexity.Norman gives us a crash course in the virtues of complexity. But even such simple things as salt and pepper shakers, doors, and light switches become complicated when we have to deal with many of them, each somewhat different. Managing complexity, says Norman, is a partnership. Designers have to produce things that tame complexity. But we too have to do our part: we have to take the time to learn the structure and practice the skills. This is how we mastered reading and writing, driving a car, and playing sports, and this is how we can master our complex tools. Complexity is good. Simplicity is misleading. The good life is complex, rich, and rewarding—but only if it is understandable, sensible, and meaningful.

Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution


Technologies have a life cycle, says Donald A. Norman, and they must change as they pass from youth to maturity. Alas, the computer industry thinks it is still in its rebellious teenage years, exalting in technical complexity. Customers want change. They are ready for products that offer convenience, ease of use, and pleasure. The technology should be invisible, hidden from sight.

In this book Norman shows why the computer is so difficult to use and why this complexity is fundamental to its nature. The only answer is to develop information appliances that fit people's needs and lives. To do this, companies have to change the way they develop products. They need to start with an understanding of people: user needs first, technology last—the opposite of how things are done now.


Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we fail to figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door. The fault lies in product design that ignore the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology. A bestseller in the United States, this bible on the cognitive aspects of design contains examples of both good and bad design and simple rules that designers can use to improve the usability of objects as diverse as cars, computers, doors, and telephones.