The Design of Future Things

A number of years ago, I enjoyed Donald A. Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things (originally published as The Psychology of Everyday Things). It explained a lot about how design actually works (and should work).

I just picked up The Design of Future Things, which applies the same sort of thinking to future designs, including how technology (especially “intelligent” or “smart” technology) interacts with real people in the real world. He explains:

As we start giving the objects around us more initiative, more intelligence, and more emotions and personality, we now have to worry about how we interact with our machines.

We can compare our interaction patterns to the way a horse and rider work together, for example. By thinking more about these interactions, we can do a better job of design. Another observation (a section heading, in fact): “Thinking for Machines is Easy, Physical Actions are Hard; Logic is Simple, Emotion Difficult.” A lot to unpack there. A final note from the first chapter is Norman’s observation that we need to think about the fact that machines and humans are different species – we don’t “think” the same way.

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One Response to “The Design of Future Things”

  1. Paul Peterson Says:

    I really liked The Psychology of Everyday Things when I read it many years ago. One of the examples Norman used that I still think about is the design of doors, and how something as simple as opening a door can be made needlessly difficult. Does the door push, or does it pull? Which side of the door pushes (or pulls)? More than once I’ve felt pretty stupid trying to push the hinge side of the door! One of the ways a designer can show that a door should be pushed is by what he calls affordances. If a designer, for instance, puts a plate instead of a handle on the side of the door that is supposed to be pushed, the user doesn’t have to stop and think if he is supposed to push it or pull it. The user *can’t* pull it.

    I’m eager now to see what insights he has in The Design of Future Things.

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