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Don Norman is my hero.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on December 7, 2005

Anyone into design knows Don Norman. When I was in Beijing last week at the Design for the new China Markets conference, Tom MacTavish, the VP leading Motorola Lab’s Center for Human Interaction Research (including a big lab in Shanghai) gave a stupendous presentation on what Motorola was doing in China. At the end, if my memory serves me right, he was talking about emotion and said that he planned to read Don Norman’s now classic book, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things.

So I was moving through Norman’s site tonight and came across this criticism that I had somehow missed. Norman and I were at a Chicago conference (yeah, I go to a lot of conferences and learn a lot at them) where he surprised me by criticizing the IDEA awards put on by the IDSA and written up by me in Business Week. At the conference, Norman said that products won mostly on looks and their actual effectiveness was never really tested. Did they work? How do you know? And why didn’t I write about that stuff. He says the same thing on his blog. Check it out.

Of course, Norman is right. The IDSA does a wonderful job in this contest and the juries do amazing work in analyzing the submissions. Kristina Goodrich, the executive director, in particular, is a hero. But products are rarely, if ever, tested for validity. It would be a hugely expensive and complex task. In a perfect world, the IDSA would do it and I would report it. But we don’t live in a perfect world so the jurors use what information they have to make their decisions.

I think I said this to Norman at the conference and then said he should be part of a jury to get his point of view across. Of course, I don’t appoint any juries and don’t sit on any, the IDSA does. But I did mention it to the IDSA. Alas, they had already picked last year’s jury. But there is the IDEA jury for 2006 coming up. How about it Don? Wanna join in, get in the game and try and make the selections better?

Reader Comments

David Jacques

December 7, 2005 2:32 AM

I concur with Don, and would add that it is the same for awards in the advertising industry. Most of the ads are judged on their looks or their creativity; mostly aesthetic features. While products are rarely judged on their effectivenss in allowing users to perform desired tasks, ads are rarely judged on their effectivess to get the message across to consumers, or even to provide the desired business results.

As Bruce said during the Design for the new China Markets conference, Design is not Design anymore. Design is being recognised more as a multi-disciplinary strategic process rather than an aesthetic feature. And innovation in the field is shifting from a technology-driven paradigm to a consumer-driven one.

The Design for the new China Markets conference was mostly focused on product design, with a few references to Branding design (an excellent presentation by Jan Stael von Holstein). But the principles discussed there would definitely apply to, and would benefit, other design industries including advertising, branding, etc.

Jim Rait

December 7, 2005 10:47 AM

Hi Bruce,
The CRAVE has worn of my Palm V case now!
Why don't we start a citizen jury by asking bloggers to comment on their experiences of the winners of the last competition and see if use ranking ties in with official view?


December 7, 2005 10:15 PM

I agree with Don and David. The face and nature of design is rapidly changing. Bruce (and many others) write about designers being the new innovators, and problem solvers,yet as a community, we are still largely awarding the most aesthetically appealing products. Is it even a good idea? Do real people like/use/want it? The products need to appeal to get them into users hands, but they darn well better work when they get there!

Donald A Norman

December 24, 2005 1:04 AM

OK, OK Bruce. I'm doing it.

I'm now a juror for 2006. But, as I said, that isn't enough. We need to change the rules -- insist that product submissions validate their claims. But Chris Conley, who is heading the jury process, invited me just so that we can make these changes. Not enough time to do it for 2006, but perhaps in 2007.

So hey, we can make a difference. Hurrah

Don Norman


May 30, 2008 8:15 AM

Hi Bruce, Hi Don,

I wonder if you have read or heard about this design for police cars covered by CNN and ABC6 news

Brijo CNN video -
Brijo abc 6 news -

What do you think about it? I feel it was about time someone did something meaningful for our men and women in the police force.

Post a comment



Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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