Don Norman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Don Norman
Donald Norman at AWF05.jpg
Norman in 2005
Donald Arthur Norman

(1935-12-25) December 25, 1935 (age 83)
ResidenceUnited States
Alma materMIT
University of Pennsylvania
Known forThe Design of Everyday Things
Cognitive ergonomics
User-centered design
Scientific career
FieldsCognitive science
Usability engineering
InstitutionsNorthwestern University
University of California, San Diego
Nielsen Norman Group
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
ThesisSensory Thresholds And Response Biases In Detection Experiments, A Theoretical And Experimental Analysis (1962)
Doctoral advisorR. Duncan Luce
Doctoral students[1]

Donald Arthur Norman (born December 25, 1935) is an American researcher, professor, and author. Norman is the director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego.[2] He is best known for his books on design, especially The Design of Everyday Things. He is widely regarded for his expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science.[2] He is a co-founder and consultant with the Nielsen Norman Group. He is also an IDEO fellow and a member of the Board of Trustees of IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. He also holds the title of Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego.[3] Norman is an active Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), where he spends two months a year teaching.[when?]

Much of Norman's work involves the advocacy of user-centered design.[4] His books all have the underlying purpose of furthering the field of design, from doors to computers. Norman has taken a controversial stance in saying that the design research community has had little impact in the innovation of products, and that while academics can help in refining existing products, it is technologists that accomplish the breakthroughs.[5] To this end, Norman named his website with the initialism JND to signify his endeavors to make a difference.[1]

Early academics[edit]

In 1957, Norman received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) from MIT. Norman continued through college until 1962, in the process earning M.S. in EECS and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

After graduating, Norman took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard University and within a year became a lecturer.

After four years with the Center, Norman took a position as an associate professor in the Psychology Department at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Norman applied his training as an engineer and computer scientist, and as an experimental and mathematical psychologist, to the emerging discipline of cognitive science. Norman eventually became founding chair of the Department of Cognitive Science and chair of the Department of Psychology.

At UCSD, Norman was a founder of the Institute for Cognitive Science and one of the organizers of the Cognitive Science Society (along with Roger Schank, Allan Collins, and others), which held its first meeting at the UCSD campus in 1979.[3]

Together with psychologist Tim Shallice, Norman proposed a framework of attentional control of executive functioning. One of the components of the Norman-Shallice model is the supervisory attentional system.[6]

Cognitive engineering career[edit]

Norman made the transition from cognitive science to cognitive engineering by entering the field as a consultant and writer. His article "The truth about Unix: The user interface is horrid"[7] in Datamation (1981) catapulted him to a position of prominence in the computer world.[citation needed] Soon after, his career took off outside of academia, although he still remained active at UCSD until 1993. Norman continued his work to further human-centered design by serving on numerous university and government advisory boards such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He currently serves on numerous committees and advisory boards like at Motorola, the Toyota National College of Technology, TED Conference, Panasonic, Encyclopædia Britannica, and many more.

Norman was also part of a select team flown in to investigate the 1979, Three Mile Island nuclear accident.[8]

In 1993, Norman left UCSD to join Apple Computer, initially as an Apple Fellow as a User Experience Architect (the first use of the phrase "User Experience" in a job title[9][10][citation needed]), and then as the Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group. He later worked for Hewlett-Packard before joining with Jakob Nielsen to form the Nielsen Norman Group in 1998. He returned to academia as a professor of computer science at Northwestern University, where he was co-director of the Segal Design Institute until 2010. In 2014, he returned to UCSD to become director of the newly established The Design Lab housed at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Norman has received many awards for his work. He received an honorary degree from the University of Padua in Padua, Italy. In 2001 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, and in 2006 he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science.[11] In 2009 Norman was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Design Research Society.

In 2014, Norman returned to the University of California, San Diego as newly appointed director of The Design Lab.[12]

Nielsen Norman Group[edit]

Norman, alongside colleague Jakob Nielsen, formed the Nielsen Norman Group in 1998.[citation needed] The company’s vision is to help other companies move toward more human-centered products and internet interactions.[citation needed]


  • "Academics get paid for being clever, not for being right."[13]
  • "Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible."[14]
  • “A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.” [14]
  • “Fail often, fail fast,” [14]

User-centered design[edit]

In his book The Design of Everyday Things, Norman uses the term "user-centered design" to describe design based on the needs of the user, leaving aside what he deems secondary issues like aesthetics. User-centered design involves simplifying the structure of tasks, making things visible, getting the mapping right, exploiting the powers of constraint, designing for error, explaining affordances and seven stages of action.[citation needed]

In his book The Things that Make Us Smart: Defending the Human Attribute in the Age of the Machine,[15][better source needed] Norman uses the term “cognitive artifacts” to describe “those artificial devices that maintain, display, or operate upon information in order to serve a representational function and that affect human cognitive performance”.[citation needed] Similar to his The Design of Everyday Things book, Norman argues for the development of machines that fit our minds, rather than have our minds be conformed to the machine.

On the Revised Edition of The Design of Everyday Things, Norman backtracks on his previous claims about aesthetics and removed the term User-Centered Design altogether. In the preface of the book, he says :

The first edition of the book focused upon making products understandable and usable. The total experience of a product covers much more than its usability: aesthetics, pleasure, and fun play critically important roles. There was no discussion of pleasure, enjoyment and emotion, Emotion is so important that i wrote an entire book, Emotional Design, about the role it plays in design.[16]

He instead currently uses the term human-centered design and defines it as: "an approach that puts human needs, capabilities, and behavior first, then designs to accommodate those needs, capabilities, and ways of behaving."[citation needed]

Select bibliography[edit]

He is on numerous educational, private, and public sector advisory boards, including the editorial board of Encyclopædia Britannica. Norman published several important books during his time at UCSD, one of which, User Centered System Design, obliquely referred to the university in the initials of its title.

Psychology books[edit]

  • Norman, Donald A. (1983). Learning and Memory. W H Freeman & Co. ISBN 0716713004.
  • Lindsay, Peter H.; Norman, Donald A. (1972). Human information processing: an introduction to psychology. Academic Press.[17]
  • Norman, Donald A. (1976). Memory and Attention: An Introduction to Human Information Processing. Series in Psychology (2 ed.). John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0471651370.
  • Norman, Donald A. (1969). Memory and Attention: An Introduction to Human Information Processing. John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0471651311.

Usability books[edit]

  • Norman, Don (2013). The Design of Everyday Things. Revised and expanded. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465050659.
  • Norman, Donald A. (2010). Living with Complexity. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 0262014866.
  • Norman, Donald A. (2007). The Design of Future Things. Basic Books. ISBN 0465002277.
  • Norman, Donald A. (2005). Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. Basic Books. ISBN 0465051367.
  • Norman, Donald A. (1998). The Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262140652.
  • Norman, Donald A. (1993). Turn Signals Are The Facial Expressions Of Automobiles. Basic Books. ISBN 9780201622362.
  • Norman, Donald A. (1993). Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes In The Age Of The Machine. William Patrick Book. Basic Books. ISBN 0201626950.
  • Norman, Donald A. (1988). The Psychology of Everyday Things (1 ed.). Basic Books. ISBN 0465067093.

Other publications[edit]

  • Direct manipulation interfaces (1985) about direct manipulation interfaces in collaboration with E. L. Hutchins (first author) and J.D. Hollan
  • User Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction (1986) (editor in collaboration with Stephen Draper)
  • Norman, Donald A. (1994). Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine (CD-ROM for Mac). Voyager Company. ASIN B000CIQ42I. Combining his books, Design of Everyday Things, Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles, Things That Make Us Smart, with various technical reports.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "What does mean?". Just-Noticeable Difference. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  2. ^ a b Robbins, Gary (2014). "Don Norman has designs on your life". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Norman, Donald. "Donald Norman Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 3, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ Zachry, Mark (October 2005). "An Interview with Donald Norman". Technical Communication Quarterly. 14 (4): 469. doi:10.1207/s15427625tcq1404_5.
  5. ^ Norman, Donald. "Technology First, Needs Last". Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  6. ^ Friedenberg, Jay; Gordon Silverman (2010). Cognitive Science: An Introduction of the Study of Mind. United St ates of America: SAGE Publications. pp. 180–182. ISBN 978-1-4129-7761-6.
  7. ^ Norman, Don (1981). "The truth about Unix: The user interface is horrid" (PDF). Datamation (27(12)).
  8. ^ "User-Centric Design - The Lessons of 3 Mile Island". Mindflow Design. August 6, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  9. ^ Lialina, Olia. "Rich User Experience, UX and Desktopization of War". Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  10. ^ Merholz, Peter. "Peter in Conversation with Don Norman About UX & Innovation". Adaptative Path. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  11. ^ "Donald A. Norman". Laureate Database. The Franklin Institute Awards. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. ^ "Don Norman has designs on your life". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  13. ^ Annual conference. Google Books. December 21, 2010. Retrieved June 24, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c Norman, Donald (2013). The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition. pp. xi.
  15. ^ Norman, Don (1993). Things That Make us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine. Pursues Book Group.
  16. ^ Norman, Donald A. The design of everyday things (Revised and expanded ed.). New York, New York. ISBN 9780465050659. OCLC 849801329.
  17. ^ Oden, Gregg C.; Lopes, Lola L. (1997). "Human Information Processing: An Introduction to Psychology by Peter H. Lindsay, Donald A. Norman". The American Journal of Psychology. 110 (4): 635–641. doi:10.2307/1423414.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Barbara Mirel
Succeeded by
Stephen Doheny-Farina
Preceded by
Aravind Joshi
Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science
Succeeded by
Stuart Card