The Design of Everyday Things

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Weekend Pairing: Design Edition

The Design of Everyday Things and Objectified Many of the best examples of industrial design are things that people don’t think were designed at all. Take the Post-It note. It’s something we take for granted that people don’t think of it as being designed. And what they don’t realize, is that from the moment they wake up almost everything that fills their world has been designed one way or another.
-Alice Rawsthorn, Objectified

Have you ever been absolutely confounded by something as simple as an office door, a landline phone, or an unfamiliar microwave? It’s not your fault.

The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald A. Norman, was recommended again and again by interface and user experience designers and finally by one of my instructors at University of the Arts. I finally paid attention, and I’m glad I did. When I can’t figure out whether to push or pull a door open, I no longer feel like it’s my fault for not being able to figure it out. If I have to think about how to use something, there wasn’t enough thought put into it by the original designer. Design solves a problem and makes things easier. If an item or experience creates problems or makes things more difficult, something is lacking in its design. Every object tells a story if you know how to read it. Henry FordI just started going through Hack Design. It is, as its name implies, a free design course for hacker/developer types. Every week a new lesson shows up in my inbox. The very first one, Lesson 0 (remember, they’re geared toward developers, so it makes sense), consists of watching Objectified. It immediately reminded me of DOET. Both focus on product and industrial design rather than interaction or interface design, but the concepts are applicable to any situation. Design, after all, is nothing more than thoughtfully, intentionally, and deliberately solving a problem.

Good design:

  • should be innovative
  • should make a product useful
  • is aesthetic design
  • will make a product understandable
  • is honest
  • is unobtrusive
  • is long-lived
  • is consistent in every detail
  • is environmentally friendly

Last but not least, good design is as little design as possible.

-Dieter Rams

Together, DOET and Objectified offer a really helpful introduction to the concepts of good design. I find myself thinking about the objects and experiences I encounter every day — the most mundane little things — and appreciating the person or team who spent countless hours thinking and prototyping their way through a problem to make my life easier.