The Design of Future Things
In The Design of Future Things, best-selling author Donald A. Norman presents a revealing examination of smart technology, from smooth-talking GPS units to cantankerous refrigerators. Exploring the links between design and human psychology, he offers a consumer-oriented theory of natural human-machine interaction that can be put into practice by the engineers and industrial designers of tomorrow’s thinking machines. A fascinating look at the perils and promise of the intelligent objects of the future, The Design of Future Things is a must-read for anyone interested in the dawn of a new era in technology.
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I have always been a big fan of good design, but have never really had an opportunity to read much about it from those who make design their living. Recently, thanks to some advanced prototyping and manufacturing tools that have become widely accessible, I’ve been dabbling into design and have made a few of my own gadgets. At the same time I came across this book in the local public library, and thought it would be a good reading material to go with my fledgling design hobby. However, the book turned into a bit of a disappointment.
This book is neither an introduction to the design concepts and techniques, nor a wide-ranging look at the future of design. It comes closer to the latter paradigm, but the narrowness of its subjects and the shallowness of approach don’t lend themselves easily to the deeply thoughtful look at the design of the future things. The book takes a closer look at the issues that pertain to the design of a few interesting “futuristic” technologies (self-driving cars in particular feature prominently), and presents the case to the reader that what we would want out of these technologies may in fact not be either the safest or the best designed solution when it comes to their implementations. The book offers a few insightful observations, and a short checklist of good design principles. Many of these are pretty good overall, but the brunt of their points could have been summarized into an essay that is perhaps a third of the size of this, already very thin, book.
If you are looking for some casual musings by an authority on the subject of design, then this book might be for you. Otherwise you may want to read something that is a bit more technical and systematic. From what I’ve heard about it, The Design of Everyday Things might be a much better read on this subject. I’ll try to check it out at some point in the future.