Emotional Design Book Review

Norman opens the book with a discussion of three teapots he owns. He doesn’t use them, but he loves how each tells a story. One is impossible to use, one is a classy glassy Michael Graves design and one is unusual. Norman says when we like the look of an object; we’re more willing to overlook its design flaws as opposed to using something with no flaws and an ugly design.
I believe flickr.com is a good example of this from a web site perspective. It isn’t so much about flickr’s look-and-feel, but many of the non-designers, everyday Internet users understandably find the site difficult to use. flickr.com gained a reputation in the world of web design and IT — the kind of people who find their way around the more difficult to use sites — and many flocked to it because of word of mouth.
A friend of Norman’s enthusiastically showed off his recent purchase of old, heavy and shiny drawing instruments including compasses, dividers and extension arms. For the author, the instruments evoked negative memories of using the difficult and messy tools. Enough time had passed for his friend to overlook the negative experience he had with the tools. Thus, when he found them, he saw them as a collectible reminding him of the “good old days” rather than something he hated using. Had those negative experiences been more recent or memorable, would he have bought the set?
The focal point of Emotional Design is that “attractive things work better.” Norman explores how emotions affect purchase decisions based on three aspects of design: the visceral (appearance), behavioral (performance) and reflective (memories and experiences).
Understanding the three parts of design helps a business make the most of their product designs and marketing efforts. After all, an ad has images and those images can stir emotions. Service-based business can turn the intangible into the tangible and apply the concepts from the book.
Norman offers intriguing examples in the book to show how objects evoke emotions. The book loses its way in the last part when the author delves in the world of robots. While it talks about the possibility of robots having emotions, it tells nothing about “products” and human behavior. Except for this part, the book was a quick and fascinating read. Those who want to understand how design influences purchases will enjoy the book. Many of its concepts apply to business situations related to selling and designing products.
Title: Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
Author: Donald A. Norman
Publisher: Basic Books
ISBN: 0465051367
Date: May 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 257
Cover Price: USD: $15.95 Amazon: $10.85

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