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The work of Don Norman had a dramatic impact on the way generations of designers saw the world changing the shape of many of the everyday tools at work or at home. Thanks to Norman, some of them became more usable, the Apple’s Macintosh included.<
br> In Milan to present his new book, Emotional Design, published in Italy byApogeo, Donald Norman gave a lecture at SPD: a long talk with its students discovering the emotional side of design. Norman’s work is based on everyday experience, starting from his world famous book, The Psychology of Everyday Things, published in 1988 to his most recent work, The Invisible Computer.Emotional Design is someway the continuation of The Psychology of Everyday Things. Norman points out the idea that design plays on three different levels: a visceral level, a behavioural one and a so calledreflective design level. In other words, products should not be just functional but also gain aestethic and emotional power. As we now know how to make products that work fine, how could we make products to make us smile?”
According to Norman, visceral design is what nature does: it’s about the way things look, feel and sound. On the other hand, behavioural design leans only on functionality. Appearance has no importance here: performance counts. This was the critical issue in The Design of Everyday Things: how to make products that work fine and are easy to use. And this is where technology and “smart products” often fail.
br> Reflective design is finally about the message, the meaning of things and the self image individuals build. What does a product mean about the user according to his individual characteristics such as sex, age, education… This is where sophisticated marketing techniques come into play in order to build people’s long-term relationship with a product. Why do we love or hate everyday objects? It’s mainly not because of their functionality but of their prestige and exclusivity. For instance, on the cover of Emotional Design is Philippe Starck’s Juicy Salif about which the designer himself said it was not meant to squeeze lemons but simply to start conversations.
And even if each and every product works on all the three levels – no matter the designers like it or not – Norman reckons that reflective design gets increasingly more importance as products mature. When you can take usability for granted, what makes you choose between different products? “Reflective design reflects the world” says Norman “it is where a company lives or dies”.