I was naive to think every decision had to be calculated and logical; I was convinced that design was void of emotion. This book was the slap in the face I needed.
A review of Donald A. Norman’s book, Emotional Design: Why We Love or Hate Everyday Things
Donald’s other book which he is very well known for—that I admittedly haven’t read yet—is called The Design of Everyday Things, published in 1988. While writing that book he states, “I didn’t take emotions into account. I addressed utility and usability, function and form, all in a logical, dispassionate way.” Emotional Design: Why We Love or Hate Everyday Things, published in 2005, serves as a follow-up to his initial ideas which takes a significantly different approach that is entirely surrounded by the emotional appeal of design.
“We scientists now understand how important emotion is to everyday life, how valuable. Sure, utility and usability are important, but without fun and pleasure, joy and excitement, and yes, anxiety and anger, fear and rage, our lives would be incomplete.”
As a naive designer, I found myself falling into the trap of thinking every decision of mine had to be logical, and I was neglecting to take into account that business is inherently human. Donald’s book is a fresh reminder that we are humans and as humans we have emotions, and that we are creating for other humans that, too, have emotions. Rather than solely presenting new found scientific information, Donald actually shares tangible, real world examples of emotional design within various design industries.
This book primarily focuses on 3 emotional design appeals:
As Donald states, “Visceral design concerns itself with appearances. Behavioral design has to do with the pleasure and effectiveness of use. Reflective design considers the rationalization and intellectualization of a product.”
Why I liked this book/What you can expect
Firstly, this is not a guide to making good design or design that will appeal to people’s emotional needs, but rather it focuses on what those emotional needs are and how others have tended to them. Emotional Design should be seen as “here’s what you should be taking into consideration.” What ultimately got me was, it made me reevaluate how I approach design, it challenged me to think deeper and to question the way in which I work. A good book doesn’t necessarily give you the answers, it gives you the tools and make you want to dive in to solve it for yourself, and that’s exactly what this book did for me.
What I didn’t like about this book
The entire book was extremely easy and comfortable to read, but Chapter 6 is where things got rocky. Everything up to this point felt extremely relevant to me and was packed with real world examples, but he spends most of the end discussing the potential of having robots in everyday life which seemed like it went on for an unnecessary amount of time considering it was largely theory. I was pretty much just trying to get through that part because even now, 10 years later, it’s not that relevant (not to say that it won’t be eventually). It just seemed as though he was just working unnecessarily hard to add justification to his prediction. Past the robot chapter, he wraps everything up really nicely in the epilog as he reiterates the three aspects of emotional design.
Should you read this book?
Most definitely! There are tons of great real world examples, interesting science discoveries, and an underlying theme of: design, too, is emotional, and in what ways are you going to tend to it?