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Don Norman


Don Norman

Don Norman
Norman in 2005
Born Donald Arthur Norman
(1935-12-25) December 25, 1935
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Cognitive science
Usability engineering
Institutions UCSD Design Lab
Nielsen Norman Group
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Alma mater MIT
University of Pennsylvania
Thesis Sensory Thresholds And Response Biases In Detection Experiments, A Theoretical And Experimental Analysis (1962)
Doctoral advisor R. Duncan Luce
Known for The Design of Everyday Things
Cognitive ergonomics
User-centered design

Donald Arthur "Don" Norman (born December 25, 1935) is the director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego.[1][2]

He is best known for his books on design, especially The Design of Everyday Things. He is widely regarded for his expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science.[3] He is also a co-founder and consultant with the Nielsen Norman Group.

Much of Norman's work involves the advocacy of user-centered design.[4] His books all have the underlying purpose of furthering the field of design, from doors to computers. Norman has taken a controversial stance in saying that the design research community has had little impact in the innovation of products, and that while academics can help in refining existing products, it is technologists that accomplish the breakthroughs.[5]

Norman had been splitting his time between co-directing the dual-degree MBA and Engineering program at Northwestern University and consulting with the Nielsen Norman Group. Norman announced that he would no longer teach full-time after the 2009–2010 academic year.[6]

Norman is an active Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), where he spends two months a year teaching. He also holds the title of Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego.[7]

He is on numerous educational, private, and public sector advisory boards, including the editorial board of Encyclopædia Britannica.


  • Early academics 1
  • Cognitive engineering career 2
  • User-centered design 3
  • Quotes 4
  • Partial bibliography 5
    • Psychology 5.1
    • Usability 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early academics

In 1957, Norman received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) from MIT. Norman continued through college until 1962, in the process earning M.S. in EECS and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

After graduating, Norman took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard University and within a year became a lecturer.

After four years with the Center, Norman took a position as an associate professor in the Psychology Department at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Norman applied his training as an engineer and computer scientist, and as an experimental and mathematical psychologist, to the emerging discipline of cognitive science. Norman eventually became founding chair of the Department of Cognitive Science and chair of the Department of Psychology.

At UCSD, Norman was a founder of the Institute for Cognitive Science and one of the organizers of the Cognitive Science Society (along with Roger Schank, Allan Collins, and others), which held its first meeting at the UCSD campus in 1979.[7]

Together with psychologist Tim Shallice, Norman proposed a framework of attentional control of executive functioning. One of the components of the Norman-Shallice model is the supervisory attentional system.[8]

Cognitive engineering career

Norman made the transition from cognitive science to cognitive engineering by entering the field as a consultant and writer. His article "The truth about Unix: The user interface is horrid"[9] in Datamation (1981) catapulted him to a position of prominence in the computer world.[10] Soon after, his career took off outside of academia, although he still remained active at UCSD until 1993. Norman continued his work to further human centered design by serving on numerous university and government advisory boards such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He currently serves on numerous committees and advisory boards like at Motorola, the Toyota Information Technology Center, TED Conference, Panasonic, Encyclopædia Britannica, and many more.

Norman published several important books during his time at UCSD, one of which, User Centered System Design, obliquely referred to the university in the initials of its title.

In 1993, Norman left UCSD to join Apple Computer, initially as an Apple Fellow as a User Experience Architect (the first use of the phrase "User Experience" in a job title), and then as the Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group. He later worked for Hewlett-Packard before joining with Jakob Nielsen to form the Nielsen Norman Group in 1998. He returned to academia as a professor of computer science at Northwestern University, where he was co-director of the Segal Design Institute until 2010.

Norman has received many awards for his work. He received an honorary degree from the University of Padua in Padua, Italy. In 2001 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, and in 2006 he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science.[11]

User-centered design

In his book The Design of Everyday Things, Norman uses the term "user-centered design" to describe design based on the needs of the user, leaving aside what he deems secondary issues like aesthetics. User-centered design involves simplifying the structure of tasks, making things visible, getting the mapping right, exploiting the powers of constraint, designing for error, explaining affordances and seven stages of action.


  • "Academics get paid for being clever, not for being right."[12]
  • "When you get paid $100 an hour, people expect you to do real work. When you get paid $1000 an hour, people only expect you to have lunch with the CEO."

Partial bibliography


  • Human information processing: An introduction to psychology (1972) in collaboration with Peter H. Lindsay (first author)[13]
  • Memory and attention (1977)
  • Learning and memory (1982)


  • Direct manipulation interfaces (1985) in collaboration with E. L. Hutchins (first author) and J.D. Hollan
  • User Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction (1986) (editor in collaboration with Stephen Draper)
  • The Design of Everyday Things (1988, originally under the title The Psychology of Everyday Things) (Newprint 2002)
  • Turn signals are the facial expressions of automobiles (1992)
  • Things That Make Us Smart (1993)
  • The Invisible Computer (1998)
  • Emotional Design (2004)
  • The Design of Future Things (2007)
  • Living with Complexity, (2010)
  • Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine CD-ROM by the Voyager Company combining Design of Every Day Things, Turn signals are the facial expressions of automobiles, Things That Make Us Smart, and various technical reports (1994)

See also


  1. ^ Robbins, Gary. "Don Norman has Designs on Your Life". Retrieved November 18, 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Zachry, Mark (October 2005). "An Interview with Donald Norman". Technical Communication Quarterly 14 (4): 469.  
  5. ^ Norman, Donald. "Technology First, Needs Last". Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  6. ^ Norman, Donald. "My change of status". Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Norman, Donald. "Donald Norman Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  8. ^ Friedenberg, Jay; Gordon Silverman (2010). Cognitive Science: An Introduction of the Study of Mind. United St ates of America: SAGE Publications. pp. 180–182.  
  9. ^ Norman, Don (1981). "The truth about Unix: The user interface is horrid" (PDF). Datamation (27(12)). 
  10. ^ Norman, Donald (1981). The trouble with UNIX: The user interface is horrid. Datamation, 27, No. 12, 139–150. 
  11. ^ "Donald A. Norman". Laureate Database. The Franklin Institute Awards. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  12. ^ Annual conference. Google Books. 2010-12-21. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  13. ^ Oden, Gregg C.; Lopes, Lola L. (1997). "Human Information Processing: An Introduction to Psychology by Peter H. Lindsay, Donald A. Norman". The American Journal of Psychology 110 (4): 635–641.  

External links

  • Official website
  • The Design Lab at UCSD
  • Publications by Donald Norman from
  • List of Donald Norman articles
  • Donald Norman at Userati
  • Lecture by Donald Norman on "The Design of Future Things" (Stanford University, February 9, 2007) on YouTube
  • Interviewed by Want Magazine (video)
  • Living With Complexity, talk at Standford, 2011
  • An evening of UX Hacking with Don Norman at Stanford" (Stanford University, December 17, 2013)
  • Don Norman at TED
Preceded by
Barbara Mirel
Succeeded by
Stephen Doheny-Farina
Preceded by
Aravind Joshi
Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science
Succeeded by
Stuart Card
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