Distinguished Lecture

Cautious Cars, Cranky Kitchens, Demanding Devices

Wednesday, March 1, 2006
4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Donald Norman, Northwestern University

Cautious cars? We already have them, cautious and sometimes frightened. Cranky kitchens, not yet, but they are coming. Our products are getting smarter, more intelligent, and more demanding, or if you like, bossy. This trend brings with it many special problems and unexplored areas of applied psychology. In particular, our devices are now part of a human-machine social ecosystem, and therefore they need social graces, superior communicative skills, and even emotions: machine emotions, to be sure, but emotions nonetheless. In this talk I explore the reasons for such statements, the issues that need to be considered, and the dangers that have already occurred because designers still think of each device as alone, and self-contained.

Don Norman lives two lives: theory and applications. As a cognitive scientist, he studies, teaches, and writes about the relationship between technology and people. In his applied life, he helps companies make products that appeal to the emotions as well as to reason.

Business Week calls him a “cantankerous visionary” — cantankerous in his quest for excellence. Upside Magazine named him one of the “Elite 100” for 1999. Dr. Norman brings a unique mix of the social sciences and engineering to bear on everyday products. Although is a strong advocate of human-centered design and simplicity and perhaps best known for his book, The Design of Everyday Things, he now wants to ensure that products appeal to the emotions as well as to reason.

Dr. Norman is cofounder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an executive consulting firm that helps companies produce human-centered products and services. Norman serves as advisor and board member to numerous companies and non-profit organizations in the area of policy and education. Among others, he serves on the editorial advisory board of Encyclopedia Britannica and on the board of overseers of Chicago’s Institute of Design. Norman has also been Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple Computer and an executive at both Hewlett Packard and UNext (a distance education company).

Norman received a B.S. degree from MIT and an MS degree from the University of Pennsylvania, both in Electrical Engineering. His doctorate, from the University of Pennsylvania, is in Psychology. He has received two honorary degrees: a doctorate in Industrial Design and Engineering from the Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands) and the S. V. della laurea ad honerem from the University of Padua (Italy).

Last updated:

August 23, 2016