Week 1 Assn Part 4: Response to Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things

The human mind is exquisitely tailored to make sense of the world. A good design is able to let users gain an immediate understanding to it. I find the point about “visible clues” that Norman mentioned in the reading exceptionally interesting as these are little details in our everyday lives around us that we fail to notice.

The door example highlighted is indeed a good example, if not, often relatable to us. For the most part, users would go through the need for trial and error (push or pull) first, before figuring out the correct way of opening the door. This “obstacle” is so commonly faced by us, the users, so much so that we have forgotten that this confusion between pull and push is a design issue. One thing I noticed is the attempt to improve this confusion through the use of instructions or signs that indicate “push” or “pull”, located near the handle of the door. However, most often than not, users would naturally gone through the fair bit of “trial and error” of pushing or pulling the door before noticing the signs to open the door correctly. This renders ineffectiveness in visibility of design as the intended actions and actual actions do not coincide.

Therefore, with regards to the above issue, the author brought up a meaningful point about the psychology of materials and things. This shows that as human mind perceived the things we are familiar with, it is thus effective for us, designers, to make use of such psychological effects on our designs. The relationship between the controls and actions should be apparent to the user. Hence, natural mapping is crucial in taking advantage of physical analogies and cultural standards to create immediate understanding.

With that being said, I find it rather interesting how cultural standards plays a part in natural mapping as well. While the human race is deemed as “one” as we all operate with the same mechanism, the differences in cultures amongst us do affect the way we behave and react to certain objects. Hence, I think that as a designer, taking into consideration of cultural needs has taken a rather important aspect of design.

Next in point, the author mentions how when the number of functions and required operations exceeds the number of controls, the design becomes arbitrary, unnatural and complicated. The same technology that simplifies life by providing more functions in each device also complicates life by making the device harder to learn, harder to use. This is known as the paradox of technology and only with clever design, they can be minimized. I strongly agree with the author about the paradox of technology. I think that a good design constitutes striking a good balance with the use of technology. One good example of design that has achieved this is none other than the smartphone. Despite the countless amount of functions made possible thanks to the help of advanced technology, the design of smartphones is made so intuitive and user friendly. One no longer needs a manual to know how to operate their new smartphones anymore. It is thus exciting to see how humans have evolved together with technology as it advances over time and in the future ahead.


Qn 1 : Will paradox of technology ever be fully eliminated with purely good designs only? Or do the users play a bigger role?

Qn 2: Does cultural standard plays a big part in natural mapping?





Author: Katie Koh Ke Tian

Product Designer

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