Donald Norman: American academic (born: 1935) | Biography, Bibliography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Donald Norman
American academic

Donald Norman

Donald Norman
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American academic
Known for The Design of Everyday Things
A.K.A. Donald Arthur Norman, Donald A. Norman
Is Engineer Computer scientist Psychologist Writer Researcher
From United States of America
Field Academia Engineering Healthcare Literature Science Technology
Gender male
Birth 25 December 1935
Age 87 years
Star sign Capricorn
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science Doctor of Philosophy 1959-1962
Notable Works
The Design of Everyday Things  
Benjamin Franklin Medal 2006
CHI Academy 2001
ACM Fellow 2001
honorary doctor of the University of Padua  
Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society  
Donald Norman
The details (from wikipedia)


Donald Arthur Norman (born December 25, 1935) is an American researcher, professor, and author. Norman is the director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego. 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. He is a co-founder and consultant with the Nielsen Norman Group. He is also an IDEO fellow and a member of the Board of Trustees of IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. He also holds the title of Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego. Norman is an active Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), where he spends two months a year teaching.

Much of Norman's work involves the advocacy of user-centered design. 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. To this end, Norman named his website with the initialism JND (just-noticeable difference) to signify his endeavors to make a difference.

Early academics

In 1957, Norman received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Norman received a M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He received a PhD in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He was one of the earliest graduates from the Mathematical Psychology group at University of Pennsylvania and his advisor was Duncan Luce.

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.

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.

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" in Datamation (1981) catapulted him to a position of prominence in the computer world. 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 National College of Technology, TED Conference, Panasonic, Encyclopædia Britannica, and many more.

Norman was also part of a select team flown in to investigate the 1979, Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

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. In 2014, he returned to UCSD to become director of the newly established The Design Lab housed at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

In 2014, Norman returned to the University of California, San Diego as newly appointed director of The Design Lab.


Norman has received many awards for his work. He received two honorary degrees, one "S. V. della laurea ad honorem" in Psychology from the University of Padua in 1995 and one doctorate in Industrial Design and Engineering from Delft University of Technology. In 2001, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and won the Rigo Award from SIGDOC, the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group (SIG) on the Design of Communication (DOC). In 2006, he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science. In 2009, Norman was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Design Research Society.

Nielsen Norman Group

Norman, alongside colleague Jakob Nielsen, formed the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) in 1998. The company's vision is to help designers and other companies move toward more human-centered products and internet interactions, and are pioneers in the field of usability.


Quotations related to Don Norman at Wikiquote

  • "Academics get paid for being clever, not for being right."
  • "Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible."
  • “A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.”
  • “Fail often, fail fast,”

User-centered design

In 1986, Norman writes about User-centered design for the first time in the book User Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-computer Interaction, a book edited by him and by Stephen W. Draper. In the introduction of the book, we are presented to the idea that designers should aim their efforts at the people who will use the system:

People are so adaptable that they are capable of shouldering the entire burden of accommodation to an artifact, but skillful designers make large parts of this burden vanish by adapting the artifact to the users.

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.

In his book The Things that Make Us Smart: Defending the Human Attribute in the Age of the Machine, Norman uses the term “cognitive artifacts” to describe “those artificial devices that maintain, display, or operate upon information in order to serve a representational function and that affect human cognitive performance”. Similar to his The Design of Everyday Things book, Norman argues for the development of machines that fit our minds, rather than have our minds be conformed to the machine.

On the Revised Edition of The Design of Everyday Things, Norman backtracks on his previous claims about aesthetics and removed the term User-Centered Design altogether. In the preface of the book, he says :

The first edition of the book focused upon making products understandable and usable. The total experience of a product covers much more than its usability: aesthetics, pleasure, and fun play critically important roles. There was no discussion of pleasure, enjoyment and emotion, Emotion is so important that I wrote an entire book, Emotional Design, about the role it plays in design.

He instead currently uses the term human-centered design and defines it as: "an approach that puts human needs, capabilities, and behavior first, then designs to accommodate those needs, capabilities, and ways of behaving."

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 02 Aug 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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