Monday, June 27, 2011

Reads: Emotional Designs, Donald A. Norman

Chapter 3:
These are some notes I made for the book, unedited.

Opens with an example using water bottles as an application of design. Some bottled water containers are so nice that people want to save them for later.

Visceral Design:
He’s talking about natural phenomenon that has evolved to be attractive, such as flowers (to birds and bees), bird plumage (to other birds), and the human preference for symmetrical faces. He says “when we perceive something as pretty,” that is the visceral level of perception.

Other examples: Jaguar E-type convertible, unique exhaust rumbling (like a Harley), artfully arraigned food, the feel of water jets in a shower, Apple’s colorful iMacs, VW New Beetle, Audi TT, and the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

According to the author, acquired tastes may override visceral, “wired-in” preferences, and those tastes become reflective tastes. However, if you design to a visceral design goal, your designs will stand the test of time. This is extremely difficult to master, though, even though the author says visceral design is about initial reactions, and can be studied quite simply by putting people in front of a design and waiting for a reaction.

Behavioral Design:
The author says, “behavioral design is all about use. Appearance doesn’t really matter. Rationale doesn’t matter. Performance does.” Norman mentions his other book, “The Design of Everyday Things,” as a good source for behavioral design outlines. The four components of good behavioral design are, according to the author: function, understandibility, usability, and physical feel.

In this section, the author mentions that there are two different kinds of product development: enhancements and innovation. He talks about monitoring customers usage patterns, and he mentions that this is impossible to do with innovations, and asking people to imagine something they have no experience with gives notoriously bad ideas sometimes.

The author mentions physical touch and feel are aspects of behavioral design, but also mentioned this as part of the visceral design discussion (pg. with the shower pic), so they seem to overlap just a bit.

The author also mentions that visceral and behavioral reactions are subconscious, so they are hard for people to describe, which is why professional observers may know more about likes and dislikes of the user than the actual user.

Interestingly, the author mentions that one of the better behavioral designs is that the functionality only needs to be explained once.

Reflective Design:
Reflective design, the author says, “covers a lot of territory. It is all about message, about culture, and about the meaning of a product or its use.”

Examples of reflective preferences include: “acquired” tastes such as bitter drinks and food, crowded spaces, noisy and discordant, nonharmonic music.

The author also mentions “sophisticated designs,” which run slightly contrary to our visceral mindset, which can become dated.

Reflective designs can compensate for some behavioral design deficiencies. An odd looking watch that is hard to read (a behavioral deficiency), but need only be explained once, can be fun to explain to onlookers, so it has some reflective value.

Earlier in the chapter, the author says it’s the reflective side of the mind that says, "if it is this expensive, it must be special." “Reassuringly expensive,” like Macs.

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