Don Norman

I watched this when it was broadcast live via the ADPList platform (on which I am a mentor) on March 18th. I life-tooted some of my reactions. Quotes are primarily paraphrased:

Watching a webinar/interview with Don Norman, who is still incredibly smart, thoughtful, and well-spoken at 88. wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Norman

“If you succeed, you might have been smart, or you might have been lucky. If you fail, you learn.”

Not the most profound thing he’s dropped on this call, but it is one I managed to get down more-or-less verbatim.

Complexity is in the world. Simplicity is in your head. People who say, “Simplicity means remove those buttons,” are wrong. Simplicity is understanding.

The problem at Apple is they fell in love with an industrial designer who liked beautiful things. You can’t give an award because something looks good, it has to work well. The hard part about design is making it easy to use when something goes wrong. Simplicity is complex.

He looks really healthy. Forget Peter Attia, I want Don Norman’s health routine.

There is a big difference between what’s needed to do things and what’s needed to understand the underlying principles.

He went back and forth between academia and industry. That was powerful because the two inform each other.

We don’t teach people broad-enough understanding. Want to learn about people? Don’t ask psychologists, sociologists, or anthropologists. Talk to a novelist.

He’s against STEM education, because where are the people? How can we design things without understanding people?

One of my life principles is to always be learning

I’ve changed…my beliefs, which is harder and takes more time…but I’ve changed a lot

The more I learned about the history of the world, the more I realized how much of it is artificial and can be changed


This entire talk is helping me realize the kind of design I’m really interested in, and the reason I used to label myself as a designer. But I abandoned that label because:

  • I’m not a strong visual designer
  • To better market myself around my stronger coding skills, and later around my stronger people management and leadership skills

But it’s always been about design, the way Norman defines it.

I’ve put his new book, Design for a Better World, on my short list.12

  1. I’m currently reading 7 books, with 14 more that I’ve started and would like to return to at some point. 😳 

  2. I never did finish The Design of Everyday Things. I started it…