Abstract Edit

In The Psychopathology of Everyday Things Donald Norman, former Director of the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of California, discusses how functional and intuitive design is the new competitive frontier. Norman, with his engineering background, discusses how everyday things have been designed – either to relief or dismay of consumers.

Key Concepts Edit

Norman believes that all good designers have two traits: the ability to understand the mind of consumers and a complete understanding of how the product works. Norman writes that products which are designed well "contain visible clues to their operation," but "poorly designed objects can be difficult and frustrating to use" because "they provide no clues— or sometimes false clues."

The three attributes that Norman believes well-designed products have are: visibility, appropriate clues, and feedback. Products that make effective use of visibility meaningfully depict the intended command. Appropriate clues are indicators of a function, and it refers to how effective design elements are at indicating their purpose to users. Norman also believes that products should provide users with feedback and indicate whether or not the intended action was actually performed by showing the effect(s) of the action.

Examples Edit

Visibility: The power switch/button on most flashlights is usually the only engaging feature of a flashlight. They are easy to spot and strategically placed, so the visibility of the on/off switch on flashlights is a highly visible and intuitive design.

Appropriate Clues: Handles on a door indicate that you must pull the door rather than push it, for you're not supposed to push handles.

Feedback: iPhones vibrate when you activate the "silent" switch. An icon of a muted speaker also appears on the screen. This feedback informs the user that the phone has, in fact, been silenced.

Critical Conversation Edit

To date, this article has been cited 79 times according to Google Scholar. There are several articles and texts that mention the psychopathology and design of “everyday things.” For example, Tim Dant refers to our perception and use of everyday objects in his book “Material culture in the social world.” From there, the topics which relate back to this chapter in Norman’s book varies quite drastically. Since design is an important factor in the usability of any tangible object, the subjects which touch on this article range from medical device instructions to the different techniques of stage magic. Donald Norman also touches on the subject in his next book “The Design of Future Things.” Read more about related readings here.

Key Words Edit

Donald Norman


Appropriate Clues


Sources Edit!other%20readings/The%20Design%20of%20Everyday%20Things%20-%20Don%20Norman.pdf