Response to Norman

Reading Norman’s chapter “The Psychopathology of Everyday Things” feels like finally revealing the obvious. He clearly identifies and points at something that you had right in front of your eyes the whole time, but never really thought of.

Although I have a feeling that Crawford’s definition of interaction would not succeed with most of the cases that Norman brings up as highly interactive, Norman adds another layer to all of it- and that is the triangle between the designer, product and user. While it is not a direct interaction, it is a form of communication, which is crucial to be understood in order to create a successful design.  I am still a bit conflicted about the importance of the categorization and use of specific terms in such a rigid way, yet I still agree with most of both Crawford’s and Norman’s works that critically and academically contribute to such an underrepresented and underestimated field of study.

However, I would strongly disagree with his statement that good design is pleasurable. Usually, when a design works properly, it goes indifferently unnoticed, taken for granted. One would beg to differ that since we are used to bad designs, we would be pleasantly surprised when we encounter a good one and consequently appreciate it. Yet, at least from my experience, I rarely hear someone appreciating something as a well-designed sink stopper. What, on the other hand, I keep hearing constantly, is the irritated complaints about things like bad signaling on doors or badly designed fridge temperature regulators. I would therefore argue that designers should not strive to make the experience pleasurable, as Norman suggests, but most importantly natural, make it feel the way it could not have been designed any other way- as if even no design was needed whatsoever.

What I truly enjoyed reading about is the feedback part about design. However, I would extend the idea not only to product-user interaction, but the more difficult one: designer-user one. Although in today’s world, the wall that prevented designers and users to communicate is becoming thinner and thinner with review websites and pretty much any means of communication. But does it work fast enough and are the users responsive enough? Let’s say that the refrigerator controls were designed very badly and annoy us quite a bit, but not too much. How many of us would actually bother to email the company with feedback? Since designs mostly get replicated and extended – not designed completely from scratch, this is how we end up in a world full of things that have a potential to function well, but do not.

Lastly, the cultural implication is brought up by Norman to signify, how good design is difficult, if not impossible, to create because “natural” means something else in different contexts. For me, the horrible sink stopper design he was talking about, would be a completely natural design that I pretty much grew up with. This is a problem arising with a more globalized market and that sets designers for an impossible task to satisfy everyone- alongside the manufacturers, the purchasers, the sellers and the repair services- and in any cultural context. All of this makes the job extremely difficult, yet even more pressing to give recognition and gratitude to.

I will just end with a reference for an artist that challenges the designs that we take for granted. 

The Uncomfortable by Katerina Kamprani. Source:


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