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Don Norman

Don Norman

21st Century Design, Controversy, AI, Hard Problems, and Legacy

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Our exclusive conversation with Don Norman, co-founder and principal emeritus at Nielsen Norman Group, is the author of The Design of Everyday Things. This interview is now #1 trending on Design YouTube (and ADPList meetups, below ⬇️).

21st Century Design, Controversy, AI, Hard Problems, and Legacy

Don Norman is an emeritus Distinguished Professor at the University of California, San Diego. He's a co-founder of the Nielsen Norman group and has held executive positions at Apple and HP. He has authored 21 books, including "Emotional Design" and "Design of Everyday Things," and his latest book is "Design for a Better World."

  • Evolution of designers and leaders since the 80s

  • Artificial Intelligence on humanity

  • Why there’s a lack of “designer” CEOs

  • Hardest problem to solve

  • Why Generalist will be important

  • How to work on important frontiers

  • 21st Century Design and Ethics

  • Why Apple’s take on simplicity is wrong

  • Conflict of Don Norman’s past work

  • Advice to designers, humans

Some key takeaways:

  1. Theory is far from reality—Design education needs to be more broadly based, focusing on design thinking skills rather than just drawing skills. Humanity-centered design considers the impact on all living things and the ecological system, not just individual users. STEM education lacks focus on people and history, which are crucial for understanding design and innovation.

  2. Apple is wrong about simplicity—Good design isn't just about looks; it's about functionality and usability, especially when things go wrong. Simplicity is complex, not just removing icons or buttons.

  3. Designers cannot just design—Designers must ensure their work not only addresses immediate economic needs but also contributes to long-term sustainability and societal well-being. Leadership requires more than just designing on Figma, it’s holistically viewing a problem.

Watch this full exclusive interview here.

Where to find Don Norman:

Where to find more resources:

In this episode, we cover:

0:00 - Introduction

2:20 - Back from Retirement

4:12 - Philosophy

6:38 - Evolution of design

8:02 - Problem with design industry

9:10 - HCI is wrong

12:03 - No Design CEOs

15:21 - Power, Wealth

16:40 - Artificial Intelligence

23:25 - Surprising evolution of AI

31:19 - Controversy

35:32 - What's wrong with Apple

38:38 - Virtual reality

40:30 - Technologist

42:38 - Theory vs reality

44:38 - Generalist

45:53 - People, History

48:13 - Hardest problem

51:20 - Great designers

53:38 - Conflict of past work

55:53 - Better world

1:00:29 - Educate on history

1:00:57 - Legacy, Don Norman's Prize

1:04:42 - Sustainability

1:07:43 - Ethics, Morality, Fairness

1:08:56 - 21st Century

1:12:18 - Final advice

Sponsor ADPList’s Newsletter:

PS. Want more resources for senior designers & design leaders?

  • Julie Zhuo (ex-VP of Design, Meta): Early Facebook Days, Leaving Meta & Building Data-Informed Products. YouTube, Substack.

  • Jakob Nielsen: Why AI is Changing Design (forever) feat. Sarah Gibbons. YouTube.

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I'll keep creating great stuff if you keep watching, listening, or reading. I read every reply if you care to reply :). You might get an answer back.

Until next week.

Felix Lee

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