The cognitive scientist Don Norman is one of the world’s most influential design theorists. His best-selling book, The Design of Everyday Things, has been in print for twenty-five years and is widely recognized as a classic. He is currently the director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego.
Here he talks with Susannah Fox, who was at the time of their conversation an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (Today Susannah is the CTO at the US Department of Health And Human Services.) Susannah begins by asking Don about his idea that the first job of design is the solve the right problem. How do you know the problem you’ve chosen is the right one?
“In Human-Centered Design,” Don answers, “when we’re asked to solve the problem the rule is no, don’t solve the problem. Ask, why is that the problem? Why do you need this? What is this problem about?”
Susannah Fox is the Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From September 2014 — May 2015 she was the Entrepreneur in Residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation after 14 years at the Pew Research Center, where she directed the health and technology portfolio. You can find her on Twitter at @SusannahFox and at susannahfox.com.
Don Norman is Director of the Design Lab at UC, San Diego, cofounder of the Nielsen Norman Group, member of the National Academy of Engineering, IDEO fellow, and former Vice President of Apple. He is leading the DLab’s initiative on Human-Centered Healthcare design. His books include Emotional Design, Living with Complexity, and an expanded, revised edition of Design of Everyday Things. You can find him on Twitter @jnd1er and at dlab.ucsd.edu.
Asking Myself 10,000 Questions, Brian Levine
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