Episode 54: Designing for a Better World with Don Norman
We have a very special guest joining us. We talk to the legendary Don Norman, also known as the godfather of design, who started his interesting career life as electrical engineer, ended up to be a psychologist, cognitive scientist and computer scientist, and eventually a designer. Don has authored many design classics, such as The Psychology of Everyday Things, and his latest book, Design for the Better World is coming out this March.
Don shares his interesting career stories and we talk about writing books. Our main focus in this episode is on designing for a better world and what’s law got to do with it. Design thinking has become very popular during the last decades, and has expanded to many new areas of business and society – such as law – with a promise of driving innovation and positive transformation. Lawyers, managers, doctors, civil servants, business owners – you name it – are encouraged to think and act like “designers” and organize their work like design teams do. But is there some red flags in this development and what are Don’s thoughts about this?
The way law seeks for betterment of society is by passing on new regulation. However, law may not always be the best tool to influence human behavior. We discuss that instead of making new laws, should we design the legislation more in a way that would lead to a smaller amount of laws and try to figure out a way to guide people’s behavior in other ways and what those other ways could be from Don’s point of view.
Lastly, Don explains how he sees the future of design thinking and does it have the potential to become the default approach to problem solving, no matter the discipline or the context.
Don Norman has lived multiple lives: University professor, Industry executive, consultant, keynote speaker, and author. He has been an electrical engineer, a psychologist, cognitive scientist, computer scientist, and designer. He retired from the University of California, San Diego in 1993, returned in 2014 to become the founding Director of the Design Lab: He retired in the seventh year of his five-year appointment on Dec. 31, 2020. He also has retired from Northwestern University, from the Nielsen Norman group, and from being a trustee at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology. He now has retired five times and has the title ”emeritus” from all four places.
He is the co-founder and principal of the User Experience/Usability consulting firm, the Nielsen Norman group, where he is now emeritus. He has been an IDEO fellow and a member of the Board of Trustees of IIT’s Institute of Design in Chicago (now emeritus at IIT). Along the way he has been a VP at Apple, an executive at HP, with experience at startups ranging from investor, adviser, and member of the board of directors. He has received three honorary degrees, the Franklin Institute medal for Cognitive and Computer Science, and membership in the National Academy of Engineering. In October 2021 he went to London to receive the Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education for 2021. While in London he spent three days with people from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and at the London Design Museum which just opened its exhibit on ”The Waste Age.” The major topic at both places was ”What Can Design Do?” as we discussed how to convince manufacturers and designers to design for the Circular Economy with Circular Design principles. Both these visits played a major role in his new book.