Friday, January 13, 2006

Emotional Design Book Review

I read "Emotional Design" by Donald A. Norman this evening. After reading his other book "The Design Of Everyday things a few months ago I had high hopes for this book, but after reading it I felt like it was just a collection of notes put together. The main idea took up the first half of the book teaching you something that could just as well have been in a well written 12 page essay. The gist of it is that emotional design is broken down into three things:

  • Visceral - Appearance - Look at that, it is shiny and so smooth!

  • Behavioral - The pleasure and effectiveness of use - My ipod is a pleasure to use because it just *works*<.li>
  • Reflective - Self image, personal satisfaction, memories - I remember the first time I saw someone else wearing white headphones too, the ipod is fun to show off to people who hadn't seen it.

Now those three things mean very different things to different people. A good example is given in the first chapter:

Go outside. Get some air.
Watch a sunset.
Boy, does that get old fast.
-XBox advertisement

This is a very well designed add, but really only for guys 18-35. Everyone else will get different results for the three sections.

Take Qt (at least for me)
  • Visceral - Eye Candy, Nice themes, Easy to read GUI code

  • Behavioral - I enjoy using it to create my applications, the design is consistent and works with me

  • Reflective - Learning Qt was a breeze due to the well written documentation, I really enjoyed showing off what I was able to do and accomplish in a short amount of time.

You learned all this in the first chapter and the rest of the first half of the book fleshed it out. For example you can have something that is annoying to use and doesn't look that great, but has a really high Reflective level (such as an expensive car you can show off) that makes it worth while to have.

The second half of the book seems to jump from topic to topic vaguely related. There are two sections all about robots and giving them emotions, incorporating them into our lives etc, but this just seemed like filler and didn't contain anything new that isn't covered in many other books. The author spends some time dissecting movies, video games, and many other thing too.

I was expecting much more a continuation of "The Design Of Everyday things" (which is very good) and so I was very disappointed. Overall an interesting book to barrow from the library or pick up used off Amazon.

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