The Design of Future Things: Cautious Cars and Cantankerous Kitchens

   Bonnie John Don Norman, Northwestern Univ. and Nielsen-Norman Group

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 9, 2007

Intelligent devices are entering our everyday lives in interesting and sometimes disconcerting ways. In this talk, Don Norman discuses his latest book , The Design of Future Things (to be published in October). The book discuses the increasing intrusion of intelligent devices into the automobile and home with both expected benefits and unexpected dangers.  

The aviation industry knows a lot about the dangers of overautomation. Similarly, the HCI community has learned a lot about appropriate design. The issues here, however, are different: most studies of automation and intelligent devices look at industrial settings, with well-trained operators who do the same operations over and over again. In the home and automobile, we have ill-trained operators, with little understanding (and little interest in gaining understanding), and in the case of the automobile, who may have to react in seconds. In the home, poor design decisions may simply lead to annoyance and frustration. But with the automobile, significant safety issues are involved.  All the usual suspects are here: issues of privacy, the perceived benefits, costs, safety, control, and trust. Expectations and perceived versus real needs. These are important areas for research and product innovation.


Don Norman is cofounder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an executive consulting firm that helps companies produce human-centered products and services, Professor at Northwestern University and Prof. Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He has been Vice President of Apple Computer and an executive at Hewlett Packard. He was President of the Learning Systems division of UNext, an early, online education company.

He serves on many advisory boards, such as Chicago’s Institute of Design and Encyclopedia Britannica. He is a fellow of many organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer & Cognitive Science from the Franklin Institute (Philadelphia), honorary degrees from the University of Padova (Italy) and the Technical University of Delft (the Netherlands), the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from SIGCHI, the professional organization for Computer-Human Interaction, the Mental Health award for contributions to Business from Psychology Today, and the Taylor Award for outstanding contribution to the field of Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology from the American Psychological Association.

He is well known for his books “The Design of Everyday Things” and “Emotional Design.Business Week called The Invisible Computer “the bible of the “post PC thinking.” He is now writing “The Design of Future Things,” discussing the role that automation plays in such everyday places as the home, and automobile. He lives at

View this talk on line at CS547 on Stanford OnLine

Titles and abstracts for previous years are available by year and by speaker.