1 August 2012

Don Norman: John Maeda and I failed to connect

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As part of its Power of 10 lecture series, PARC Forum invited John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, and Don Norman, Co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, last week for a dialogue on design and innovation.

The video is now online.

Here is what Don Norman had to write about it:

“It was a weird discussion. Although John and I have known each other for some time and started out in similar ways (he is a course 6 graduate of MIT — Electrical Engineering). So am I (my specialty was circuit design.) Both of us now consider ourselves to be designers. Moreover, I am a fan of his work. But it was difficult to engage.

I wanted to talk about complex design: interaction design, design planning, etc. He wanted to talk about the beauty of fonts, of knives, and even of the office chair. I tried to say these were simple products that barely needed any understanding of human behavior and cognition — I want to design the complex. He didn’t understand my point. In fact, when I specifically asked him how to design a networking connection scheme that would work for everyday people his answer was a long ramble that never even started to address the issue. Later, he admitted he had forgotten the question (which to me is evidence he either failed to understand it or didn’t care about it – I think the latter).

I agreed that form was not my focus. I guess he agreed that interaction was not his.

So we failed to connect. But many seemed to find the discussion of interest. Decide for yourself.”

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