10 December 2009

Latest Donald Norman essay started a big debate

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putting people first
by experientia

Donald Norman
Donald Norman ‘s recent essay Technology First, Needs Last, in which he argues that “design research is great when it comes to improving existing product categories but essentially useless when it comes to new, innovative breakthroughs,” has started a big discussion.

Steve Portigal started the debate with a piece which intends to “to reframe rather than refute” Norman’s argument.
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Nicolas Nova thinks that Norman’s piece reflects “a narrow understanding of what field research about people can convey”. Nova also takes issue with the “distinction between improvement and breakthrough (or what [Norman] calls “revolutionary innovation”).” Perhaps, Nova says,” it’s a framing issue but the notion of a “breakthrough” seems a bit weird when one think about the whole history of technologies. This terms seems more appealing to the marketing/business people than observer of how objects evolved over time.’
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Todd Zaki Warfel writes he “couldn’t disagree more with the content of the [Norman] essay. He singles out both “how Don defines design research” and Norman’s claim that innovations “are invariably driven by the development of new technologies.”
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Nikos Karaoulanis argues that that Norman’s essay “really lends to the argument that design research and especially design thinking is absolutely crucial, if not critical to designing in our time.”
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Adam Richardson says: “I actually agree[s] with much of what he says, though I see the definition of design research he’s using as overly narrow.”
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Check also the comments on each of these pieces.

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