Presentation of Don Norman's new book

Prominent design researcher Don Norman has released a new book, Designing a Better World.

In Designing a Better World, Norman explores the ethics of modern design, the issues of consumerism, overproduction, and sustainable development. Digitization. Here are 10 main theses from the conversation with Don Norman, which was moderated by Slava Shestopalov.

Photo courtesy of olivia mew(CC No Derivatives)

Real needs of people

We are people first and foremost, not consumers. Design fails when it focuses instead on meeting people’s real needs on problems invented by marketers. (At the same time, marketers know how to convey their opinion better than designers, so theirs the voice often prevails.) In different regions of the world, people have different needs. For the design to be successful, it is necessary to develop it attract directly the people for whom it will be created.

Designers must lead

When we talk about successful projects, the achievements are usually attributed to the CEO, the COO, product leaders and other representatives of the top of the company. Why don’t we say in the same spirit about the chief designer, whose contribution is also important? In many places, there is no position of a design director who would sit in the board of directors and decide jointly important decisions with other managers.

Ethics of design

Business considerations rule the world, and it’s wrong. We must constantly pay attention to the ethics of the products we create. Do they harm the people around them? Do they cause environmental pollution? Do not contribute to the spread of inequality and injustice in the world? Our work, as designers, is not reduced to a simple craft. Of course, you should be able to speak in the language of business. However, we have to think about more than just profits, because in this case we are not fulfilling the true mission of design.


New product models come out too often. Why create a product over and over again that is not much different from previous versions? For example, new models of cars are released every year, but their design is updated only every three to four years. The reason is that updating the design of a car is very expensive. So why produce and buy new models so often? The novelty of a thing becomes a sign of the status of its owner, and this is a destructive way for the environment. Despite the fact that it is impossible to change instantly system, at least it is worth thinking about possible ways of development.

Politics applies to everyone

Yes, you Ukrainians know this well. Design is not apolitical either, we humans create artificial environments for ourselves and they don’t always function in a fair manner. Nowadays, any large project contains a political component, and it is worth considering this, become aware of the consequences that our work can cause. In today’s world, you can’t say anymore “it doesn’t concern me”, because, most likely, it concerns you.

New education

There are many useful skills that we are not taught in educational institutions. A designer’s education cannot be purely design “in a vacuum” without any practical application. The foundation of the new education will be cooperation, mutual assistance, free distribution of knowledge We have to share the experience gained, because it is the next generations who will invent the answers to the questions we have now we don’t even put it. The global knowledge base is constantly accumulating and we have to accelerate this process with all our might.

Artificial intelligence is a tool

Humanity has always been anxious about new technologies. Designers should not be afraid of losing their jobs because of neural networks, because the strongest will be those specialists who have an open and unbiased attitude towards AI technologies. Take it as a given, because progress cannot be stopped. Generative design will open unprecedented opportunities for those brave people who are ready with enthusiasm to learn something completely new.

It is worth thinking more broadly

In today’s world, it is not enough to be good at your specialization. Designers should be not only craftsmen, but also certain extent by generalists. After all, design is needed in order to make life around more comfortable and to build an increasingly better future for future generations. That is exactly why design thinking should be widely used in many spheres of life.

Design is capable of everything

Design can help solve real problems: environmental, economic, political, or any other. For example, in Ukraine there is a problem with corruption, and designers can also contribute to inventing a solution to it. Design should be useful our society and meet the real needs of people, and designers should be interested in politics and get involved in it, because much depends on governments and laws.

More identity

I began to notice that in today’s globalized world, Ukrainian design is not much different from Japanese design, and Mexican from Italian. It seems to me that the loss of national design identity is happening because everyone designers study from the same books and strive to follow current trends. Get rid of these restrictions, there is nothing wrong with a Mexican doing Mexican, and a Ukrainian doing Ukrainian.

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