Don Norman Photo
Segal Seminar Series

Don Norman

November 24, 2008, 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.
2145 Sheridan Rd. Evanston , IL 60208

Sociable Design


How do we know what to do in novel situations? Sometimes we ask, sometimes we watch. And at other times we make inferences by observing signifiers, signals in the physical or social world that can be interpreted meaningfully.

Sociable design extends the arena of design from function, aesthetics, and emotion to the world of social interaction. Much of our activities involve other people, even things we believe we are doing in isolation. In this sense, all tasks are social, for no task is done in isolation of the needs of others.

Sociable design requires system thinking, changing our unsociable products that work well in isolation but horribly in the world of other objects, tasks, and events into ones that work well together, sociably. Forget affordances: it is the signifiers that matter.

The talk is based upon chapters written for a forthcoming book. The chapters can be found at the two following URLs. Note that the talk contains new material, plus selections from these (and other) chapters.


Don Norman is the Breed Professor of Design at Northwestern University , co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, and former Vice President of Apple Computer. He serves on many advisory boards, including Encyclopedia Britannica and the Industrial Design department of KAIST, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. He was awarded the Benjamin Franklin medal in Computer and Cognitive Science and ACM's CHI Lifetime Achievement award. He has honorary degrees from the University of Padova ( Italy ) and the Technical University Delft (the Netherlands ). He is the author of "The Design of Everyday Things," "Emotional Design," and "The Design of Future Things ." He is now working on a book tentatively called " Sociable Design. " He lives at