Audio recording of the conference (2 hours):Donald Norman Talk at the LMU munich on Mixcloud

On the past July 3th I could be present at the conference by Donald Norman at the LMU in Munich. Mr. Norman is known by his seminal book “Design of Everyday things” (1988) and is one of the fathers of Interaction Design and Human-Centered Design approach.

The conference’s title was “What you learned in this class will not work in the real world”. This was a realistic view of the integration of User Centered Design in the industry. Mr. Norman explained that the theories take more than 10 years to arrive at the industry, that designers shape this change when they start taking leading positions, because management does not read scientific papers. Furthermore the budgets and time constraints are not an ideal environment for User Centered research.

“Asking stupid questions is the magic”.

He explained that the Initial Problem Definition designers get is in the most of cases a wrong problem. You should ask 5 times WHY until you find the root of the problem. Designers should think always that the given problem is not the real problem. Designers should research and ask questions until they find the real problem. This iterations can take 4 weeks as Mr. Norman drew in the following diagram.


Do not solve the problem that is given to you. Find the real problem. Think about the real Problem! Why is it the problem? Why is that the reason? Ask WHY!

“Too much creativity can be a problem”.

“How many radical innovations do we experience in a lifetime? Maybe 10 or 20. Not more”

“Ideas are not new. They are already there or are a combination of old ideas. The idea of Videoconferencing was depicted in the XIXth century after the invention of Telephone. It took may be hundred years to be a mainstream technology”


Jean-Marc Côté 1899. Life in 100 years. An early example of the idea of Videoconferencing. As an example 2003 Skype was funded. More Future visions on this page.

One of the most striking ideas of the conference for me was that “Incremental innovation is much more important than radical innovation when it comes to quality and affecting real life.” For example the introduction of the internal combustion engine was a radical innovation. But the incremental innovations during the XXth century improved the efficiency, security, reliability, ease-of-use and pollution reduction of this technology.

Concept of Radical or Disrupting vs. Incremental Innovation was described by Roberto Verganti and Don Norman in this paper.

Mr. Norman told about his experience at Apple Computer Inc during the 90s. The CEO Mr. John Scully came every week and said:

“Stop everything you’re doing. I have a better idea”

So they could never refine the ideas because there were no time to do it. Apple was too creative. “There is a time to be creative, and there is a time to get things done”. “If you don’t sell your products, it does not matter how good they are”. One example of this was a Camcorder without cassette but the quality was not better that the other system and the computers did not have enough storage capacity on those days.

The car of the future will be self-driven

Mr. Norman came to Munich to the BMW headquarters. Automobile companies are working on the car of the future. Mr. Norman compared the 0 deaths in commercial flight accidents during the last 3 years with 1 Million of deaths in car accidents in the last year worldwide. He said that car drivers don’t learn to react to critical situations (only in Austria novice drivers learn driving on ice). His theory is that the future of automobile is self-driven cars but maybe in 40-50 years. Mr. Norman says every cars should be self-driven otherwise it won’t work.


Latest in the news the project of Google’s selfdriven cars revealed that they are better than human drivers.


2 thoughts on “Don Norman: About Design and Creativity

  1. Retroenllaç: 200 POSTS | strike-through

  2. Retroenllaç: El cotxe del futur conduirà sol | strike-through

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