Thursday, December 10, 2009

Don Norman Sparks Debate About Innovation

Don Norman (left) is a well-known writer and teacher of design so when he expresses an opinion it is taken seriously in the design community. He recently sparked a debate when he posted an article on his website that challenges some cherished beliefs about how innovation takes place.

His main claim in the article is that most design is simply sparked by new technology rather than someone thinking about what the world needs. In a sense, he is saying that design happens when some new technology comes along that has a useful application rather than anyone thinking about some unmet needs they can fill. He asserts that people got along perfectly well without most designs until they were presented with an alternative. Useful applications are usually discovered after something has been made possible by new technology not before.

When many inventions came about, because the technology made them possible, people often didn't even see that there was any need for them. How often have you heard people question the need for some new invention?

Among the designs that evolved out of technological advances rather that any perceived need, Norman includes:
The Airplane
The Automobile
The Telephone
The Radio
The Television
The Computer
The Personal Computer
The Internet
SMS Text Messaging
The Cellphone

Click on the heading above to read Norman's article, read what those who disagree with him say, and see what your students think.

Norman has written books such as The Design of Future Things (right), Things That Make Us Smart, Emotional Design, and The Design of Everyday Things.

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