Norman Visits Campus for ‘Complexity’ Conversation | News Center – Georgia Tech News Center

Norman Visits Campus for ‘Complexity’ Conversation | News Center – Georgia Tech News Center

First-year reading author gave a plenary lecture and talked with WREK 91.1FM about simplicity and complexity in design.

When Don Norman gets angry, he writes a book.

“I was pissed at people saying, ‘Why can’t we make things simple?’” the author said in a WREK radio interview on Friday.

Norman, whose Living with Complexity book was this year’s selection for the First-Year Reading Program, visited campus last week and discussed simplicity versus complexity during a brown bag discussion, plenary lecture, panel session, and radio interview.

“I embrace complexity, but I’m against complication or confusion,” Norman said during the radio interview.

In one of his book’s relatable anecdotes, Norman explains desire lines, which occur when people cut across grass and create ruts, communicating their desire to have a specific path not initially incorporated into the landscape design. To Norman, this frowned-upon habit is an essential part of solving a design problem – and decreasing confusion.

“The problem with design is to solve the right problem,” Norman told WREK. In this scenario, landscape architects should see the problem as creating paths where they’ll be most used – not as keeping people from walking on the grass.

In Living with Complexity, Norman, a former Apple vice president, refers to examples such as using an iPhone or learning to drive to explain that something is only complex until you’ve dedicated the time to master it.

“Whether something is simple or confusing is in the head, not in the world,” he said. However, bad design can make a concept more challenging to master than is necessary. He dedicates a great deal of the book to explaining how to improve design of both products and systems.

And, in his WREK interview, he highlighted 3D printing, which goes on nearly 24/7 in Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio, as a new technology that could simplify tasks through its design.

“You could be building a piece of IKEA furniture and find you’re missing a part, then go online and find the plan to print the screw you need,” Norman said. “You can make things just the way you want them. It’s going to be a really empowering event as 3D printers become more available. They’re already changing lots of ways designers work.”

In his book, Norman issues a challenge to readers involved in design of any sort to do their best to make things simple; meanwhile, he says non-designers must take the time to learn and master new skills and processes.

“This year’s First-Year Reading Program book was selected to connect with themes in Georgia Tech’s strategic plan, particularly those around design and innovation,” said Steven Girardot, associate vice provost for undergraduate education. 


Landscape Designers