#Ashesi University Alumnus + Avant-gardist + Digerati + Writer + Design Enthusiast + Social Media Promoter + Chelsea FC fan + Made in Ghana
“There was this wonderful review in The New York Times about the MINI Cooper automobile. It said, “You know, this is a car that has lots of faults. Buy it anyway. It’s so much fun to drive.”
Quoted from a 2003 TED presentation by design evangelist Don Norman.
I took the above photo of my MacBook pro just for this blog post. I want the image to stay as you read this. I get confused when people go on anti-Apple campaigns. Campaigns that seem to try to educate people about why Apple products are useless and overpriced and Steve Jobs is an evil man and et cetera. I do not speak for the Apple “fanboy” masses here. But here’s the thing. When I bought my MacBook early 2010, I knew most of the cons: the extra cash; the tough move from Windows to the MacOS; the one about the unfriendly Mac UI, which I have found to be untrue; the list was long.
As much as I admired Steve Jobs, the enigma alone couldn’t get me to buy a MacBook (and eventually an iPhone). I didn’t buy it because I thought it was the world’s best performing computer. It was probably a car with a lot of faults. So why did I buy it anyway? Because it is seriously fun to drive. In this presentation on “The Three Ways In Which Good Design Makes You Happy”, Don Norman explains it much better than I ever could. It is a beautiful explanation of how design affects emotions, and as an extension, buying decisions. Or perhaps for me, a look into why I couldn’t resist a MacBook Pro.
It’s time we abandoned the “bigger, faster = better” state of mind. Most of us do not buy products or hire services for the reasons that this state of mind “assumes” we do. I sincerely believe that.
Read a shortened version of the transcript below; then tell me what you think. (Full Transcript and video here)
There’s something I call the visceral level of processing. There’s an amazing amount of stuff that’s built into the brain. We dislike bitter tastes, we dislike loud sounds, we dislike hot temperatures, cold temperatures. We dislike scolding voices, we dislike frowning faces, We like symmetrical faces, et cetera, et cetera. So that’s the visceral level and in design you can express visceral in lots of ways, like the choice of type fonts and the red for hot, exciting. Or the 1963 Jaguar. It’s actually a crummy car, falls apart all the time, but the owners love it. And it’s beautiful — it’s in the Museum of Modern Art. A water bottle. You buy it because of the bottle, not because of the water. And when people are finished, they don’t throw it away they keep it for — you know, it’s like the old wine bottles, you keep it for decoration or maybe fill it with water again, which proves it’s not the water. It’s all about the visceral experience.
The middle level of processing is the behavioral level and that’s actually where most of our stuff gets done. Visceral is subconscious, you’re unaware of it. Behavioral is subconscious, you’re unaware of it. Almost everything we do is subconscious. I’m walking around the stage, I’m not attending to the control of my legs. I’m doing a lot, most of my talk is subconscious, it’s been rehearsed and thought about a lot. Most of what we do is subconscious. Automatic behavior — skilled behavior is subconscious, controlled by the behavioral side. And behavioral design is all about feeling in control, which includes usability, understanding, but also the feel and heft.
And the third level is reflective, which is, if you like the superego, it’s a little part of the brain that has no control over what you do, no control over the — doesn’t see the senses, doesn’t control the muscles. It looks over what’s going on. It’s that little voice in your head. that’s watching and saying, “That’s good. That’s bad.” or “Why are you doing that? I don’t understand.” It’s that little voice in your head that’s the seat of consciousness.
Here’s a great reflective product. Owners of the Hummer have said, “You know I’ve owned many cars in my life all sorts of exotic cars, but never have I had a car that attracted so much attention.” It’s about their image, it’s not about the car. But even if you want a more positive model, this is the GM car. And the reason you might buy it now is because you care about the environment and you’ll buy it to protect the environment; even though the first few cars are going to be really expensive and not perfected. But that’s reflective design as well. Or an expensive watch so you can impress people, who say “Oh gee, I didn’t know you had that watch.” As opposed to this one, which is a pure behavioral watch, which probably keeps better time than the 13,000 dollar watch I just showed you. But it’s ugly. This is a clear Don Norman watch.
And what’s neat is sometimes you pit one emotion against the other, the visceral fear of falling against the reflective state saying “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s safe. It’s safe.” If that amusement park were rusty and falling apart, you’d never go on the ride. So, it’s pitting one against the other.
So that’s the new me. I’m only saying positive things from now on.
– DON NORMAN