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Norman Design


One of the tangents that came up on the TU812 Managing Systemic Change course was a discussion of Don Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things. A fascinating blog post was shared, which focused on what has become known as the Norman door – nothing to do with 1066 and all that!

The theory is that doors are simple, everyday objects but they often illustrate unthinking design practices. Have you had that experience where you didn’t know whether to push or pull a door, or you guessed and got it wrong? It turns out that it might not be your fault. Designers should take account of what are known as ‘affordances’, subtle clues that prompt you in the right direction. Some are related to other physical factors – if you put the handle on the same side as the hinges, it simply won’t work very well. However, Norman suggested, it makes sense to use a flat plate if you should push the door away from you and a grab handle if you should pull it towards you.

There is much more the designer should consider, such as whether you need a window to see if there is someone on the other side, but this is the most basic parameter for many doors. Next time you get it wrong, take a moment to think about whether you are entirely to blame or if the designer gave you false clues.

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