Craig Vogel’s Reaction to Don Norman’s Articles

(Lazarus – Original 09/22/2005)

Author of “Breakthrough Products”, former IDSA president, and former design professor of mine Craig Vogel shared his thoughts over email on activity and personas in design.

“Experience design and activity design are the same. But knowing a person’s preferences is also important because a functional solution should be complimented with lifestyle attributes.

Norman is a psychologist and not a designer. His focus is on human activity which is fine. I think there is more to products than [just the] action analysis but it is an essential component.”

Sounds like Vogel is saying a study of activity is necessary, but insufficient; where Norman says that a study of activity is not only necessary and sufficient, but other realms of user study (like persons) could ultimately be distracting and therefore result in poorer product designs.

Of course Norman could be showing his phsychology bias here. In the integrated new product development process outlined in “Breakthrough Products” Vogel says that good product design results in products that are useful, usable and desirable. Norman appears to be focused on usable at the expence of both useful and especially desirable. And from a phychological perspective Norman’s may be an entirely appropriate reaction. However, from an iNPD perspective his reaction is a bit narrow.

It is hard to ignore the truth of Normans criticisms, that too often the reality of persona development is that it is improperly done and becomes a resource distraction.