Living With Complexity

Don Norman , 2011

If only today's technology were simpler! It's the universal lament, but it's wrong. We don't want simplicity. Simple tools are not up to the task. The world is complex; our tools need to match that complexity. Simplicity turns out to be more complex than we thought. In this provocative and informative book, Don Norman writes that the complexity of our technology must mirror the complexity and richness of our lives. It's not complexity that's the problem, it's bad design. Bad design complicates things unnecessarily and confuses us. Good design can tame complexity.


China (Simplified characters): CITC Publishing House
Taiwan (Complex characters): Yuan-Liou
Japan: Shinyosha
Korea: Kyobo Book Center
Italy: Pearson Bruno Mondadori


Core77: "As the world grows beyond the understanding of any one Renaissance man or woman, Donald Norman's missive is well timed." 

The Times Higher Education Review: "Deep and enjoyably nail-hitting insights and recommendations fill his book. ... you will like Norman's calm voice, keen observations and sage counsel about what could be done."

SAP User Experience: "Norman's book is entitled Living with Complexity for good reason: The author does not advocate substituting complexity with simplicity. (As we will see below, this would not also make sense to Norman, because he does regard simplicity and complexity as opposites of each other: The first is, according to him, a state of the mind, whereas the other is a state of the world.) Much like Shedroff, Norman points out that complexity is an essential ingredient of the world and, thus of our lives. Norman writes that technology reflects this complexity, which by itself is neither good nor bad: it is confusion that is bad: We will see order and reason in complexity (and in complex technology) when we understand the underlying principles. When complexity is random and arbitrary, we are confused and have reason to be annoyed."

Table of Contents

1. Living With Complexity: Why complexity is necessary (PDF 385 KB)
2. Simplicity Is in the Mind
3. How Simple Things Can Complicate Our Lives
4. Social Signifiers
5. Sociable Design
6. Systems and Services
7. The Design of Waits
8. Managing Complexity: A Partnership
9. The Challenge

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