We should create designs that are appropriate to the audience, the location, and the purpose. This means that a product or service should take on a different appearance, different modes of operation, depending upon its intended function.

Donald Norman talks about this idea in his book, Emotional Design, which is more of a study of the emotional and social effects of good (and bad) design on humans than his first book, The Design of Everyday Things, which talks a lot about the cognitive aspects of design and really defines the field of study we know today as human-centered design. Both books are a great read and I highly recommend them to designers and artists alike.

What I like best about Norman’s philosophy is the emphasis he places on thinking about how objects evoke certain emotions and feelings from people when we use them. The history of people’s interactions, the associations that people have with objects, and the memories they evoke are really interesting. The realm of feelings is very powerful because our emotions reflect our personal experiences, thoughts, and memories. “Special” items evoke meaningful memories and stories for people, and it is very difficult to disrupt these deep connections that we have with objects in our lives.

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