User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play

Cliff Kuang, with Robert Fabricant. MCD, $28 (404p) ISBN 978-0-374-27975-2
Journalist Kuang debuts with this engrossing history of how the design of commercial products and technological innovations came to be singularly focused on the user experience. It proves a sprawling and multifaceted story, with side excursions into near-miss nuclear disasters, WWII fighter plane crashes, and the latest developments in driverless cars. The user-friendly ethos, Kuang explains, requires learning “why people behave as they do” so as to “design around their foibles and limitations.” Not hesitating to get philosophical, he notes that this goal represents a remarkable intellectual shift from “the Enlightenment’s faith in the perfectibility of mankind’s reasoning.” One of the most intriguing chapters considers the use of metaphors in design—for example, the deeply entrenched metaphor of the “desktop” in Apple products—and the value of finding new metaphors. The work also includes profiles of influential designers such as Henry Dreyfuss—who worked on everything from waffle irons and school desks to thermostats and washing machines—and, in an afterword from coauthor Fabricant, cofounder of Dalberg Design, helpful tips for fellow designers on incorporating user-friendly practices. The result is an erudite and insightful exploration of a revolution in human thinking that most people have probably never considered. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/09/2019
Release date: 05/21/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-1-250-75820-0
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