Living with Complexity

Donald Norman

The MIT Press, 2010

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

If only today's technology were simpler! It's the universal lament, but it's wrong. 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.

Norman gives us a crash course in the virtues of complexity. Designers have to produce things that tame complexity. But we too have to do our part: we have to take the time to learn the structure and practice the skills. This is how we mastered reading and writing, driving a car, and playing sports, and this is how we can master our complex tools.

Complexity is good. Simplicity is misleading. The good life is complex, rich, and rewarding -- but only if it is understandable, sensible, and meaningful.


Living with Complexity selected by Helen Walters of  Core77 as one of 11 Best Innovation and Design Books of 2010


“He writes lucidly enough to be read by a child of 10 - yet interestingly enough to entrance an adult who (like me) has reviled the frustrations of our technological environment for decades… Deep and enjoyably nail-hitting insights and recommendations fill his book. Yet it induced deep melancholy in me. Norman hears the music, but the world does not. The flood of maldesigned junk persists… If you resonate with what I've said, you will like Norman's calm voice, keen observations and sage counsel about what could be done. Read his book.”
The Times Higher Education


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

"The world, it seems, is becoming ever more complex. While some view this as a problem, Don Norman sees it as an opportunity. In Living with Complexity, he brilliantly shows how, in a partnership between users and designers, we can tame the ravages of complex technology and complex situations to create experiences that work."
Tim Brown, CEO and president, IDEO