Don Norman -- Human Centered Design

Professor Emeritus
Departments of Cognitive Science and Psychology, UCSD

"People Propose, Science Studies, Technology Conforms"
My person-centered motto for the 21st century.

(Also the epilog of "Things that make us smart." Addison-Wesley, 1993.)



I'm based in Silicon Valley, California: my goal is to humanize technology, in part by making it disappear from sight, replaced by a human-centered, task-based family of information-appliances. Easy to learn, easy to use. Easy to understand. But with all the power of enhanced communication, computational systems. Information appliances, where the computer disappears into the tool and becomes invisible.

Read all about it in my new book "The Invisible Computer" (MIT Press, October, 1998). (See for excerpts.)

I offer executive-level, management consulting on human-centered design: Company audits, helpful critiques, Improved products and services, all at your call.

Photo from my Voyager CD-ROM: placed here with permission of Voyager.

WARNING: This website is incomplete and not maintained fully. My Main website is

Go to for more complete and up to date information

jnd: just noticeable difference

In the field of psychophysics, that branch of experimental psychology that studies sensation and perception, a jnd is the amount that something must be changed for the difference to be noticeable, defined to mean that the change is detectable half the time. My goal is to make a noticeable difference -- many jnds worth -- in human-centered technology.

Personal Goals

To impact the world of technology and society through human-centered design.

Today's technology, especially that of the Personal Computer, is too complex. But the potential is enormous. The new technologies offer major opportunities for work and play, learning and doing. They make the invisible visible, they permit play and exploration of even the most complex of topics, and they allow groups of people to interact constructively, even when separated by time or distance. There are new opportunities for merging television, the internet, computer-based systems, and communication into new ways of learning, working, and playing.

The goal is a human-centered approach rather than today's technology-centered one. People's needs first, technology second. We need to get away from the tool -- the computer -- and focus on support for human activities. The computer needs to disappear from sight, to become embedded in task-specific devices.

The real impact of the converging technologies is in the combination of communication and computation that thereby impacts social interaction, access to knowledge, just-in-time learning, and enjoyment. These merging industries provide for a discontinuity in services and products. Discontinuities -- major changes in technologies and markets -- provide major opportunities: the time is now.

Personal History

Today I am an executive consultant in human-centered design, located in Silicon Valley, roughly halfway between San Jose and San Francisco, and about a mile north of Stanford University (where I am a "consulting faculty").

I've experienced several kinds of jobs in the Valley. I was Vice President of Research at Apple Computer, head of Apple's Advanced Technology Group (ATG), briefly renamed Apple Research Laboratories. I helped change the product process to emphasize the total user experience from product conception through shipping.

After Apple I moved to Hewlett Packard, both in the Consumer Products Group and in HP Labs. But now I am on my own acting as an advisor to several start-up companies and providing executive-level management consulting on human-centered design. (Write if you are interested.)

Before industry, I was in academics. I'm Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in both Cognitive Science and Psychology. I was at UCSD for some 27 years. I have a BS and MS degree in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Psychology, a combination that turns out to be perfect to develop products for consumer.

At UCSD I was chair of the Psychology Department, and was a founder and first chair of the Department of Cognitive Science until I left to enter the world of high-technology products. I was one of the founders of the Cognitive Science Society, chair of the society and editor of its journal, Cognitive Science. I have the standard sort of honors one accumulates by living long enough. (I'm a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and I have an honorary degree from the University of Padua (Italy). Just call me Dottore.)

My motto is best summed up by the epigraph of my book "Things that make us Smart" which I have also put at the top of this page: "People Propose, Science Studies, Technology Conforms."


email address: or (both addresses end up at the same place)