The three ways that good design makes you happy | Don Norman In this talk from 2003, design critic Don Norman turns his incisive eye toward beauty, fun, pleasure and emotion, as he looks at design that makes people happy. He names the three emotional cues that a well-designed product must hit to succeed.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes and „Lost“ producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Watch the Top 10 TEDTalks on, at

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Comment (75)

  1. All these horrible products, like so many empty, useless smiles, are to design as pornography is to art, or candy is to cuisine. After all this "fun" I feel like I need a refractory period. Mere stimulus isn't the same as nourishment.

  2. Where there is smoke..
    SmokelessFireAngel is SPOT ON!
    As is:-VeryAwesomeVids Awesome Comment
    PanzerN9Ne :- Succinctly…Said.
    I was left with encouragement that even Old can become *Renewed*.

    Top Shelf Schttuuuphfff!!

  3. i liked the part where he was talking about the link between happiness and creativity – I hadn't thought of that. I've been interested in both subjects for quite some time and hadn't noticed the connection.

  4. True, but that's anxiety coupled with dynamism and action – i.e. the energy to drive yourself from the anxious state into confronting the task at hand, handling it and then reaping the pride of a job well done. The problem is when we are anxious, but do nothing to escape that anxiety.

  5. Dose the tea pot automatically change orientation because of the weight of the contents full vs empty? Or do the the customers just set it on its side as part of some convention explained to them by the waiter? If the former, it's kind of cool I guess. Otherwise, it's just a tea pot isn't it?

  6. Yes it is JUST a teapot but that's the point. It's simple stuff that look nice and are useable. It's about how good design can be practical and not only that but pretty things make you enjoy the time you spend using them.
    The teapot is designed differently from the conventional ones and it's smart (and pretty) because of the way it separates the water from the tealeaves.

  7. In Chinese restaurants you can leave the lid ajar to signal that it needs refilling. All that teapot does in addition is preserve the quality of the tea by preventing it from soaking the leaves until it becomes bitter. An evolution of a convention.

  8. He is only referring to temporary impulse emotion though. Sure Minis are fun, but after how many times driving it? The emotion that comes from a $13000 watch is mostly ego based and you feel happy because not everyone has a 13k watch – but will it matter the next day? Its important to have good and functional design. But sometimes there is a deeper "divine resonance" reflected in something and imo that is what real design is all about.

  9. Another one misses the point … you can work on a computer that is ugly and you can work on one that has a beautiful aesthetically pleasant design and the latter will make you feel better while working (which btw is half of Apple's success). Same goes for mp3 players, phones, watches, cars etc. … the speakers point is that good design can help everyday things make you feel better at doing everyday activities without actually changing the purpose of the tool at hand (the knife reference) …

  10. You are using a logical fallacy. The way you describe things is as if the gold plated juicer is free and whoever is using it has wasted the resources that could have been used elsewhere for free. Things in this world don't come for free and if you want a gold plated juicer you have to be either born rich or work your ass off to aquire one. However how the tax you pay on the juicer is spent is more of something your point could come in question. Perhaps not spend trillions on weapons?

  11. I am so tired of the Aristotelian argument that just because you buy something that is expensive, and pleasant, that a) you're wasteful, and b) somehow children in another part of the world are suffering because of it, as if all actions in the world were a zero-sum game. By buying into that fear of lack, you keep yourself in suffering. Fear is how the masses get manipulated to give up their freedoms in the name of a supposed 'greater good'.

  12. Millions of dollars a year are spend in foreign aid; I myself donate to a few charities. But I am under no illusion that buying an expensive, pleasant item is in any way taking away from those suffering. Because it's not. Because, even if I donated all the money I spent on XYZ, how much of it actually gets to that African village? Most of it goes to the middlemen.

  13. …So, you want a target, go bark at the warlords who take all the best parts of that foreign aid, and leave their countrymen with almost nothing. You want to make sure that your conscience is assuaged, go to Africa yourself and donate of something even more precious: time.

    Me, I work hard to buy the few luxury items I can afford. And I donate some of what little disposable income I have to local charities, where I know it will make a difference.

  14. So don't talk to me about expensive items taking food out of the mouths of babes. It's that kind of thinking that little people use to make themselves feel better by chastising those who simply want to enjoy life, because, deep down, they don't feel they deserve it, so why should anyone else?

  15. I quoted and summarized some good parts 3:55 "Pleasant thing work better" 4:45 "Fear makes you focus" 5:55 "when you are anxious, you get stuck, if you are happy you get more idea flow into your brain" 8:15 "Behavior design is all about feel of your control. Most are done unconscious"

  16. In response to the:
    4 months ago
    Let it be understood that expensive does NOT always mean wasteful, yet it depends upon (in this case) the product you are using. To have a vehicle (such as a Honda Accord) that can do the same duties (getting you from point A to B safely, quietly,efficiently) already demonstrates that to command a higher price with "frills" such as a EXPENSIVE mercedes Benz, shows a disregard for practicality and for social responsiblity & insensitivity

  17. @GooseberryFiddich – I would definitely have to agree. I started watching TEDtalks videos in my Physics class and now I got hooked. Don Norman is very interesting to listen to. His audience-centered approach in speaking makes for an interesting symposium. I also ended up watching quite a few of his other videos.

  18. I honestly think this guy has a very narrow concept of beauty. The majority of what he says just reflects that he has a lot of money and is trying to buy fun and happiness… a gold plated juicer he doesn't even use… come on people.

  19. @fionamonne He may have worked really hard to buy a gold plated juicer, good for him, but in all reality his fascination with material things make him appear a fairly sad and boring individual (to me)

  20. @kasanemo I agree, I think his fascination with material bobbles is just plain pathetic. He reminds me of my deeply unhappy father who only keeps the appearance of happiness afloat by buying whatever "pretty" (and usually ridiculously expensive) item he fancies. No matter how useless and completely unnecessary the item is. Honestly his explanation is lacking a lot.

  21. @achilleask Well… Sure.. the teapot is one example.. but this guy is really just pointing out a cool teapot.. why doesn't he design something practical and useful instead of showing us stuff we will see on some blog tomorrow

  22. @25soraya02 That's kind of the point he's making here — that what he's said in the past needed to be said, but that there is also room for aesthetics that go beyond the merely practical. Things that serve a particular function need to be first and foremost functional and usable, but they can also be beautiful while sacrificing nothing. And there is room in the world as well for things whose only function is beauty.

  23. Not a bad speech at all but there's one important thing that I think it's missing although I understand the point of the talk was not an "open minding sceneario" rather a sneak peak on how design in terms of aesthetics combined with function can have an impact on our brain but the important thing that is missing here in my opinion is that those principles of aesthetics and visual pleasure that he's talking about are learnt by social behavior and culture, the CASIO kinda watch can be ugly for some people but it's fancy and trendy for some others in the same geographical spot but in different time ages so it's almost impossible to predict or to know wheter a product can be loved or considered "neat" for a broad majority of people but anyway I thought it was a nice speech ^^

  24. went over my head. i got what levels/types of thought processes occur when one looks at an object and assesses it's design instictively, i got the breath first/depth first solving part, but could not grasp the answer to the question "what are the 3 ways that good design makes you happy", which is the topic of the talk.

  25. I'm studying the Gestalt principles as applied to software design and this lecture falls nicely into place. everything seems to make sense once you understand the basic rules of good design

  26. I disagree with his 'reflective' category- the way he pus it, reflective seems to mean being aware of what the other person is going to say about your product choice- that doesn't tie in at all with the word 'reflective' or the idea of reflection.

    A good talk otherwise. Norman always comes up with good real-world examples- There's a book I read by him some time ago-he comes up with examples that a lot of people seem to miss, such as salt-shakers!

  27. Humorous, entertaining, shrewd in some points, and memorable.Don Norman has used all three emotional designs within his presentation of  “emotional design” making this unforgettable lesson. I can only assume that was his intent, just brilliantly done.

  28. That is so interesting. I am reading Donald Norman's reading on design of everyday things at 11pm. And I am so tired. But this video makes me energetic again!As a definite type of visual learner, thanks for people who made and uploaded it.

  29. The teapot is one the most awful reinventing of wheel i've seen in awhile.. First, it is overtly complex for no real function, requires user to carefully rotate the vessel containing hot liquids absolutely right way, it can topple over, the lid will drop off when tilted to pour the tea (i see there is counterbalance weight in the lid but this doesn't not make me feel it is safe) and the worst: you are tilting it, in the direction where there is an opening at the top edge.. Meaning, the liquid level has to be correct, any overfill or even too much tilt in a hurry will pour hot liquids out from the top. The function is to keep leaves out but there is no strain of sift of any kind, just a internal ledge… If you have made tea you will know that not all parts of it float.. so you will have stuff in the water anyway.

    I don't know if that is meant to be a joke though, it is so stupid and cumbersome, it does not explain how to use by just looking at it. It can not work without further modifications to the internal container shape, lid has to be locked and watertight.. Making it in the end when fully optimized, half effective in it's main task… There are plenty of better solutions how to strain the leaves, like.. i don't know, sifts and strains that collect solids from water, like we have been doing the last, i'm not sure, 10 000 years?

  30. Design (מִתכָּן) is important. I'm thinking more about urban/interior design here; but good design is important. For example, how do people live at home? Scanning through TED videos, I came across different talks on the subject; but nothing quite addressed some root problems. At the moment, we have designers trying to cater for increasing populations. The Earth is mostly water, much of the ground isn't very solid or stable…. where do you want to put so many people? However, being proactive is important also. We need to design infrastructure that will resist calamity. I'm not talking about just earthquake-proof buildings, etc., I'm talking about regulation, appropriately spacious structures, organisational frameworks/social networks like how entire states are run. Also, child policies to control overpopulation, are just as much an important part of the design process. The proper design was introduced about 2000 years ago with Christ (יֵשׁוּעַ), when there were about 200-600 million people on the planet. Look at all the disasters since then for not adhering to it. Anyway. Design. Being proactive.

    Let's take something simple like interior design. Good interior design isn't just about furniture. It's also about regulation. How can you design societies, whereby parents can divorce, own multiple properties for investment rather than investing in the family, try to normalise the process in front of everyone, creating situations of oedipalisation and bad health? – Is that design not completely disgusting and demented to you? When you see floods sweep away, or earthquakes crack open, the spaces where such bad designs are laid, does it not make you think about prioritising God? So. A good design for example, would be to make laws based on a theocratic structure where the Church (I'm talking about the overall original church – the Knesya (כְּנֵסִיָה) – not just the Catholic Church), has the power to intervene in people's family lives if they're making a mess. Church enforcers should have the power to enter people's homes for a week, to resolve problems, to nip problems in the bud. Kids, when reaching the age of 12, should have more private space in the home, in order to develop more healthily. At present, there are no such regulations anywhere for this. Some parents provide it, just out of being sensible parents; many don't care. – You're making societies of dwarfs, sick people. God's original design was more spacious; the Golden Ratio (יחס הזהב), you can't beat it. This will bite you all hard in the future, as it has already. Church intervention in homes for example, needs detailed regulation; but the idea is this. Thank you Don Norman for highlighting the importance of design.


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