User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play Hardcover – Illustrated, 19 November 2019
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"[An] engrossing history of how the design of commercial products and technological innovations came to be singularly focused on the user experience . . . [A]n erudite and insightful exploration of a revolution in human thinking that most people have probably never considered."
--Kirkus Reviews "User Friendly weaves a stirring and unexpected story of how the machine age gave way to the iPhone era. Monolithic tools of war became chipper assistants, but at a price. Passionate and poised, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant show us how friendliness mapped a new root structure for the simmering chaos of the recent internet."
--ALEXIS MADRIGAL, author of Powering the Dream "In this epic work, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant offer us compulsively readable successor to The Design of Everyday Things. They have crafted a definitive narrative as well-designed as the products that grace its pages."
--BRIAN MERCHANT, author of The One Device "Digital-era design has strived to eliminate the user manual: To make and sell us things that 'just work.' But this leaves us uncertain how things work--or why they've been made to work the way they do. User Friendly gives us the answers. It's the missing manual to the designed world, and that's just what we need."
--ROB WALKER, author of The Art of Noticing "Happy, shiny, smiley gadgets! They're everywhere, and they're watching us. User-friendliness is the cognitive lubricant that makes us love the stuff we use. This fascinating book unveils how--and why--that love was crafted."
--ELLEN LUPTON, author of Beautiful Users: Designing for People "User Friendly is compulsory reading for the current age, in which business and society have turned to design in pursuit of growth and change. But design means little without empathy, and this book lays out a remarkable tale of how that insight became truth. This essential work shows why design has to be at the center of the human enterprise."
--TIM BROWN, Chair of IDEO and author of Change by Design "User Friendly illuminates our current age, where our devices strive to know us better than we know ourselves. Anyone who cares about the fraught but increasingly urgent role that design plays in our lives owes it to themselves to read this hugely compelling book."
--SCOTT DADICH, former Editor-in-Chief, Wired, and creator of Abstract: The Art of Design "Rarely do I dog-ear pages as much as I did with this book. Engrossing and rich with rarely-told stories and interviews, User Friendly gives critical insights to make us better, smarter consumers of design. And it shows us how those ideas will shape the world to come. It is a must read for anyone who cares about design and the challenges it has to meet in the coming decades."
--JOE GEBBIA, co-founder of Airbnb "When I had to stop, mid-reading, and send one of the stories in this book to a colleague, I knew it was instantly indispensable--whether for well-versed designers or anyone who's ever questioned the design of everyday life. Rarely does a book have the power to turn any reader into a more conscious participant in the world around us. You need to read it."
--LIZ DANZICO, Chair of the Interaction Design MFA program at the School of Visual Arts
About the Author
Robert Fabricant is the former Vice President of Creative for Frog Design, one of the leading industrial-design studios of the last fifty years, and an award-winning cofounder and partner at Dalberg Design.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I have found the most revealing how ease of use of equipment came to prominence only recently, despite the obvious (in hindsight?) proofs how catastrophic a bad design can be - be it a bomber plane, lawn mower or nuclear power station. It is difficult for people to change beliefs, the notion of “human error” lingered for far too long. By the same token, new products have to build upon contemporary mental models; if they are too dissimilar then almost nobody will adopt them. Early cars experimented with tillers, as they were familiar to people with boat-piloting experience (and nobody had experience with automobiles). Sometimes a product is released ahead of its time, failing not necessarily of technical shortcomings but rather because nobody has experiences allowing to use it without friction, to recognize its metaphor.
Another eye-opener - as technology evolves to be simpler to use, it becomes invisible. Ultimately, the whole environment will anticipate and seamlessly support the needs of customers. The forefront of such changes lies in companies which have total control of their environments - like Disney in its parks, or Carnival with cruise ships. There, customer journeys can be designed end-to-end, with every component - sensors, wall screens, personnel training - engineered and controlled by a single organisation. However, with projects of such scale, seamless experience is threatened by the inability of large organisations to operate under a common vision. Politics, feuds between departments, distrust between teams - all of that shows in the finished product as cracks in otherwise smooth experience. And once your customers notice the technology behind, the magic is gone.
The book is filled with many such lessons, particularly revealing for readers not educated in the design field. Some reviewers claim that it falls short of giving enough detail on how exactly designers work and how companies differ in methodologies. That may be true, but the authors’ intent is clear - to describe a high-level overview of many elements comprising the design craft. And I cannot state enough how enjoyable is their story. Highly recommended.
Reviewed in the United States on 17 December 2019
Reviewed in the United States on 3 December 2019