Democratizing Design by Don Norman

For Don Norman, design is a way of thinking. Human-centered design puts the focus upon the people being served by the design. This means that the underlying issues are being addressed, and recognizes that all important human problems are part of complex sociotechnical systems. He is a firm believer in observing, thinking, and then designing by continual tests and refinements of the ideas.

Norman’s current challenge is to use these principles to democratize design, making this approach to important issues available to everyone. The goal is to empower everyone globally by providing them with the resources to help themselves. These resources would include modular education–available just when needed– toolkits, modules of appropriate technology, items that people from different cultures, with differential access to infrastructure can use and modify, the better to fit their needs. All modifications go back into the general open source repository of tools and knowledge modules, continually expanding the range and utility. Community networks will help groups share knowledge.

This is a huge, exciting challenge requiring resources from across the university, the country, and the world. Even if some problems remain unsolved, we would leave behind a better educated populace, who have available ever-improving toolkits, technological aids, and the knowledge of how to apply their new capabilities. Our legacy will be in the empowerment of societies.