The Center for Academic Enrichment in the Office of Undergraduate Education, the Library and the First-Year Common Reading Selection Committee are excited to announce the 2013 First-Year Common reading is Donald Norman’s Living with Complexity (MIT Press, 2010). All incoming first-year students will receive a copy at FASET orientation and are expected to have read it by the first day of fall classes (August 19, 2013). The book will be used in some English 1101/1102 sections, GT1000 sections, and other first-year courses and programs. In addition, all faculty, staff, and upperclass students are invited to join our freshmen in reading this book. Faculty who plan to use the text in a first-year course may request a free desk copy (see below).
If only today’s technology were simpler! It’s the universal lament, but it’s wrong. We don't want simplicity. Simple tools are not up to the task. The world is complex; our tools need to match that complexity.
Simplicity turns out to be more complex than we thought. 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. But even such simple things as salt and pepper shakers, doors, and light switches become complicated when we have to deal with many of them, each somewhat different. Managing complexity, says Norman, is a partnership. 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.
Donald A. Norman
Business Week has named Don Norman as one of the world’s most influential designers. He has been both a professor and an executive: he was Vice President of Advanced Technology at Apple; his company, the Nielsen Norman Group, helps companies produce human-centered products and services; he has been on the faculty at Harvard, the University of California, San Diego, Northwestern University, and KAIST, in South Korea. He is the author of many books, including The Design of Everyday Things, The Invisible Computer (MIT Press, 1998), Emotional Design, and The Design of Future Things.
INFORMATION FOR INCOMING FRESHMEN
All incoming freshmen will receive their copy of the book when they attend their FASET orientation session. Students attending FASET sessions 1-4 will receive a print copy of the book. For students who are attending FASET sessions 5 or 6, you may request an e-book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, FASET session you are attending, and the last 7 digits of your GTID (if known). If you are not attending FASET orientation, you will need to purchase a copy of the book at your favorite bookseller.
All students are expected to have read the book by the first day of classes, August 19, 2013.
INFORMATION FOR FACULTY AND STAFF
Faculty who plan to use the text in a first-year course may contact Dr. Nirmal Trivedi in the Center for Academic Enrichment at email@example.com for a desk copy. Faculty or staff who would like to develop a program using the book may also contact the Center.
In addition, the Center for Academic Enrichment is offering curriculum development grants to faculty who would like to integrate the book into a first-year course. For information on these grants, please email Steven Girardot, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students of all disciplines will find Donald Norman’s book useful and insightful. Living with Complexity asks readers to connect the dots among our perspectives as creators, innovators, designers, engineers, and—perhaps most importantly—consumers and users of new technologies.
In his most recent book, Norman argues that we shouldn’t seek simplicity, that we should, instead, seek complexity that does justice to our complex experiences and minds. Eventually, most Georgia Tech students internalize this lesson in their academic and professional lives—whether they study ID, ISyE, BME, ME, CE, CEE; whether they design computers or houses; engineer transportation, infrastructure, mechanics, or electronics; write code, public policy, games, or other arguments.
As an institution at the forefront of innovation, Georgia Tech has a responsibility to educate and influence the world on how to think of technology in today’s and tomorrow’s complex world. In turn, Georgia Tech students have a responsibility to be mindful of what makes technology good; how technology done well makes life better; why it’s important to differentiate between simple, complex, and over-complicated design. Above all, this book asks us to think, re-think, and design technology empathetically, practically, and with interdisciplinary perspectives in mind, and that’s why we’ve selected it as the 2013 First-Year Reading Program book.
Related Resources & Links
Ideas for further listening, reading, and viewing:
- MIT Press: Living with Complexity
- Donald Norman’s website
- Donald Norman’s TED Profile
- TED Talk: “3 Ways Good Design Makes You Happy”
- Stanford Lecture: Living with Complexity
- University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Lecture: Living with Complexity
- Edward Tufte’s website
- Inge Druckrey’s Teaching to See
- Human Factors & Ergonomics Society—Educational Resources
- Human Factors & Ergonomics Society—Georgia Tech Chapter
- Bad Design in Atlanta Competition
- Chris Sugrue’s website (digital artist whose work Norman features in chapter 2)
- Signals, Truth, Design (forthcoming book about sociable media design Norman mentions)