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Design Guru Honored

Don Norman elected to National Academy of Engineering

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February 8, 2011 | by Megan Fellman
Don Norman

Don Norman is a leader in the application of human-centered design.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Don Norman, a leader in the application of human-centered design and professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Norman was cited for his “development of design principles based on human cognition that enhance the interaction between people and technology.”

Election to the academy is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. The NAE, which acts as the federal government’s chief advisory agency on engineering and technology issues, announced the election of 68 new members and nine foreign associates today (Feb. 8).

Throughout a long career, Norman’s goal has been to transform design from art into an engineering practice.

Last year BusinessWeek listed him as one of the world’s 27 most influential designers. “All design,” Norman said, “whether of a product, a company, a service or an experience is ultimately aimed at satisfying human and societal needs.” This approach combines cognitive science, engineering and business knowledge with the skills and knowledge of the design field.

Norman joined Northwestern in 2001 and retired from the University last year. He was professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and Breed Professor of Design from 2007 to 2010. Norman was a founder and co-director of the Segal Design Institute and co-director of the MMM Program, a dual-degree program offered jointly by McCormick and the Kellogg School of Management that emphasized design and operations.

“We are as good as the reach and influence of our ideas,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School. “By this measure, Don Norman has been exceptional.”

As a consultant to industry, Norman brings a unique mix of the social sciences and engineering to bear on everyday products. He is cofounder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an executive consulting firm that helps companies produce human-centered products and services.

Norman is well known for his books “The Design of Everyday Things,” “Emotional Design” and “The Design of Future Things,” which discusses the role automation plays in everyday places, such as the home and automobile. His latest book, “Living with Complexity,” was published in September 2010.

He has served as vice president of Apple, an executive at Hewlett Packard and president of the Learning Systems division of UNext, a distance education company.

Norman was one of the founders of the Cognitive Science Society and has been chair of the society and editor of its journal, Cognitive Science. He has been a faculty member at Harvard University and is professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, where he was founding chair of the department of cognitive science and chair of the department of psychology.

Norman is Distinguished Visiting Professor at KAIST, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, in the department of industrial design. He also is a fellow of numerous scientific societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on numerous company boards and advisory boards.

RELATED STORY: Read a recent Q & A with Don Norman published May 5, 2010.