Turn Signals are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles

Donald Norman

Addison-Wesley, 1992

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

From water faucets and airplane cockpits to the concept of ”real time” and the future of memory, this wide-ranging tour through technology provides a new understanding of how the gadgets that surround us affect our lives. Donald Norman explores the plight of humans living in a world ruled by a technology that seems to exist for its own sake, oblivious to the needs of the people who create it. Turn Signals is an intelligent, whimsical, curmudgeonly look at our love/hate relationship with machines, as well as a persuasive call for the humanization of modern design.


"Norman, in the first third of this entertaining and instructive volume, exposes clumsy design practices in water faucets, doors, stoves, kitchens and the U.S. Post Office's new stamp machine. The examples he cites are sometimes hilarious; for instance, an elevated monorail train in Australia requires a full-time attendant to prevent passengers from putting their tokens in the wrong slot. The rest of the book consists of engaging mini-essays on such topics as the use of refrigerator doors as message centers, the 'real time' of computers versus psychological time, automotive signaling and cognitive aids in airplane cockpits... He serves up an eminently sensible smorgasbord of ideas, critiques and design insights."
Publisher's Weekly


"Writing clearly with humor and arresting insights, Norman analyzes such diverse topics as refrigerators as message centers in the home and pilots who place empty coffee cups over certain switches to avoid cockpit errors. Recommended."
—Library Journal


"Norman argues for logical relations between a stove's knobs and its burners ('affordance mapping'') and for the efforts a writer owes to readers. The book's technical jargon is minimal and its author writes with the apparent ease of an Asimov. An engaging work by a benign technocrat who has designs on our minds."
Kirkus Reviews