don wrote that

from CHI-WEB archives — August 2002, week 3 (#8) “People talk the way they talk. You can’t hold […]

from CHI-WEB archives — August 2002, week 3 (#8)

“People talk the way they talk. You can’t hold back changes in language. It is a mistake to try. Moreover, my entire design philosophy is based around the concept of learning from users. When people use a word inappropriately, but consistently, it means that there is a gap that needs to be filled, that no word exists to describe the concept needed and the old word has been expanded to cover the gap. So I have given in: Affordances covers the concept of perceptible signs about the meanings of interface elements.”

my hero.


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  1. 2

    I thought that title was reserved for Nielson… 😉

    Really though, I always thought Don was the “cooler” one. (Could be my personal bias since he founded the cogsci department at my alma mater)

    This quote gives me a warm glad feeling:

    “I’d like to be a language purist: but language is no different than any design field: respect the way people really behave, not the way you wish they would behave.”

  2. 3

    Nope, Don’s definitely the more curmudgeonly of the two. I saw this confirmed when I spent an entire hour at CHI 99 watching him step on the comments of the two people he was sharing a stage with to berate the audience at great length for not being executives. In order to have any influence on product design, we have to give up this silly HCI stuff and become Vice Presidents, like him. The underlying message, that you need to speak the language of the people with the money in order to have an impact, was pretty much lost due to the manner in which he treated his audience, his peers, and his co-presenters. I damn near walked out on him. Jakob seems pretty harmless in person by comparison.

  3. 4

    Don is certainly the warmer one; Jakob strikes me as simply a geeky, lecturing whiner. Don took time to meet with me while he was still at HP in Palo Alto. I was a newbie to IA, a convert from commercial architectural design (buildings – the 3D kind :).

    Criticism based on human behaviors, scientifically backed via years of research and continued growth (Don) is more compelling than isolated, molecular critique (Jakob). Then again, it could be a personality clash, my aversion to Jakob. I took their rants at the NNG shows as presentation entertainment.

    Humanity is square one. Pretty much the core of Don’s philosophies all along. Besides, he makes me think. 🙂

    Kudos to him on embracing his own humanity!

    A wise man changes his mind; a fool never will.
    Spanish Proverb

  4. 5

    a wise man continues to associate himself with a term he proclaims to have invented even when the meaning changes or evolves

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