In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need. Spanning over a century of sweeping changes, from women’s rights to the Great Depression to World War II to the rise of the digital era, this book unpacks the ways in which the world has been—and continues to be—remade according to the principles of the once-obscure discipline of user-experience design.
In this essential text, Kuang and Fabricant map the hidden rules of the designed world and shed light on how those rules have caused our world to change—an underappreciated but essential history that’s pieced together for the first time. Combining the expertise and insight of a leading journalist and a pioneering designer, User Friendly provides a definitive, thoughtful, and practical perspective on a topic that has rapidly gone from arcane to urgent to inescapable. In User Friendly, Kuang and Fabricant tell the whole story for the first time—and you’ll never interact with technology the same way again.
About the Author
Cliff Kuang is an award-winning journalist and UX designer. He was previously the head of UX at Fast Company, as well as its design editor. In that role, he founded Co.Design, one of the world’s leading design publications.
Robert Fabricant is the former Vice President of Creative for Frog Design, one of the leading industrial-design studios of the last fifty years, and an award-winning cofounder and partner at Dalberg Design.
"User Friendly is a tour de force, an engrossing fusion of scholarly research, professional experience and revelations from intrepid firsthand reporting."
—EDWARD TENNER, The New York Times Book Review
“[An] engrossing history of how the design of commercial products and technological innovations came to be singularly focused on the user experience . . . [A]n erudite and insightful exploration of a revolution in human thinking that most people have probably never considered.”
“A readable, instructive study of the role of design in making our lives easier to live . . . Of a piece with the work of Henry Petroski or Donald Norman, Kuang and Fabricant’s book serves up plenty of useful examples and offers a few rules for would-be designers, the very first of which is 'start with the user.' A book that belongs on every designer’s shelf—and that consumers of design will enjoy, too.”
“User Friendly weaves a stirring and unexpected story of how the machine age gave way to the iPhone era. Monolithic tools of war became chipper assistants, but at a price. Passionate and poised, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant show us how friendliness mapped a new root structure for the simmering chaos of the recent internet.”
—ALEXIS MADRIGAL, author of Powering the Dream
“In this epic work, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant offer us compulsively readable successor to The Design of Everyday Things. They have crafted a definitive narrative as well-designed as the products that grace its pages.”
—BRIAN MERCHANT, author of The One Device
“Digital-era design has strived to eliminate the user manual: To make and sell us things that ‘just work.’ But this leaves us uncertain how things work—or why they’ve been made to work the way they do. User Friendly gives us the answers. It’s the missing manual to the designed world, and that’s just what we need.”
—ROB WALKER, author of The Art of Noticing
“Happy, shiny, smiley gadgets! They're everywhere, and they're watching us. User-friendliness is the cognitive lubricant that makes us love the stuff we use. This fascinating book unveils how—and why—that love was crafted.”
—ELLEN LUPTON, author of Beautiful Users: Designing for People
“User Friendly is compulsory reading for the current age, in which business and society have turned to design in pursuit of growth and change. But design means little without empathy, and this book lays out a remarkable tale of how that insight became truth. This essential work shows why design has to be at the center of the human enterprise.”
—TIM BROWN, Chair of IDEO and author of Change by Design
“User Friendly illuminates our current age, where our devices strive to know us better than we know ourselves. Anyone who cares about the fraught but increasingly urgent role that design plays in our lives owes it to themselves to read this hugely compelling book.”
—SCOTT DADICH, former Editor-in-Chief, Wired, and creator of Abstract: The Art of Design
“Rarely do I dog-ear pages as much as I did with this book. Engrossing and rich with rarely-told stories and interviews, User Friendly gives critical insights to make us better, smarter consumers of design. And it shows us how those ideas will shape the world to come. It is a must read for anyone who cares about design and the challenges it has to meet in the coming decades.”
—JOE GEBBIA, co-founder of Airbnb
“When I had to stop, mid-reading, and send one of the stories in this book to a colleague, I knew it was instantly indispensable—whether for well-versed designers or anyone who’s ever questioned the design of everyday life. Rarely does a book have the power to turn any reader into a more conscious participant in the world around us. You need to read it.”
—LIZ DANZICO, Chair of the Interaction Design MFA program at the School of Visual Arts