Guest (maybe you could sign in, it would be nice and make you seem well, more ‘human’ to me if you did) My apologies for the late reply…
I am trying to take this business of “human factors” perhaps a little bit to the extreme. “Human factors” has traditionally limited itself to dealing primarily with the physical aspects of being human, and how physical constraints quite rightly affect design. I have no truck at all with this. It is important and will continue to be as long as we have bodies and senses.
I think that in the future though, design might have to begin to become more expert in the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of “human factors.” (That word “factors” to me has always carried an unnecessarily nerdy, math teacher connotation for a discipline that is much more than that, but I cannot think of a better word at the moment). So anyway, here are a few books that might be useful to designers that explore what is might mean to be human. They are in no particular order of importance, nor would I classify them as “required” for anyone in design, since most designers I work with don’t really like to read so much ass leaf through books:
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz - For designers, the problem is not only about creating landfill, consumers are faced with far too many choices these days. This proliferation of choice creates its own set of problems.
The Elementary Particles by Michel Hollebecq reads like 3rd rate pornography most of the way, but its stunning genius as a philosophical novel of ideas (in the tradition of Huxley) is revealed at the end. It is warped, flawed, damaged but an undeniably accurate assessment of the past 40 years. A must read.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is like his other book, The Tipping Point, are must reads if only because most clients of designers will be reading them. They are both a little repetitively written, "He is a burly man who has a non-descript office on Manhattan’s upper west side…"etc. Both offer a pastische of commercial phenomena, psychological experiments and novel analogies between different contexts.
These books are not guidebooks for optimal button placement and the like, but rather, they challenge readers to ask what it means to be human - something designers would do well to do too.
What do people think? There are lots of good books out there…