Calm Technology: Principles and Patterns for Non-Intrusive Design

Calm Technology: Principles and Patterns for Non-Intrusive Design

by Amber Case
Calm Technology: Principles and Patterns for Non-Intrusive Design

Calm Technology: Principles and Patterns for Non-Intrusive Design

by Amber Case


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How can you design technology that becomes a part of a user’s life and not a distraction from it? This practical book explores the concept of calm technology, a method for smoothly capturing a user’s attention only when necessary, while calmly remaining in the background most of the time. You’ll learn how to design products that work well, launch well, are easy to support, easy to use, and remain unobtrusive.

Author Amber Case presents ideas first introduced by researchers at Xerox PARC in 1995, and explains how they apply to our current technology landscape, especially the Internet of Things. This book is ideal for UX and product designers, managers, creative directors, and developers. You’ll learn:

  • The importance and challenge of designing technology that respects our attention
  • Principles of calm design—peripheral attention, context, and ambient awareness
  • Calm communication patterns—improving attention through a variety of senses
  • Exercises for improving existing products through calm technology
  • Principles and patterns of calm technology for companies and teams
  • The origins of calm technology at Xerox PARC

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491925881
Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/07/2016
Pages: 148
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Amber Case studies the symbiotic interactions between humans and machines — and considers how our values and culture are being shaped by living lives increasingly mediated by high technology.

Case’s 2010 TED talk on technology and the new version of homo sapiens has over 1.2 million views; she keynoted SXSW in 2012 and speaks regularly at conferences and workshops all over the world. Previously, she was the CEO of and co-founder of Geoloqi, a location-based software company acquired by Esri in 2012.

That year she was named one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers and made Inc Magazine’s 30 under 30. Case is an advocate of privacy, data ownership and calm technology.

Dubbed a “digital philosopher,” by Fast Company magazine, she is the author of An Illustrated Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology. Case lives and works in Portland, Oregon. You can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic or at

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Chapter 1 Designing for the Next 50 Billion Devices 1

Four Waves of Computing 1

The Next 50 Billion Devices 6

The Future of Technology 13

Conclusions 14

Chapter 2 Principles of Calm Technology 15

The Limited Bandwidth of Our Attention 15

Principles of Calm Technology 17

Conclusions 51

Chapter 3 Calm Communication Patterns 53

Status Indicators 54

Ambient Awareness 68

Contextual Notifications 73

Persuasive Technology 78

Conclusions 82

Chapter 4 Exercises in Calm Technology 85

A Calm Interaction Evaluation Tool 86

Exercises 90

Conclusions 99

Chapter 5 Calm Technology in Your Organization 101

Building Teams for Calm Technology 101

Design for Privacy 105

Selling Calm Technology to Managers 108

Entering a Product into Human Society: A Calm Product Launch 112

Conclusions 118

Chapter 6 The History and Future of Calm Technology 119

Videoconferencing Before Skype 120

The Beginnings of Calm Technology 121

Index 127

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