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Recommended books for designers of all levels

🔥 Campfire 30: Regardless of your education, you must understand the fundamentals of the field. These books will provide you with that solid foundation, allowing you to think differently about design and inspire your next design project.

Alex Dovhyi
Alex Dovhyi
5 min read
Recommended books for designers of all levels

Designers come from various backgrounds, with some studying their craft in school and others learning independently.

Regardless of your education, you must understand the fundamentals of the field. These books will provide you with that solid foundation, allowing you to think differently about design and inspire your next design project.

Product design is a complex discipline that necessitates careful research and understanding of your user. These books will undoubtedly help your progression as a designer.

Creative Confidence by Dave & Tom Kelly

A powerful and inspiring book from the award-winning design firm IDEO's founders on unleashing the creativity that exists within each of us.

David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, as well as in our personal lives, in an entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO and with many of the world's top companies and design firms.

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Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

This is a timely exploration of fascinating human behavior that is entertaining and informative. At the same time, it provides superbly practical insights by demonstrating strategies such as the “Velcro Theory of Memory” and “curiosity gaps.”

Made to Stick employs cutting-edge research to ensure that what you say is understood, remembered, and, most importantly, acted upon.

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Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Since Don’t Make Me Think was first published in 2000, hundreds of thousands of Web designers and developers have relied on usability guru Steve Krug’s guide to help them understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design. Witty, commonsensical, and eminently practical, it’s one of the best-loved and most recommended books on the subject.

Now Steve returns with a fresh perspective to reexamine the principles that made Don’t Make Me Think a classic–with updated examples and a new chapter on mobile usability. And it’s still short, profusely illustrated…and best of all–fun to read.

If you’ve read it before, you’ll rediscover what made Don’t Make Me Think so essential to Web designers and developers worldwide. If you’ve never read it, you’ll see why so many people have said it should be required reading for anyone working on Web sites.

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Business Model by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur

Business Model Generation is a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises. If your organization needs to adapt to harsh new realities but you don't yet have a strategy to get you out in front of your competitors, you need Business Model Generation.

The book features practical innovation techniques used today by leading consultants and companies worldwide, including 3M, Ericsson, Capgemini, Deloitte, and others.

Designed for doers, it is for those ready to abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new value creation models: for executives, consultants, entrepreneurs, and leaders of all organizations. If you're ready to change the rules, you belong to "the business model generation!"

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Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown

Consider the Growth Hacking methodology to be what Lean Start-Up was to product development and Scrum was to productivity. It entails cross-functional teams and rapid-paced testing and iteration focusing on customers: acquiring, retaining, engaging, and motivating them to return and buy more.

This book walks readers through the process of creating and executing their own custom-made growth hacking strategy, which is an accessible and practical toolkit that teams and companies in all industries can use to increase their customer base and market share.

It is required reading for any marketer, entrepreneur, innovator, or manager seeking to replace wasteful big bets and "spaghetti-on-the-wall" approaches with more consistent, replicable, cost-effective, and data-driven results.

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The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Even the brightest of us can lack confidence when we can't figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on or whether to push, pull, or slide a door. The fault, according to this brilliant book, is in product design that ignores user needs and cognitive psychology principles.

The issues range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, all while being accompanied by a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable memorization demands.

The Design of Everyday Things demonstrates that good, usable design is achievable. The rules are simple: make things visible, take advantage of natural relationships that link function and control, and use constraints intelligently.

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The Best Interface Is No Interface by Golden Krishna

Screens have taken over our lives. Most people spend over eight hours a day staring at a screen, and some “technological innovators” are hoping to grab even more of your eyeball time. You have screens in your pocket, in your car, on your appliances, and maybe even on your face. Average smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day, responding to the addictive buzz of Facebook or emails, or Twitter.

Are you sick? There’s an app for that! Need to pray? There’s an app for that! Dead? Well, there’s an app for that, too! And most apps are intentionally addictive distractions that distract our attention from things like family, friends, sleep, and oncoming traffic.

There’s a better way.

In this book, innovator Golden Krishna challenges our world of nagging, screen-based bondage and shows how we can build a technologically advanced world without digital interfaces.

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Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell

Good application interface design is difficult now that businesses must create compelling, seamless user experiences across many channels, screens, and contexts. You'll learn how to navigate the maze of design options in this updated third edition. This best-selling book solves common design problems by capturing UI best practices as design patterns.

Patterns for mobile apps, web applications, and desktop software will be covered. Each pattern includes full-color examples as well as practical design advice that you can use right away. Experienced designers will find this guide useful as a sourcebook for ideas, while newcomers will find it useful as a road map to the world of interface and interaction design.

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Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Why do some products gain widespread popularity while others fail? What drives us to buy certain products out of habit? Is there a pattern to how technologies entice us?

Nir Eyal answers these (and many other) questions by describing the Hook Model, a four-step process embedded in the products of many successful businesses to encourage customer behavior subtly. These products achieve their ultimate goal of bringing users back repeatedly without relying on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

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100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

We create in order to elicit responses from people. We want them to buy something, read more, or take action. Designing without understanding what motivates people to behave in certain ways is akin to exploring a new city without a map: the results will be haphazard, confusing, and inefficient.

This book combines real science and research with practical examples to provide a reference for every designer. It will allow you to create more intuitive and engaging work for print, websites, applications, and products that correspond to how people think, work and play.

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You can learn a lot by watching and practicing with great product designers. You can also learn from your own trial and error. Take the time to read these books to round out your product design talent and make an unmistakably amazing impact on the world.

The most important thing to remember when designing products is that they are intended for human consumption. To create great products, you must provide the right features and user experience for the right people.

Hopefully, the design books mentioned in this article will help you lay a solid foundation for your product design process.


Alex Dovhyi Twitter

Product designer exploring design’s interplay with product, business, and technology, and answering your questions about freelancing, career, and personal growth.


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