Illustration by Nayane de Souza Hablitzel
With everyone working from home, now is the perfect time to catch-up on reading. These UX design books will help you get back to work sharper than ever.
Continuous learning and curiosity are important attributes for experience designers, as the field is always evolving, and you need to keep expanding your skills. Reading from a wide variety of sources and types of books is a great way to continue your learning journey. There are many great publishers out there that focus on technology, UX and design topics, like Rosenfeld Media, A Book Apart, and O’ Reilly Media. But don’t stop there! Drawing inspiration and knowledge from a wider range of topics and sources such as psychology, business, and social science makes you a better designer. To get you inspired and get your reading list started, we’ve picked three classics every designer should read. And, we reached out to the design community and asked practicing designers to share the books that have shaped their work.
Three Classic UX Books Every Designer Should Read
Many UX designers find themselves in the position of being the lone designer in an organization. Advocating for and trying to do great UX work can be lonely and challenging. The User Experience Team of One aims to equip designers with the tips and practices which will make them successful in their roles, even with limited resources. It contains invaluable advice on how to prioritize your efforts for maximum effectiveness.
Read this if: you’re struggling to get buy in and establish UX design in your organization.
People are at the centre of experience design – everything we do as designers is with the goal of improving people’s experiences and outcomes. Understanding people is core to being a great designer! This book covers key behavioural insights from behavioural science that are highly relevant to design – covering topics like how people see, read, think and what motivates them. 100 Things Every Designer Should Know About People is an amazing reference book to come back to over and over again when designing, in order to make experiences memorable, improve conversion rates, and usability.
Read this if: you want a comprehensive reference guide to the most important behavioural insights about what makes people tick.
Lean UX by Jeff Golthelf and Josh Seiden
How can you be sure that you are building and designing the right things? In Lean UX, Jeff Golthelf and Josh Seiden lay out a way of thinking about and building amazing products that work well for users and business. They provide invaluable insight into how product, technology and UX can work together to validate ideas quickly and iteratively. The book also contains case studies and examples of these approaches being applied in agencies, financial services and many other industries.
Read this if: you need to understand how UX can collaborate with product and technology to deliver value to customers in a smart and iterative fashion.
Seven Books The Experience Design Community Loves
Topics: Design, Drawing, Communicating Ideas
Submitted by: David Nuff, an interdisciplinary designer who has worked on interaction design, branding, and interactive installations.
Sketching and drawing are a central part of the experience designer’s process and toolkit. Being able to effectively sketch your ideas in order to communicate and get buy-in is a hugely valuable skill. The book explores the role and purpose of drawing in the design process, and is illustrated with many examples.
Here’s how David describes the book: “Part instructional reference book, part “literature”, Drawing Ideas comprehensively discusses methods, materials and philosophy with regards to drawing. Interviews with designers and lots of examples show the many roles drawing can play in the design process.”
Read this if: you’re looking to level up your sketching practice.
Topics: Design Research
Submitted by: Raymond Tiong, UX Researcher at Xero.
Doing great design means being literate in design research, so that you can understand your user. Just Enough Research was submitted by several people as one of the best books for experience designers. (It’s one of my personal favourites to lend to students, I actually have two copies myself!) This is an amazing primer covering the key methods and approaches to uncovering user needs through UX research, as well as framing how to show the value of research and get buy-in from stakeholders. It’s an essential part of any designers’ toolkit!
As Raymond puts it: “This book addresses many practical questions about conducting UX research – and does so with clarity and wit. Although it’s primarily about design research, this book is relevant for anyone in a position to influence decisions or recommendations.”
Read this if: you want to get better at doing UX research.
Topics: Business, Design, Inclusion, Accessibility
Submitted by: Alicia Jarvis, Senior Digital Accessibility Specialist, Inclusion Researcher, Designer and Strategist
Alicia highlighted two books that will help designers to grow their understanding of accessibility and inclusion. Understanding these topics ensures that the products and services you design are delightful and usable for the widest range of users possible. And it’s good for business! Unleash Different makes the business case for serving customers with disabilities, and draws on author Rich Donovan’s experiences as a trader at Merrill Lynch, and the CEO of Return on Disability Group.
As a companion to this book, Strategic IT Accessibility outlines a blueprint for accessibility strategy for any organization. The book takes a holistic look at enabling accessibility across an organization, and the second edition was released in Feb 2020, taking into account the legislative, technical and governance changes since the first edition in 2011.
From Alicia’s perspective: “These two books are essential reads for anyone looking to start up an accessibility program or improve their organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.”
Read Jeff Kline’s books if: you are sharpening your accessibility and inclusive design skills.
Topics: Design, Business, Psychology
Submitted by: Matoula Sarantinou, Creative Designer
In Creative Confidence, David and Tom Kelley shatter the myth that only some people are creative, and provide guidance on how to tap into your creative potential in your work and life. They share stories from their projects at IDEO and their experiences working with many of the world’s most successful companies.
Martoula shared that: “This book highlights how to better cultivate a proper mindset, for all parties and audiences involved in a design process, where creativity is a key factor which everyone may unleash and co-design with. It’s a great book for empowering a participatory design approach.”
Read this if: you want some inspiration and a creative confidence boost!
Topics: Design, Healthcare
Submitted by: Jennifer Lu, a Service and UX Designer working within the healthcare system
The healthcare system is ripe with challenges and opportunities for innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this issue more than ever. If you’re a designer working in healthcare, or interested in understanding how design is being used in a healthcare context, this book is for you. The book is filled with real-world projects and examples of applying design to health.
For Jennifer, it’s being put into practice in her work. “This book provides a good overview with great case studies of utilizing human centred design in a healthcare setting. My team and myself are currently leveraging research tools in this book to facilitate co-creation & co-design workshops with hospital stakeholders, patients and end-users to optimize our internal processes and revitalize our physical spaces due to COVID-19.”
Read this if: you want to get inspired by the application of design to some of the most challenging problems in healthcare.
Topics: Social Change, Power, Activism
Submitted by: Taylor Kim, a Design Researcher and Service Designer
Rules for Radicals is a classic activism book that was first published in 1971. Alinsky’s goal was to create a guide for organizers of social movements who sought to shift systems. His organizing principles and methods have been used for many years by various groups seeking change. Designers need to understand organizations, influence and power in order to be able to achieve meaningful change through their work.
Taylor mentions that this book is resonant for her as a designer. “Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky– it’s about community/grassroots organizing and I feel like many experience designers can relate to this book. So much of our work is demonstrating our value, convincing stakeholders, and trying to get buy-in.”
Read this if: you are struggling to bring about change and influence in your design role.