A long weekend is approaching here at Thailand and as I plan to stay around Bangkok area and spend some time reading, I thought it should be a good opportunity to go back and reflect on some of the greatest ux design books that inspired me as a designer. I like to keep my reading list as diverse as possible as I believe that inspiration could potentially come from anywhere and not just from design related books, so expect to encounter a few of those as well while you continue reading.
The Elements of Typographic Style – Robert Bringhurst
If you must pick one and only on book on typography, make sure you’ve checked “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst first. In this book, which I find myself going back to every now and then, Bringhurst, a Canadian typographer and poet beautifully and poetically takes us back to the history of typography through a set of rules which he weave into his wonderful writing.
Thoughts on Design – Paul Rand
You cannot really discuss design without bringing up the name Paul Rand. Rand, who is responsible for some of the most iconic brand identities of the 20th century, share with us his thought and believes on design in this short and fantastic little book. Unfortunately the original version published by the young Rand (Rand was only 33 years old when he first published the book) is not available, however a new print has been released in 2014. The new updated version has been designed by designer Michael Bierut. Although the content remain true to the original, some will argue that Bierut’s decision to use the Typeface Bodoni for the body text was not a good idea. Nonetheless Rand’s words are inspiring and educating and his humble and brilliant voice resonated through his noble ideas.
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days – Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz
It seems like nowadays everyone try to come up with the next big thing. But great ideas which not solving real problems or badly executed are not that great and doomed to fail. That is where Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz, Google Ventures elite squad, is here to help. These three clever dudes have formulated a method to help new startup and business teams to test and validate their concept within only 5 days. Based on concept borrowed from the world of product design and development, this book can help you and your team take any idea or concept from its premature state and bring it into a place where you could actually test its potential with real users. The book is a real fun and full with wonderful small anecdotes from Google Ventures success and failure stories. It may not teach anything new on design, but it could help test new ideas and drive a better communication with your team members and stakeholders.
Interaction of Color – Josef Albers
For many years I’ve struggled with the concept of color and picking the right match of colors that will work in harmony and convey the message I’ve intended the users to receive. Josef Albers book “Interaction of Color” helped clarify the basic concepts and even more than that. Albers write as a teacher, and as such, he guides through one experiment after another, showing why something work or does not work, and not just through a bunch of theories for you to figure on your own. I still use it as a reference every once and then and always keep it within reach for inspiration.
Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience – Tom Greever
Like it or not, we are in the communication business. And that doesn’t refer only to the way we help our clients to communicate with their users, but also, and might even be more important is how we communicate with our clients. If we are not able to explicitly explain and sell our ideas, we are not doing our jobs, and we are not helping to solve the right problem in the right way. That statement does not necessarily mean that as designers we always right and have the last call to make. More than often we are wrong, and stakeholders are more knowledgeable about their business, but the point is that we need to learn to talk with them in their own language, and show them why is it in their best need to let us do what we are paid for and try to provide the best experience for their users. Tom Greever, the author of “Articulating Design Decisions”, guide us with this concept in mind through the whole book and teach us how to prepare, present and sell our ideas before and during meetings and design reviews. Highly recommended for the new and inexperienced designers, but can also be very helpful for the more professional practitioners.
Graphic Design: The New Basics: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded – Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Cole Phillips
Ellen Lupton is signed on many great books about graphic design (Thinking with Type, Type on Screen), and “Graphic Design: The New Basics” is just another one of them. In this book, Lupton goes through the very basic concepts and ideas of graphic design, and help us understand them better while practicing real exercises that were taken from real design schools. Basic concepts such as point, line, plane, scale, hierarchy, layers, and transparency are explored in the book and explained in a clear and concise way.
The Elements of Graphic Design – Alex W. White
This book is full of inspiration and thought provoking notions on the basic elements of design. Space, layout, typography etc’ are profoundly explained and explored in a way that if not teach you something new, will most definitely inspire you to put more thoughts to your design decisions.
The Design of Everyday Things – Donald A. Norman, Peter Berkrot
The godfather himself of the easily overused term, user-experience, Donald A. Norman teach us best practices for usability and how to design great products while through humorous anecdotes of his frustration with the poorly design objects he encounter on daily basis. If user interface or user experience is your thing, you must include this ux design book in your library. A classic that no matter how much technology get advanced is still relevant and important now as it was almost 30 years ago, if not even more.
The Design Method: A Philosophy and Process for Functional Visual Communication (Voices That Matter) – Eric Karjaluoto
I have accidently found this book being recommended online while searching for some inspiration. Designer Eric Karjaluoto share is whole process of design from start to finish with some great tips that can only be learned through years of experience. A great addition on designer’s bookshelf
Universal Principles of Design – William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler
I always keep this book around to inspire me when I struggle to solve a problem. It is full with a hundred of timeless ideas and principles that were discovered and developed through the whole history of design, communication and humankind.
That’s it. It was hard to pick just ten books to recommend, and I can easily add more to this list. I might will in future post, so watch for it. I hope that this list of books could make you a better designer and practitioner and inspire you think about great ideas as it did for me. Enjoy your reading, and feel free to leave a comment below!