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Starter Pack of Essential UX Design Books

My go-to list of essential design books.


As designers, we typically spend all day staring at a digital screen. I'm the type of person who loves reading in general, but I find that the longer I'm looking at a computer or phone screen (especially while working those longer quarantine hours), the more I want to dive into a book and give my eyes a break. So turn off your phone for just a bit, grab a book, and learn how to think about design in a different way!


About Face

by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, David Cronin and Christopher Noessel


This is the very first book I read when I began exploring a career in Product Design. I know, hefty, right?! About Face reads more like a textbook, but the time investment is worth it. Take a dive into the principles, patterns, and practices of interaction design and learn to think deeply about how, when, and why you should use Goal-Directed design methods. Be sure to grab the 4th Edition, since the authors have added information about designing for mobile and tablet interfaces as well as responsive web.




"Define what the product will do before you design how the product will do it." - Alan Cooper









Don't Make Me Think

by Steve Krug


This book is one of the most-loved and top-recommended for designers of all levels. The author takes a practical look at product design (not just digital interfaces), and uses a common sense approach to creating usable interfaces. The first edition was published in 2000 and focused on web usability, but the 2014 version includes usability principles and practices for mobile, so the book maintains its relevancy for today's designers. This is a quick read, filled with plenty of examples, colorful images, and a good sense of humor.


If you're in a rush and don't have time to read the book, I found an article by Tubik Studio that lists the top 20 thoughtful quotes from Don't Make Me Think.




Usability is about people and how they understand and use things, not about technology. - Steve Krug









Articulating Design Decisions

by Tom Greever


One of the most important skills you can have as a designer is the ability to communicate your design thinking in a way that is compelling and useful for your target audience, whether that's the CEO of your company, your client, or your Developer (or any other stakeholder). Oftentimes, a non-designer has the final say or the most influence over the success of your project, so it's critical to be able to articulate your design decisions in a way that resonates with them. Greever provides practical tips (with plenty of examples from his own experiences) for making persuasive presentations for the most common stakeholders that designers will work with. Tactics cover meeting preparation and follow-up, understanding how stakeholders think and what they value, and how to express yourself in the most articulate way so you can design the best experiences for users.


“Practicing for a meeting is the usability test of being articulate: you get to run through everything and make sure it all works as expected.” - Tom Greever












Universal Principles of Design

by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler


This book is a great tool to have in your design tool belt! The authors provide a comprehensive guide to over 100 design principles and considerations that help designers make better design decisions. Each principle includes a visual example of the concept applied in a practical way. As a visual learner, I really appreciate this approach, as it helps me remember the basic idea of each design principle. After reading this, I realized that I had experienced or "felt" most of these concepts in design (both as a designer and a user) but that I didn't have specific names or descriptions for them. This book equipped me with the right terms to use when talking about my design decisions. Make sure to keep a copy of this book on your shelf so you can quickly refer back to specific design principles.


“Simplicity is achieved when everyone can easily understand and use the design, regardless of experience, literacy, or concentration level.” - William Lidwell







100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

by Susan Weinschenk


Weinschenk applies psychology and behavioral science to design to highlight how designers can create more effective and influential products. She uses practical examples to demonstrate how intuitive products match users' mental models and behaviors. The book cites interesting research studies that illustrate each concept, making this an easy read with engaging content.


Designing without understanding what makes people act the way they do is like exploring a new city without a map: results will be haphazard, confusing, and inefficient. - Susan Weinschenk








Final Thoughts

What are some of the books that you've found to be really useful as a designer, either from a theoretical perspective or for practical application?


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