Imagine if you could tap into the library, or mind of the best UX designers or Product designers in the industry to gain knowledge that could shape your career.

Or better than that…                  

What if you could tap into the library of seven great startup and product designers and dive into the books that they would recommend?

If you’re like me, you might already have Amazon open in a new tab and a credit card near by.

Today, that’s exactly what I’m going to share in this post.

We’ve compiled a list of recommended reads from the design minds behind companies like CrazyEgg, Intercom, Automattic and more… You don’t want to miss this one.

Let’s get to it…

Herb Lubalin: Art Director, Graphic Designer and Typographer

Stewart Scott-Curran, Brand Design at IntercomHerb Lubalin was an American graphic designer and a pioneer in both design and typography. Of all his contributions to the design industry, it’s the development of the typeface and logo for Avant Garde that is most renown. In addition, he contributed to the industry through a combination of art, typography and constant innovation as a founding member of the International Typeface Corporation.                                                

In this book you will be met with a celebration of the work he contributed over many decades. It’s a combination of posters, logos, media promotions, packaging, book design, letterheads, annual reports and type design. In addition to creative works, the book shares an essay about the life and history of Herb Lubalin and his contribution to the world of graphic design.

Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love

Jessica Tiao, Designer at CrazyEggRecommended By Jessica Tiao, CrazyEgg

The aim of this book is to help people leverage customer and user empathy to develop products that people live. It breaks down exactly how moodboards can fit into the bigger picture of a product and how product managers and designers can build things that people love. Here’s a great speech from the author about his experience as a product designer at a startup:

Jon Kolko – Well Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love from Midwest UX on Vimeo.


Quote from the book: “Today’s designers work to make technology fit appropriately into our human-to-human interactions”

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Julie Zhuo, Product Design at FacebookRecommended By Julie Zhuo Product Design Director at Facebook

Considered by many to be a must-read for all designers, Don Norman is a design pioneer and this classic has been updated and evolved to be an instrumental resource for designers. The various theories and insights shared in this book give you a detailed look at what it means to be user-centered and the value of design thinking. Throughout this book, Norman shares case studies and insights to describe the difference between good and bad design.

Quote from the book:  “Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at AdobeKhoi Vinh Principal Designer at Adobe

It’s one of the most famous books ever written. Some people love it. Some people hate it. It’s a book that many people are tasked to read in High School and one that was recently brought back to popular culture because of the success of the movie remake starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

While Khoi didn’t suggest that this be a book read by every designer, he did point to it as a favorite in a recent interview with Product Hunt. If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby, it’s a brilliant piece of work that shines a light on the lack of morality in many who chase riches rather than a life of substance.

Quote from the book: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Self-Renewal: The individual and the innovative society by John W. Gardner

John Maeda, Global Head Computational Design & Inclusion Recommended By John Maeda, Automattic, Sonos

In this book, John Gardner dives deep into the factors that lead some society and individuals to decay and others to remain creative and innovative. It’s a short yet powerful read that delivers insights that have the power to leave you inspired and more connected to your individual purpose than you were before reading it.

Self-Renewal was written in 1964 yet still today, the book is a must-read for designers and business leaders striving to improve. Throughout the book Gardner talks about the importance of finding work that arms you with the ability to feel fulfilled as an individual. It’s a book that many have expressed as a philosophical self-help guide that goes above the status quo.

Quote from the book: “Everyone, either in his career or as a part-time activity, should be doing something about which he cares deeply. And if he is to escape the prison of the self, it must be something not essentially egocentric in nature.”

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Iheanyi Ekechukwu, Software at Digital OceanRecommended By Iheanyi Ekechukwu, Digital Ocean

If you’re a web designer and have yet to read this book from Steve Krug, you’re missing out on a book that delivers value to anyone in tech. In this book, Krug does an excellent job highlighting the various roles within product design and forcing you to think about your own projects, problems and communication efforts. As you read this guide you will be met with inspiration and examples that lead you to epiphanies and new opportunities to improve the projects you’re working on.

Of all the books I’ve read on design, Don’t Make Me Think is one of the best at delivering value and cutting out the theory.  It’s a great read that will improve your thinking as it relates to design and ensure that you can deliver experiences that will feel seamless and ensure that your audience doesn’t have to think.

Quote from the book: “Your objective should always be to eliminate instructions entirely by making everything self-explanatory, or as close to it as possible. When instructions are absolutely necessary, cut them back to a bare minimum.”

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

Reuben Hall, Director of Design - Creativity IncRecommended By Reuben Hall, MindSea

Ed Catmull is the president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation Studios. Two companies that have offered both young and old alike with an opportunity to imagine, dream and be inspired. In Creativity Inc, Ed delivers one of the best books I’ve read on managing people and creating a culture where creativity thrives.

Creativity Inc is a book that combines both a biographical look at Ed’s experience working at Pixar and with Steve Jobs while also delivering quality advice. His perspective on creating a corporate culture that embraces constant uncertainty to fuel creativity is one of the many takeaways that I’ll try to always remember.  If I could offer one book to someone taking on a role in which they have to manage and work with creative people, it would be this one.  

Quote from the book: “You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”

Wrapping Things Up

We live in a time where it’s easy to spend more time reading blog posts and tweets than it is to find ourselves reading a book. If you often find yourself consuming more blog posts and status updates than books, this list might be a great place to start and try something different. 

Books can offer insight and perspective that can change lives.

If you’re strapped for time—or if you have some vacation days coming up—audiobooks are a great alternative! Consuming content passively is a great way to get the same  information. Listen while you work or travel, and keep track of the important takeaways you can apply to your life and your career.


So over to you…

What books have you read recently that you would recommend? Is there any books on this list that you hadn’t heard of before?



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