I read a lot – science fiction, novels, biographies, histories, philosophy, cooking, art, design, etc. I believe that reading widely seeds ideas, expands your frame of references, and inspires divergent thinking. To read is to install escape hatches along the well worn paths of your own mind. In other words, the best books for designers are often not design books. This list is a sampling of some of the books I think more designers read.
This book represents a special topic of interest to me. At 15, I stole it from my dad. (Don't worry, I've since confessed. I kept the book though...) It’s the reason I studied philosophy in college and it’s as classic as it gets, covering the fundamentals of how to construct/deconstruct and deliver a ideas and arguments. It’s dense and the connections to our work may not be readily apparent to young designers, but it is at the very core.
Jef Raskin is the dude who first invented many of the ideas that have since been canonized in Apple’s HIG. He discusses the WHY underlying many of the “best practices” that designers often take at face value. A lot of the practical stuff he discusses it out of date, but I loved reading this book because it helped me understand where this stuff comes, the actual problems they wanted to solve, and the behaviors / habits / physiology / psychology they took into account.
I love this book because it indulges my love of details and because I read it at a pivotal moment for my personal development as a designer. He looks at how important the tiny stuff is to the overall product / project success. It’s practical and definitely UX-specific.
Christopher Alexander ideas are fascinating and have had a HUGE impact on the software world since the 1970s, most notably in his concept of design patterns. There is a decently analog relationship between architecture and software design, and his ideas are all about designing spaces in ways that are “intuitive” to people using patterns that imply their use. “Intuitive design” is a big and complicated thing, with deep cultural and socio-/ethnographic meaning. He covers a lot of theoretical ground.