When I first started my career, I didn’t even know there was a field called user experience. Once I discovered it, I did read a lot of books on user experience. However, there are already tons of reading lists for user experience professionals. So instead of creating another one of those lists, I wanted to create a reading list of my top non user experience books for user experience designers.
As I’ve said before, I think it’s really important to draw insight, inspiration, and ideas from other disciplines. If you are going to design solutions holistically, your mind must be curious and able to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated things.
Here are 7 of my favorite non-user experience books for user experience designers.
I read this book when I was in my early twenties and it was the first design book I’d ever picked up. I’d never header about IDEO or knew anything much about product design or the design process. I think I read the whole thing in one afternoon. This book made me realize the possibility to combine art and science into a career. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to design. But after reading it, I knew my mind was wired to be a designer.
2) Now Discover Your Strengths
By: Marcus Buckingham
This book is a must read for anyone (in my opinion)! Our society teaches us to spend so much effort trying to correct and improve upon our weaknesses. The truth is, that you are born with inherent talents and instead of figuring out how to master things you’re not talented in, you should instead find ways to put your talents (strengths) to use for maximum impact. This book is great for understanding yourself better. But also, it will help you understand your peers and colleagues.
3) Making The Invisible Visible
By: Hillman Curtis
Sadly, Hillman Curtis passed away a few years ago after battling cancer. He was a master designer, communicator, storytellers, and problem solver. He went from being in a rock band, to being a flash designer, then a web designer, and then a filmmaker. This book is part inspiration and part instruction. Hillman elegantly teaches the process that he followed as a designer. He also offers great inspiration, insight, and lessons that I still think about on almost a weekly basis. This is definitely a must read for anyone who considers them a designer or communicator.
4) Ogilvy On Advertising
By: David Ogilvy
Forget that the word advertising is in the title of this book. Chances are that if you work in user experience, at some point you’ll be in conversations about marketing, user acquisition, or visual design. This book is a great foundation to understanding the value of copywriting, photography, visual design, empathy, and emotion. It offers great case studies from decades ago that will leave you both laughing and also wondering what Ogilvy would think if he saw advertising as we know it today.
This is a book of essays by Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells. Some of the essays were required reading in a computer science course that I took while attending university. The essays give insight and foresight into the relationship that we have with the Internet and with ourselves. It also covers the economic and social dynamics of our society in the information / technological / connected ago.
If you are (or plan to be) a user experience designer, then I’d predict that you are (or have some) right-brain tendencies. At some point in your career either with dealing with clients, colleagues, or collaborators you’ll encounter people who are more left-brained who simply cannot wrap their brain around what you do and why you’ve made certain decisions in your design process. This book will help you understand both sides of the brain. It will also show you why the field of user experience is expanding rapidly. PS: I wrote about this book in my article Why We Need Storytellers at the Heart of Product Development.
The person who originally told me about this book was Oren Jacob (former CTO of Pixar and now Founder of ToyTalk). Given his experience with telling and creating amazing stories, I took his advice and bought this book. To be totally honest, I haven’t made it through the whole book (it’s a long one). But, I have familiarized myself with the work of Robert McKee and also follow him on Twitter (@mckeestory). As I’m sure you know by now, I’m big on stories and how the power of storytelling can help us craft better products and experiences. So to be, this is a must read (or in my case, a must finish!!)
Bonus –> The Petit Prince
By: Antoine de Saint-Expury
Growing up in Canada, I studied French and each year we read this book. This book will help you keep your mind curious and child-like. Being a user experience designer requires you to be in a constant state of observation (or, as I wrote in an article, be like a flâneur). It’s a short simple read. Highly recommend (or, read it to your kids!)
PS: I’d love to hear recommendations from you for books that have been influential in your career!