35+ useful books for designers in IT
Dmitry Vanitski, Associate Director, Experience Design, has compiled a list of design sources for beginners and experienced professionals to help you successfully develop your skills in an ever-changing world.
In this article
— The world around us is changing very quickly. The discipline of design in IT is quite young, so it is not surprising that it is constantly evolving and transforming. Every day, there are new approaches, methodologies, practices, and directions. They often disappear faster than they appeared, which makes it almost impossible to stay on top of the trends. Therefore, I would like to focus on the basics.
At the time of my first contact with design, there was not the variety of courses, mentors, and programs that are currently available. Today, I observe the opposite problem: people may experience information overload with the ultra-easy access to an ever-expanding list of resources.
When it is difficult to decide what is worth your attention, I suggest reading books instead of relying on unverified articles or videos.
— Many people think that to become a designer today, you need to focus all your attention on the latest, most innovative cases, practices, and research. But it is difficult to follow such a path. Instead, I propose being inspired by the following sources to light and maintain the flame of your curiosity:
- “My Life and Work” by Henry Ford. This book has more to do with design than it might seem at first glance. It is an excellent example of identifying and prioritizing user needs and using them as a corporate management tool.
- “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. If you need to understand the core principle of design, you should definitely add this book to your reading list. It will show you an essential part of being a designer: a sense of value.
- “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon and all of the other books in this series. They offer a quick boost that opens your eyes and makes you look at problems differently.
Essentials of experience design
— Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an experienced professional, it is always useful to refresh your knowledge and look at things from a different angle. I would like to remind you of some classics:
- “About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design” by Alan Cooper and Robert Reimann. This book delivers the core knowledge that any designer should have: how to work with users, how to define their needs, why a designer needs to do this, and what will happen if they fail.
- “The Pocket Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions” by Bruce Hanington and Bella Martin. This is another book that will acquaint you with the majority of the design methods.
- “Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making” by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler. The book is a guide for UX designer work on a real project with step-by-step instructions for most of the challenges one may face.
The list above gives you the basics of the theory, but unfortunately it will not be enough for professional work. Mastering the practice is a completely different level.
To be competitive on the market, alongside the knowledge of UX design, you also need to master the basic hard skills as well. I’m talking about visual design (“The The Complete Graphic Designer” by Ryan Hembree can help you here) and especially about typography. If you want to learn everything about all the special terms like glyph, line-height, x-height, skittle spacing etc., you definitely need to read “The Complete Manual of Typography: A Guide to Setting Perfect Type” by Jim Felici.
If you’re a practitioner
— Only the improvement of your knowledge will lead you to a new level of work quality. To do this, I recommend the following books:
- “Design Is a Job” by Mike Monteiro. How do you overcome the fear of talking about money? How do you bear up when everything is falling apart? How do you take off your rose-tinted glasses and start viewing design agnostically? All the answers are in this book.
- “Designing for Emotion” by Aaron Walter. Nowdays, we are all obsessed with data and its analysis, but let’s try not to forget about the initial driver of all decisions: emotion. In this book, you’ll find ways to make your work alive and engaging.
- “Designing with the Mind in Mind” by Jeff Johnson. Unlike the book mentioned above, this masterpiece will take you deep into the analytical approach to design and teach you how to measure users’ happiness and success — making their lives easier and more efficient.
I hope my recommendations find their way to your bookshelves and minds. Wrapping up, I encourage you to continue improving yourselves as professionals: try, experiment, evaluate, and try again. Remember that as users’ advocates, we are responsible for every decision we make (“Do Good: How Design Can Change the World” by David B. Berman), so we should be prepared to defend what we stand for (”Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” and “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” by Robert B. Cialdini).
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