Beyond the bite-sized bits of design material you’ll come across in your RSS feeder, there’s an incredibly rich world of knowledge that lives not in pixels, but in print. And if you’re itching to build up your personal library of design references and inspiration, you’re in luck! Inspired by The Ideal Bookshelf, we’ve assembled our most inspiring and adored books to influence and expand your designer mind. Of course, with this list it might be hard to decide where to begin, but that’s the beauty of a bookshelf. You just skim the book bindings until you come across one that just feels ripe for your mood!
Rework by Jason Fried
Priceless nuggets to help any organization be more efficient and work smarter.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Great advice for entrepreneurs on how to build a successful startup using the build-measure-learn approach to product development.
Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf
Insight on integrating best-practice UX to a lean or agile product development environment.
The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
A unified theory on brand-building with something for everybody in your company.
Getting Real by 37Signals
The original book from 37Signals. Timeless advice on how to think differently about building a business with lasting value.
Blur: The Making of Nothing by Elizabeth Diller
A book that gives great insight on how to stay close to one’s creative vision in real world circumstances. This book chronicles the building of a expo pavilion made out of fog… yes, fog!
The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley
A great collection of anecdotes that provide a look at IDEO’s innovative approach to problem-solving and the creative process.
Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler
Presented in an easily-digestible, bite-size format, this book is rich with wide-sweeping best design practices and methodology.
Change by Design by Tim Brown
A great read about design thinking – a human−centered approach to problem solving that helps people and organizations become more innovative and more creative.
Writings by Vilém Flusser
In this collection of innovative essays, philosopher Vilém Flusser explores a wide array of topics, including the impact of technology on our experiences as humans.
Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne
A wonderful collection of essays about social responsibility and “doing the right thing” in the face of a corporate, overbranded consumer culture.
Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Muller-Brockmann
The definitive guide on using grids effectively. Not stopping solely at the grid structure, Muller-Brockmann explores the insides of grids that make them special.
The Mobile Book by Smashing Magazine
Full of helpful information for anybody of any skill level involved in designing things that will be seen on a mobile device.
User Experience & Information Architecture
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Nonspecific advice on what makes the user engage, get frustrated, or leave. This book has a lot of great examples and ideas on how to make your user just “get it”.
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Don Norman’s classic tome. It provides a critical look at design decisions in the physical world, with a focus on creating simple and useful interactions.
Designing with the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson
Provides just enough information about perceptual and cognitive psychology to explain the “why” of standard UI principles.
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk
As designers, we constantly work to engage, compel, and provoke actions from our users. Here’s a punch list of 100 ways you can increase the conversion and effectiveness of your designs.
The Persona Lifecycle by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin
Creating user personas is essential to finely tuning user-centric design. This book not only answer why it’s important but explains how to create effective personas.
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein
Every designer deals with patterns, grids, and standard UX interactions. These are based on the thinking in “A Pattern Language”.
Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte
Dashboard and data visualization are all the rage. Tufte presents practical advice on displaying information in an accurate, sober, and effective way.
Handbook of Usability Testing by Jeffrey Rubin, Dana Chisnell, and Jared Spool
It goes without saying: your product should be easy to use. This book, widely considered the leading resource for testing usability, will help you identify points of friction that you should resolve.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
Having lots of data is one thing, but knowing how to efficiently convey that data can be a major visual challenge. Tufte presents practical advice on displaying information in an accurate, sober, and effective way.
Sagmeister: Made You Look by Stefan Sagmeister
An overview of the first twenty years of Stefan Sagmeister’s career, this book reminds the reader that graphic design is a tool to move people and illicit reactions.
Typography & Print
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
The ultimate rules for typography. From readability to style, this book will tell you how to design your typography to complement and your content (or like make content shine without overpowering). Theres a science/math to it defined in the book.
Designing with Type by James Craig
A great book about the fundamentals of typography. It includes everything from alphabet origins to contemporary typography.
Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
What are the rules? And how should I break them? A great resource for the type-conscious designer. The latest edition even has information about typography on the web.
Front Cover: Great Book Jackets and Cover Design by Alan Powers
From pure utility to expressions of modern art, book covers are a staple of traditional graphic design. Front Cover is an incredible resource of book cover design through the 20th century.
BONUS: Jessica’s process video for creating The Ideal Designer Bookshelf graphic!