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!

Psst! Download this designer bookshelf graphic and use it as a wallpaper!

Psst! Download this designer bookshelf graphic and use it as a wallpaper!


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.

03_lean ux
Lean UX
by Jeff Gothelf

Insight on integrating best-practice UX to a lean or agile product development environment.

04_brand gap
The Brand Gap
by Marty Neumeier

A unified theory on brand-building with something for everybody in your company.

05_getting real
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!


07_the art of innovation
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.

08_universal principles of design
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.

09_change by design
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.

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.

11_citizen designer
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.

12_grid systems
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

18_dont make me think
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”.

19_the design of everyday things
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.

20_designing with the mind in mind
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.

21_100 things every designer needs to know
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.

22_the persona lifecycle
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.

23_a pattern language
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”.

24_envisioning information
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.

25_handbook of usability testing
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.

26_the visual display of quantitative information
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.

27_sagmeister - made you look
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

14_elements of typographic style
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.

15_designing with type
Designing with Type
by James Craig

A great book about the fundamentals of typography. It includes everything from alphabet origins to contemporary typography.

16_thinking with type
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.

17_front cover
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!