• Jon MyersJon Myers, 8 years ago (edited 8 years ago )

    These are all excellent books.

    You should master and know the basics of visual design from color to typography to grids to layouts and so on.

    And, assuming you are talking about these elements of design to become a better designer, fair enough - but allow me to throw a curve ball in the mix here.

    Truth be told, these are simply one facet of design. Albeit, a big fat massive facet, yes, you need to know these things, but I would not stop there.

    Design is also how you think.

    How you’re thinking when you’re behind the keyboard and mouse and interpreting the situation, and executing those keystrokes and mouse clicks.

    I see very few books (some, but surprisingly, not many) being mentioned beyond the multiple facets of visual design, which will make you a more potent designer.

    Most of us are designers not artists, and a lot of our works exists in a commercial context or in contexts where humans are relying on our works to support a never-ending range of activities and goals.

    More often than not we support outcomes.

    Thus, it pays to really understand business and people.

    In fact, I would say as a designer you must absolutely have to have this part of your brain activated.

    Assuming if you do any form of client work or as an employee, you will need to constantly defend your work. You better have the business reasoning lined up, better be able to make a solid case for your decisions - and the psychology part (understanding people) is critical for building consensus in the design process.

    Otherwise, you will often get steamrolled.

    You should be forming a mental model, a lens on the world to view your designs through.


    Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant

    If you were only going to spend time really hammering one concept into your brain, this is a powerful business concept to have in your thinking and questioning.

    At the core of this book is one very simple concept - differentiation.

    The second key concept of the book is simple as well - defensibility.

    This book has a solid framework and analysis of businesses who have “created blue oceans” - new markets and what makes them different.

    Like poker, easy to grasp the basics, takes a lifetime to master.

    The Lean Startup

    Some of the concepts feel dated these days, especially with regards to what type of MVP (minimum viable product) will be able to gather the right signals to evaluate - product/ market fit (will people pay money for this product?) - however, it is still a solid read and good for foundational business thinking.


    A good starting point in my opinion to gather some views on people, motivations and psychology are these books:

    Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

    Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships


    The work of the godfather of persuasion research is Robert Cialdini who wrote the book Influence is a designer’s secret weapon.

    He breaks down what he calls the 6 laws of influence, many of which we use today as designers, i.e., Social Proof: our default little avatars with customer quotes. Reciprocity: give me your email address and you will get this free guide. Authority: this is what very important people are saying about our product. Likeability: think of the tone of Slack’s friendly copy. Scarcity: we only have 6 spots left, so you best act now. Commitment: you’ve already signed up for our free trial, click here to upgrade your plan and tell your friends. Don’t stop, you must be consistent. etc., etc.,

    Again, understanding these human tendencies makes you a more potent designer. It might impact the hierarchy of your page layouts, it can impact lots of things if you are trying to move a user to a goal.

    The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion

    This book came to me out of left field and it’s fascinating. It’s an exploration of imagery and the concept of “glamour” in history in photos from old vacation brochures to websites selling condos in high-rises in New York City.

    With the current web renaissance in big photography, this book really helped me sharpen my thinking and give me a more solid framework when writing creative briefs for photographers for sites I am working on.

    I’d also say read a lot about very extreme people.

    The Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth biography is hands down one of my favorite reads.

    I wouldn’t even stop here.

    The more you absorb from seemingly unrelated disciplines from the science of networks to the biological processes of our brain’s visual system, the more you are able to connect the dots from things, which are seemingly unrelated, the sharper your thinking, execution and impact becomes as a designer.

    Finally, on this point.

    If you have no framework for understanding the business context your designs live in - and you have no process for understanding the users your designs serve, what are you really doing?

    Sure, you might have a team hand you a brief with these details, but it helps to understand how they got them - and why they are - what they say.

    You want to know why.

    3 points