My Ultimate List of Books You Need to Read If You Want to Truly Understand Digital Design (Work in Progress)

This list contains the books (and one article—can you find it?) I believe everyone who wants to truly understand what digital design is all about needs to read. I’ve tried to roughly categorize them into more foundational topics (basics, programming, sustainable design) and then somewhat along the double diamond: finding the right problem (research, understanding users & customers, discovery) and finding the right solution (sketching & prototyping, measuring & learning, visual design). I’m aware that research is also an integral part of the second diamond, but I decided to bundle all research-related books in just one category. Finally, to provide a glimpse into the future, I also list some books on designing for and with (a selection of) novel types of interfaces.

This list, however, is a work in progress, and will be adapted over time. Some books might be removed from it in the future, some might be replaced, and others will surely be added. If you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the comments.

Basics of Design, User Experience, & Usability

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper et al.
The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond by Jesse James Garrett
Experience Required: How to Become a UX Leader Regardless of Your Role by Robert Hoekman, Jr.
Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity by Jakob Nielsen
Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
An Introduction to Human Factors Engineering by Christopher D. Wickens et al.
Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond by Louis Rosenfeld et al.
How to Speak Machine by John Maeda
Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell et al.

Programming

The Pragmatic Programmer: Your Journey to Mastery by David Thomas & Andrew Hunt
Learning PHP, MySQL & JavaScript: With jQuery, CSS & HTML5 by Robin Nixon
Code as Creative Medium: A Handbook for Computational Art and Design by Golan Levin & Tega Brain

Sustainable Design

Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services by Tim Frick
Computers and the Environment: Understanding and Managing their Impacts by Ruediger Kuehr & Eric Williams (Eds.)

Research (Generative & Evaluative)

UX Research: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Products by Brad Nunnally & David Farkas
Applied Ethnography: Guidelines for Field Research by Pertti J. Pelto
Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests by Jeffrey Rubin & Dana Chisnell

Understanding Users & Customers

Market Research in Practice: An Introduction to Gaining Greater Market Insight by Paul Hague et al.
Designing for Behavior Change: Applying Psychology and Behavioral Economics by Stephen Wendel
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

Discovery

Divergent Thinking by Mark A. Runco
Problem Finding, Problem Solving, and Creativity by Mark A. Runco
Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play by Luke Hohmann

Sketching & Prototyping

Sketching User Experiences: Getting the design right and the right design by Bill Buxton
Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide by Todd Zaki Warfel
Prototyping for Tiny Fingers by Marc Rettig

Visual Design

Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques by Kevin Mullet & Derrell Sano
Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability by Luke Wroblewski
Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann
Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

Measuring & Learning

Practical Web Analytics for User Experience by Michael Beasley
Trustworthy Online Controlled Experiments: A Practical Guide to A/B Testing by Ron Kohavi et al.
Inside the Nudge Unit: How small changes can make a big difference by David Halpern
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

Agile Product Development & Organization

Learning Agile by Jennifer Greene & Andrew Stellman
Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value by Melissa Perri
Building Design Systems: Unify User Experiences through a Shared Design Language by Sarrah Vesselov

Designing for and with Novel Interfaces

Designing for Mixed Reality by Kharis O’Connell
Brave NUI World: Designing Natural User Interfaces for Touch and Gesture by Daniel Wigdor & Dennis Wixon
Designing Voice User Interfaces: Principles of Conversational Experiences by Cathy Pearl
Generative Design: Visualize, Program, and Create with Processing by Hartmut Bohnacker et al.

Version History

  • 2nd version: September 30, 2021
    • added John Maeda’s “How to Speak Machine” and Lidwell et al.‘s “Universal Principles of Design”
  • 1st version: June 13, 2021

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