The top five books every UX Designer should read


by Hermione Wright


by Hermione Wright

*This blog post first appeared on the Massive Interactive blog. Massive was acquired by Deltatre in November 2018.

Whether you’ve been in the same career for years or are just starting out, we all need a bit of inspiration from time to time. The same is most certainly true when it comes to UXD as it’s an industry with evolution at its very heart. So, we asked a handful of our designers to share the books (old and new) that inspire them for various reasons. Check out what they said below and get ready to take on some different perspectives!

#1. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Recommended by Richard Dixon, Director - Product Experience

What was it about the book that inspired you?

It was one of the first books I remember reading about UXD, and it changed how I perceived daily interactions that we commonly take for granted. I also developed an appreciation for how small, well thought-out designs can produce delight and make life just that bit easier.

Why should we read it?

It’s relatable, it speaks to the essence of what we do, and it can be read in an afternoon!

#2. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Recommended by Jeff Young, Design Principal

What was it about the book that inspired you?

The Design of Everyday Things is a great book but it doesn’t focus very heavily on the emotional aspect of design. In Emotional Design, Norman acknowledges this and explores how our use of objects is affected by our emotions towards them.

In a nutshell, if an object makes you feel better, that’s a key part of it being more useful. Emotions make human brains work in different ways; we can often work more creatively, harder or longer when influenced by a particular emotion. Stimulating the right emotion is a key part of a tool’s usefulness, and several academic studies have shown that humans choose objects to enhance the emotions they require to accomplish a particular task.

Why should we read it?

A key misunderstanding of UX design is that it is purely about efficiency in the narrow sense. I have witnessed many user testing sessions where users clearly preferred less efficient methods because they felt more ‘fun’ or ‘satisfying’. Often, they perceived the ‘fun’ process to be easier and more efficient, even if it took longer.

I’ve also had more than a few senior stakeholders over the years become very fixated on simple measures such as the number of clicks a task takes. The model proposed in Emotional Design provides a clear way to explain that these measures are not always the best way to measure the value to a user.

#3. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Recommended by Aaron Booth, Design Director APAC

What was it about the book that inspired you?

The book is very easy to read and takes a common sense approach to UX. It helps new designers understand the way users use UIs.

Why should we read it?

Although it was published in 2000, it manages to remain relevant since it avoids trends and focuses on some basic truths and ways to reframe your mindset when creating UIs.

#4. A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

Recommended by Richard Mills, EMEA Design Director

What was it about the book that inspired you?

Not only is it hugely insightful and useful, but it’s also very readable and at times provocative. It was hugely freeing to understand that in order to successfully solve problems, you must also master asking the right questions. It helped me realise the power of effective questioning to unlock creativity and take back control of my work.

Why should we read it?

It will help you function better in a modern day design team, helping you to not only lead with confidence, but also to think your way to better solutions. If you want to empower yourself into not settling for bad results caused by poorly framed questions or briefs, then this is the book for you. There are also lots of lovely anecdotes threaded throughout, some of which are quite amazing tales of innovation and success in the face of adversity and detraction. The stories provide context so you can practically apply the guidance.

#5. Designing Together by Dan Brown

Recommended by Team Massive!

Last but not least, this read came up multiple times in Massive HQ so we thought it deserved a mention! The book encourages the reader to not solely think about design for design’s sake, but also to give real weight to the importance of ‘soft’ skills like teamwork.

Whether it’s working with clients, fellow designers, or those holding different job roles within the same company, it couldn’t be a more important skill to achieve as a designer. Designing Together provides practical tips and tricks to improving collaboration, as well as analysing many different designer personality traits. It’s a useful read no matter the size of your team and whether you’re office-based or work remotely.

In short, one for the team Secret Santa list this year.

And one for luck – Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Recommended by Derek Ellis, Chief Creative Officer & Co-founder

Why should we read it?

It’s brilliant at showing how to distil and sell an idea – an essential part of what we do as designers.


Sign-up to get all the latest news direct to your inbox