Take a break and consider your favorite mobile app, website, or digital device. Why are they special to you? How about your most loved shoes, backpack, or jacket? How do you feel about it? How does it work?
Everything is all about UX. Taking a taxi is UX, going to the cinema, shopping malls, theater, supermarket, your grocery store, buildings, furniture, cars, buses, trains even your umbrella are all UX. Yes, most people refer to these as ‘Customer Experience’ or ‘CX,’ but to simplify the name, let’s just refer to it as ‘UX.’
Every organization has its UX. Suffice it to say that even our neighborhoods are UX – our relationships, our city, and the country we come from are all about UX.
Since ‘UX’ spreads throughout our endeavors, it is important that UX designers maintain the standard. Ardent UX practitioners take part in ongoing education to stay updated. We are professionally obliged to continue to read books, whitepapers, blogs, and studies, as well as attend webinars and seminars.
Essential UX Books Every UX Designer Should Have on Their Bookshelf
Simply visit Google and type ‘UX books to read‘ and a page of all the books about UX will be displayed: Designed for Use, Don’t Make Think, Usability Engineering, The Design of Everyday Things, etc.
These essential UX books are great and relevant, but for UX professionals who are eager to broaden their imagination and perspective, there are some non-traditional titles in unconventional categories that are capable of giving you valuable insight.
According to Nicholas Negroponte, professor & Co-Founder of MIT MediaLab, “Where do new ideas come from? The answer is simple: differences. Creativity comes from unlikely juxtapositions.”
If you are a dedicated and curious UXer who is determined to gain more valuable insights, obtaining these books will give you a fascinating view into interesting, alternative methods of solving problems. More importantly, it will challenge you, inspire you, help you think widely, and compel you to gain knowledge from other industries and crafts.
The Top 11 Unexpected Books for UX Designers
1. Understanding Industrial Design: Principles for UX and Interaction Design – Simon King & Kuen Chang
Amazing product design has a way of redefining how we relate to the world.
This UX book talks about how to build innovative and memorable products. Design has gone past the level of mere beauty, it is more focused on meaningful outcome and market relevance.
Written by two renowned design chiefs at IDEO, it uses real life experience to demonstrate industrial designs that are simple, sensorial, playful, sustainable, beautiful, enduring, and thoughtful. This UX book is a must-read for UX professionals and interaction designers who are more involved in integration, and collaboration, with industrial design.
2. A Century of Car Design – Penny Sparke
Everything about car design is UX; the appearance of the car, the sound, its interior, how to open the windows, adjust the seat, shift gears, open the door, operate the sound system, etc.
This well-detailed book presents the amazing development of car design in the 20th century. It not only describes the history of the automobile, but also focuses on the design.
3. 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School – Matthew Frederick
The most commonly-used term for UX is architecture due to its design process. Architecture is a creative solution with the objective of creating amazing user experiences. The similarities between UX and architecture is so close that ‘UX architects’ are referred to as UXers.
This book helps break down the creative process in architecture, from simple line drawing to the complex theory of color. It gives you clues on the useful skills needed in every sphere of life, but especially UX.
4. Happy City: Transforming our Lives Through Urban Design – Charles Montgomery
This book talks extensively about urbanization, but most importantly, how much happier we feel when we stop using cars and start traveling by bicycles or on foot. Montgomery also talks about how having organized homes and neighborhoods that are friendly and trusting, rather than fearful and isolated, will make us happier.
Enlightening and interesting for all UX professionals, this amazing book will help to reshape our thoughts about cities and the activities we do in them.
5. Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves – Emily Henderson
There is more to interior design than styling or decorating a space. It entails how space is used and its interaction with human lives. Driven by human needs and user empathy, this has many more similarities with UX as it involves big-picture thinking and user-centered design processes.
This book teaches the reader about interior design as a discipline; its conventions, methodologies, design principles such as color psychology, working with constraint, minimalist design, etc.
6. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Nir Eyal
If you’re trying to perfect the art of customer engagement, this is a must-read for you. Among other interesting topics, Hooked entails Fogg's Behavior Model which states that habit-forming behavior is a function of three components; ability, motivation, and a trigger. For this model to work, these three components must be simultaneously present.
This book covers emotional design, persuasive design, and anticipatory design. It talks about how to attract people to your products seamlessly through action triggers.
7. Design of the 20th Century – Charlotte & Peter Fiell
Every designer (UI, UX, Visual, IXD, etc.), teacher, design student, enthusiast, historian, or newbie should have this book on their shelf.
It lavishly illustrates the most important ideas, objects, and names in the history of twentieth-century design, incorporating furniture, glass, graphic, metalware, ceramics, and textile. This book is loaded with information about the importance of function, form, symbolism, and aesthetics in practical objects.
8. Envisioning Information – Edward Tufte
Edward Tufte is an award-winning author on visual thinking. His book, Envisioning Information includes amazing examples of dimensional, complex data. Considered as Edward’s most design-oriented piece, it shows charts, maps, diagrams, guidebooks, statistical graphics and tables, scientific presentations, timetables, computer interfaces, courtroom exhibits, and other amazing display of information.
Since complex data visualization has become part of our everyday life, every UX/UI designer needs to read this book.
9. Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play – Mahan Khalsa
Most UX practitioners work as consultants, either as a solo advisor or being part of a team. This book teaches you how to be an experienced consultant with all the skills to help your clients succeed. It is loaded with tools and a simple-to-follow approach that will make a significant difference to UX practitioners who want to be known and trusted in adding value to their client’s business.
10. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time – Jeff Sutherland
This book contains information that will help you to implement Scrum in your projects. It is easy to read, and contains details on how to handle projects in a more effective and time-conscious way. Reading this book will open your eyes to how simple it can be to manage projects.
11. Strangers to Ourselves – Timothy D. Wilson
When crafting experiences, one important component that needs to be explored is human psychology. UX designers need to be used to at least the fundamentals of behavioral tendencies, human motivations and triggers, unconscious influences, how people view the world, make decisions, and more.
This book asks questions, “To what extent do we know ourselves?” “What can we do to know ourselves better?” “What are the things that are most important in our lives?” “How do we feel?”
As a designer, reading these 11 amazing books will help broaden your learning scope, and will distinguish you from others who are just focused on the conventional. UX is all about making life easier by offering lasting solutions to problems.
If you are UXer and you want to be exceptional, going through these unconventional books will help you achieve your goal.
Is there any other book you think must be included in this list? Let us know in the comments below.