So many books, so little time — the problem of Choice arises when you want to become better in product design by soaking in some wisdom books.
Blurbs are useless. They are written to make you buy every book, not to help you choose one. Listicles are better, but most of them are written by people who’ve read only blurbs. Some other book-choosing strategies are way too… exotic.
There even was an article that offered me to shape a summer reading list based on the colors of my bikini.
Now while you're struggling to unsee the picture above, it’s high time to introduce the book curation principle I’ve used for this article to recommend you best UI/UX design books.
I reached out to product designers I know personally (kudos to the Eleken tribe), and also product designers I don’t know personally (kudos to you, kind people). All my experts named the book that brightens their career path with its vivid vision, its practical tips, or its fire gags.
Thus, we have a living breathing list of best books to learn UI/UX design, no way ultimate, but 100% worth your attention. It’s broken into four categories:
- UI/UX design books for beginners
- Best books on design fundamentals
- Practical guides for designers
- Best books for UX research
And here we go.
UI/UX design books for beginners
Going to drill into design? Here we got a stack of books for you to test waters before jumping in.
The Design of Everyday Things
There are many iconic design books, but Aleksandra, the UI/UX designer from Eleken, says all of them pale to utter insignificance in light of The Design of Everyday Things — it has a superpower to change people. Everyone who’s read it learns to love design. Sometimes a feeling is so intense that people become designers themselves.
Instead of splashing a thousand words, I’ll put here the story one Redditor shared with me:
The Design of Everyday Things is what got my cousin into the design, who is now in that career, and I’m in the middle of reading it. It’s given me a new perspective on how designers think and basic fundamentals, definitely something worth reading!
UX for Beginners: a crash course in 100 short lessons
This one started as an email newsletter, grew into a blog, and became viral. And now you have it as a book, organized into small bite-sized lessons packed with actionable advice.
Really great starter UX book is “UX for beginners” (with the duck). It’s really digestible and I still use it as a quick reference or to jog ideas.
Mekkie Bansil, Founder & CEO at leadbound studio
Designing Products People Love: how great designers create successful products
Now when you believe design is your thing, it'd be helpful to shadow experienced designers at work to gain some practical insights. Designing Products People Love was written just for this.
The author interviews dozens of product leaders from Twitter, Medium, Squarespace, and similar to get their secrets. Then, he shares all the secrets with you and teaches you to implement what you read into your own process.
This book can replace an intensive workshop with an actual product designer.
Maya, UI/UX designer at Eleken
Inspired: how to create tech products customers love
Product design is in no way a lonely ranger story. It’s rather a story of a string section in an orchestra. Besides designers, every great product team consists of a project manager, developers, testers, marketers, researchers, analysts, and delivery managers. You can’t play your string section well without understanding how it cooperates with all the other people and processes inside of the product team.
Chapter 11! Go read chapter 11 to grasp what product designers do!
Ilya, Founder & CEO of Eleken
Best books on design fundamentals
There are certain books that taught generations of folks to be product designers.
Those little designers have grown up into big professionals and today they reached their old textbooks from top shelves for you. They blow the dust off and figure out that even if the books are outdated sometimes when it comes to the visual component, the principal component is now more relevant than ever before.
Please welcome the nomination for top UI/UX books that have been proven by time — best books on design fundamentals.
Designing Interfaces: patterns for effective interaction design
Designing Interfaces is holding its ground even sixteen years after the original edition. This thick book with a lovely mandarin duck is a stalwart design guide for all the possible interfaces.
A very fundamental book, chock-full with clear examples. It structures your knowledge and offers a new, more comprehensive, way of looking at interface design.
Maksym, UI/UX designer at Eleken
The Art of Color
Johannes Itten was one of the main teachers of Bauhaus — the avant-garde school of design, architecture, and applied arts. Sixty years ago he published The art of color, which is still considered the bible of color for artists and designers.
Don’t trust its plain and playful cover, the book is in no way an easy read. Dasha, who nominated this book in our list, recommends approaching it as strength training in the gym:
Read it in small portions and make pauses between each repetition.
Dasha, UI/UX designer at Eleken
Don't Make Me Think: a common sense approach to web usability
To all the people — from all parts of the world — who have been so nice about this book for fourteen years.
Especially the woman who said it made her laugh so hard that milk came out of her nose.
From Steve Krug’s preface to the third edition
Do you need any other reason to read what’s under the cover? Dasha, who recommended this book, has one for you. She says it offers the simplest (and, probably, funniest) way to figure out how usability works.
Practical guides for designers
Sooner or later, seeing how things could go wrong in practice, you start looking for some sets of recommendations towards good practice in design. Such guidelines we have here, in our practical books category.
A Project Guide to UX Design: for user experience designers in the field or in the making
Whether you are overwhelmed by your first UX job or get stressed just looking at your new design project, this book will help. Use A project guide to UX design as a mind-calming meditation.
[It is the book] I read so many times and still refer back quite a lot.
Tokiko Miyazato, Principal UX Designer
Change by Design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation
[This book is] really good for understanding what is design thinking and the process behind it… and when done well, you really can uncover gems (i.e. get into your customers’ mind/perspective)
Daniela Marquez, VP of Product & Growth at Lovingly
Evil by Design: interaction design to lead us into temptation
With the previous book, we learned how to ease the users’ lives. Now, welcome to the dark side of UX, following the path succinctly indicated by JD, a guy I’ve met in one Slack community for designers:
Evil by Design.
Learning to understand people, designers get tremendous power to create interfaces that are not just easy to use but encourage you to do things that you didn't mean to. I am not pointing fingers, but you just look at those addictive social media interfaces or video platforms that automatically play the next video in a sequence.
Any knowledge or tool can be used for good or bad. It's really the ethics of the professional using it.
Best books for UX research
Asking designers about the most important books in their careers, I’ve heard the word “research” more often than any other word, and even participated in one UX survey.
So, we have indirect evidence that product design is not about “making it pop”, but about discovering great data that yields great insights, and then turning great insights into novel ideas. Where does great data come from? Right, from research.
To celebrate this finding, we have a special nomination for the best books on UI/UX research.
Just enough research
Erika Hall in her book says research is a periscope offering you a better view of your surroundings. I'll tell you, she created a perfect manual to adjust your periscope. In simple and vivid language, the book tells what is research and what research is not, when you need to gather more information, and when it’s just enough.
This book helped me survive in the wild wild web of unstructured controversial content when I was writing a series of articles about UX research. So I nominate it by myself, and highly recommend it to everyone who wants to break into the UX research field with no prior experience.
UX Research: practical techniques for designing better products
It’s a basic practical research book that explains everything about questions, methods and analysis in research. Here's what says Alicja Głowicka, the designer who recommended O'reilly’s UX research:
[This book] is practical, has templates, and takes you through organizing research step by step.
The Mom Test: how to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you
People say you shouldn’t ask your mom whether your business is a good idea — she’ll lie to you because she loves you. The author of the book argues that you shouldn’t ask anyone whether your business is a good idea, just because it’s a bad question.
If you want to validate your ideas by asking good questions, go read The Mom Test.
Maksym, UI/UX designer at Eleken
Measuring the User Experience: collecting, analyzing, and presenting usability metrics
That's the ultimate research manual for non-researchers. Not really the one you 'read', more useful to go over it all so that you can reference it later when you must decide what types of tests to run, when to run them, how to crunch the numbers.
Can say this book is one of my bibles — very useful for any research/data-oriented designer like myself.
Tokiko Miyazato, Principal UX Designer
All useful stuff goes better in groups. Like, lockdown helped me to figure out that I’m fatally incapable of doing sports by myself. And I know I’m not alone.
So if you want to read more books to raise your competence level and want some company, I've found a proper corner of the web for you. Here’s a UX/UI book club in Slack, where designers come together every month to read and discuss a suggested book.
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