5 psychology books every designer should read

Understanding human behaviour and why people do what they do is incredibly important to do good design work.

Here are 5 books that I think are the most useful and interesting for designers. And even if you're not a designer, I encourage you to pick up of one of those.

1. “100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People” by Susan M. Weinschenk

The most information-packed and actionable psychology book aimed directly at designers. You will learn how people see, think, read and more. Filled with lots of examples and written in an easy language, it's very easy to read. Feel free to skip back and forth as the format doesn't require to read it in any particular order.

As with most books, to learn as much as you can, apply the principles you read about in your design work right away, or at least try and recognise them around you.

If you want to dig just a little bit deeper, I can recommend a complementary book by Jeff Johnson: Designing with the Mind in Mind. It's not as readable, but does a better job at explaining the ideas behind some design principles in more detail.

2. “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal

If we want people to use the products we design habitually, we need to understand how habits work and how they are formed.

Being published rather recently (2014), Nir Eyal's book contains a lot of examples that are still up-to-date, making them very relatable.

The book's quite practical, readable and with focus on digital products, it's probably the best one you can pick on this topic.

3. “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

Among other things, “Nudge” helped be learn that good design really is invisible and that defaults are incredibly important. It's fascinating to learn how context and environment influences decisions.

The book offers a framework for choice architecture (fancy term for design) and features several principles applicable in design in general (e.g. expect errors or give feedback).

It features a lot of examples of how the principles of nudging people to better decisions are applied in areas from finance to health. Highly recommended.

4. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini

Why are testimonials such a powerful persuasion tool? Why do people buy products endorsed by experts or celebrities? These and many more questions about persuasion are answered in this book.

You'll learn about 6 persuasion principles, but it will be up to you to figure out how to apply them in digital products. Nevertheless it's definitely the go-to book on persuasion.

I found the writing style to be a little dry but don't be discouraged. This stuff will prove incredibly useful when you're designing something that needs to sell.

5. “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahnemann

Last but not least is the densest book of this list, but also the best in my opinion. You'll learn about the two systems in our mind, cognitive biases and how they shape our judgement and decisions.

This knowledge is invaluable for understanding why people do what they do. Even more important is learning to recognise them in our own thinking––it will allow you do be that much better at your job.

I hope at least one of these caught your attention. Did I miss some great book? Do you want to recommend one you've read? Let me know on Twitter!

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