Top 5 Audiobooks for Product Designers

I love learning but I’m not much of a reader. That’s how I fell in love with audiobooks. Audiobooks are a great way to learn something new as you’re sitting in traffic or going for a run. As a product design nerd + audiobook addict, I’m often asked for recommendations on what design related books work well in an audio format. So, what you’ll find below is a list of the top 5 audiobooks I most often recommend to others.

Make It New: The History of Silicon Valley Design by Barry N. Katz

Time: 8 hrs and 27 mins

TLDR: It can be grind at certain times but holy shit does it give you perspective on where we are now.

Katz explores the history of research and design through stories about major players like Apple, Xerox, HP, Atari, IDEO, IBM and more. The story is epic and it really helped me understand where I fit in as a Product Designer in 2018. It’s humbling to hear how the bricks were laid by the previous generation of designers.

Tip: Keep a pen and paper handy to jot things down for future Googling. Katz discusses a lot of physical products, computers, software, etc. that you’ll be dying to see rather than just hear about.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Time: 4 hrs and 44 mins

TDLR: An easy to understand overview of psychological principles that WILL help you design better products.

In my opinion, this is required reading (or listening) for anyone working in tech. It does a great job of covering why and how people develop habitual relationships with products. It also does a great job of pointing out the ethics involved in how these psychological principles are applied. After listening to the audiobook, I picked up a hard copy so I can refer back to specific sections (and that’s a huge pain with audiobooks).

Tip: Speed it up to 1.5x the normal speed. The narrator is SUPER monotone and has that classic “narrator” tone that drives me nuts. Speeding it up helped a lot.

Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking: What You Really Need to Know to Build High-Performing Digital Product Teams by Jeff Gothelf

Time: 45 mins

TLDR: Overcome the buzzwords and understand how Lean, Agile and Design Thinking fit together.

There is no fluff in this book. I’ve read The Lean Startup and Lean UX. I’ve worked in agile environments and taken courses on “Design Thinking”. All these concepts make sense but the lines between them start to get really blurry… If you’ve already done some reading on these topics there won’t be much new here except that Gothelf compares them all side by side in one spot — which I found very helpful.

Tip: If you have an Audible subscription, don’t waste a credit on this one as it’s only $3.95.

The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

Time: 2 hrs and 44 mins

TLDR: An inspiring breakdown of how to create “simple” things.

In this book, Maeda breaks down how to create simple products into 10 “laws”. This book is full of practical advice that can be immediately applied to whatever you’re working on. This is one of those books that really gets me fired up and reminds me why I love being a designer 🤘

Tip: Don’t just listen to this once. It’s short and worth digesting over time.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Time: 10 hrs and 39 mins

TLDR: Just listen to it. This is the #1 book I recommend to new and experienced designers.

This book by usability legend Don Norman (i.e. Nielsen/Norman Group) is a classic. Norman does an amazing job of breaking down the science behind WHY something “feels right” or “is easy to use”. I’ve read complaints from people saying it’s “dated” as it was written in 1988. In my opinion, those people should shut up. Sure, there are no references to modern products or SASS companies but the concepts still apply. “The Design of Everyday Things” is probably my favorite book of all time. Seriously, just go listen to it (or read it).

Tip: Speed it up to 1.25x as the pace is a bit slow.

Did I miss one of your favorites? Comment below… I’m always looking for new books to check out!

P.S. The links above are linked to my Amazon affiliate account. If you buy a book I’ll get a small kickback. It’s up to you if you use the links, either way is cool 😉