10 Books Every Product Designer Needs To Read

…and why you should take the time to actually read them.

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Kahneman’s book contains some deep important concepts around how human beings make decisions. It will help you understand why humans make errors in judgement, and how to look for signs that you yourself may be about to make a System 1 error.

A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.
— Daniel Kahneman

Ariely looks at self-defeating behaviour, the power of suggestion, of procrastination, the effects of placebos and many other aspects of our lives that we are often unaware of. Having this awareness, we can spot and know when to use these mechanisms to manipulate behaviour.

One that we are just beginning to understand- is that trust, once eroded, is very hard to restore.
— Dan Ariely

Nudge illustrates a number of key principles of behavioural economics, but then delves into a range of social issues that could benefit from nudges such as our finances, the environment, health and marriage. It explores various areas within behavioural psychology such as; Choice architecture, The path of least resistance, Heuristics, Anchoring, Availability, Representativeness, Loss aversion etc.

People have a strong tendency to go along with the status quo or default option. — Richard Thaler

Sprint completely overhauls the product process and allows you to go from nothing to a testable realistic prototype in just five days. It enables the product team to get their ideas realised and in the hands of users as soon as possible, gaining customer insights which can be feedback into the products life cycle.

Participating in a Design Sprint orients the entire team and aims their efforts at hitting clearly defined goals. Sprints are useful starting points when kicking off a new feature, workflow, product, business or solving problems with an existing product.

By asking people for their input early in the process, you help them feel invested in the outcome.
— Jake Knapp

Don’t Make Me Think was written by Steve Krug to help people think like usability experts do. Although written specifically for the web, some time ago, it still offers some quick fundamentals that all of us should at least be implementing or considering. It was designed to be short, concise and very much to the point. Originally written to spark organisational change and show product managers the importance of usability.

If you can’t make something self-evident, you at least need to make it self-explanatory.
— Steve Krug

A bestseller in the United States, this book is considered to some as the bible on the cognitive aspects of design. It contains examples of both good and bad design and simple rules that designers can use to improve the usability of objects as diverse as cars, computers, doors, and telephones.

Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.
— Don Norman

Csikszentmihalyi explores the meaningful moments that make life worth living, moments of optimal experience, also known as the Flow state. Through various case studies, Csikszentmihalyi delves deeply into how we can achieve Flow in our personal and professional lives in order to lead happier, more meaningful lives. Flow is much more than just a practical guide for leaders, it can be used to create an optimal state and environment for users to perform tasks and learn new skills.

People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

If brevity is the soul of wit, simplicity is the soul of design. John Maeda uses the concept of simplicity to get at the nature of human thought and perception while drawing out tangible applications for business, technology, and life in general. The Laws of Simplicity is thoroughly optimistic, entertaining, and clever, just as you would expect from Maeda.

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
— John Maeda

Hooked shows you how some of the world’s most successful products, like smartphones, make us form habits around them and why that’s crucial to their success, before teaching you the 4-step framework that lies behind them.

Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.
— Nir Eyal

There are leaders and there are those who lead. Start With Why is about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them. The more organisations and people who learn to also start with WHY, the more people there will be who wake up feeling fulfilled by the work they do.

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
— Simon Sinek

Bonus Book!

Recommended by Jonathan Courtney from AJ & Smart

Radical Candor is about communicating clearly with teams to drive effective team performance. The X axis is about challenging directly. The Y axis is about caring personally. Most people are afraid to challenge directly. And a select few do not care personally.

Communicate clearly enough so that there’s no room for interpretation, but also humbly.
— Kim Scott

What are your recommendations?

Do you have any books that you live by?
If you do please let me know so I can add them to my collection!

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Author Jamie Heuze
Head of Product at Etch

Jamie honed his craft of product design by working closely with and nurturing some of the most interesting startups in today’s tech scene.

Over the last 10 years of his career he has donned many a cap in all areas of design, from creating effective branding and packaging for some of the world leaders in the gaming industry to redefining user experiences and digital products for desktop and mobile apps.

So far he’s had the pleasure of working with the likes of BBC, Ubisoft, HBO, Disney, Pearson, Warner Brothers, Universal and Sega.

Written by

Head of Product @etch

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