The Definitive List of the Top 10 Best Books for UX Designers

Katherine Fairbanks
Jun 28 · 4 min read

On UX Design

The UX Book
by Rex Hartson
This is an expensive one at $72 at the time of this review, but for good reason. I appreciate the emphasis on Agile as many UX designers are working in an Agile environment. It’s the perfect guide through the UX lifecycle process. Its template can be tailored to any project environment.

UX Design Principles
by Tarun Kohli
The most modern book on the list, Kohl’s book works through 7 UX design principles. I would describe this book as a condensed, more affordable version of Hartson’s book, as it touches much of the same information.

Universal Methods of Design
by Bruce Hanington
I was first introduced to this book at my first UX internship, and it remains an indispensable part of any UX designer’s library. It’s a dense book, and definitely not one I’ve been able to read cover to cover, but it’s a great current, comprehensive survey of best practices in design research methodology.

Universal Principles of Design
by William Lidwell
Each topic is given two pages. One page is more text-heavy and the other has visuals that demonstrate or exemplify the design principle at hand. Despite the seemingly brief dedication to each principle, the book is dense, efficient, and favors minimalism so although you may be able to scan over a principle in seconds, you need to take the time and study the information being presented in order to soak all of it in. Lidwell does a fantastic job at providing a survey of some of the most pertinent design principles. I foresee referencing this book throughout the rest of university studies and beyond.

On the design of things

The Design of Everyday Things
by Don Norman⁣⁣⁣⁣
You can’t have a list of books for UX designers without this classic. This book changed the field of design. It’s perfect for orienting a designer’s approach to creation of products and services. The foundational information and clear examples helped me in the way I think about design.⁣⁣

Design. Think. Make. Break. Repeat. ⁣⁣
by Martin Tomitsch⁣⁣⁣⁣
I found this book when I was trying to strengthen my understanding of user research. It contains sixty methods used in design innovation projects leading to the design of new products or services. The templates and outlines are great resources for completing the research phase of UX design.

On visual design

Graphic Design: The New Basics
by Ellen Lupton
The very first book I’d give to anyone wanting to improve their visual design/graphic design skills. This is the best introduction I’ve found to the basic concepts and principles of graphic design. Each chapter is dedicated to a different element of graphic design, such as rhythm and balance, color, scale, and hierarchy. The book relies heavily on stunning visual examples throughout.

Geometry of Design
by Kimberly Elam
This book helped my spatial awareness in my designs. Elam’s visually rich investigation of proportion, form, and composition in this book makes it a must-have for the designer’s bookshelf. It provides a new lens for examining design in the world around you, revealing fundamentals of design that are beyond what is readily apparent. Elam’s book makes a great companion with Lupton’s book on graphic design, as it provides mathematical and analytical explanations for why some visual design is aesthetically beautiful, while some is not.

On Typography

Thinking with Type
by Ellen Lupton
I wanted to include one book on typography in this list, and Lupton’s book Thinking with Type sets the standard for books on type. Almost every point Lupton makes is accompanied by visual examples and references to design history. Lupton organizes the book into three sections: letter, text, and grid. She moves from the anatomy of individual letters to the way grids control large blocks of text. This book is great to pick up when you’re struggling with font combinations, hierarchy, and visual style.

For your coffee table

1,000 Icons, Symbols, and Pictograms
by Blackcoffee Design
This visually impressive book contains very little written information. The bulk of its pages are made up of icons, symbols, and pictograms. This is definitely a book I pick up when I’m trying to find just the right icon to represent something, or if I’m designing an app icon. The best icons don’t need text to explain them, and so I appreciate the sparse, minimal approach this book takes in presenting icons, symbols, and pictograms. It’s nice to have a book on the coffee table to flip through for inspiration that doesn’t bombard you with chunks of text.

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