Books we’d like to publish

Louis Rosenfeld
Feb 15, 2018 · 6 min read

2019 update

It’s interesting to see how little our “want to publish” wishlist isn’t much different than it was back in 2018 (see below for what we had in mind then). While we’ve made progress in signing books in some of these areas (have a look at our full catalog here), we do have a long way to go toward beefing up our catalog.

So for 2019, we’ll just cover a few ideas that you would-be authors might consider tackling. I’m sure you’ll note that these are all really, really, REALLY hard ones to address:

  • Design for privacy: Arguably part of the broader issue of trust, privacy looms larger and larger every year. What can designers do to help humanize the impacts of technologies that are becoming ever more clever at inserting themselves into our everyday activities? And if we don’t, who will?
  • Design for security: So many security arrangements are defeated by the people they’re intended to protect because they’re overly complicated and woefully awful to use. If you’ve ever propped open a permanently locked door at work, or given someone your password because it was too complicated to get them authenticated through channels, you know exactly what I mean.
  • Making work easier/more efficient/more fun: Works sucks. How can designers and researchers make it suck less? Kevin Hoffman’s book Meeting Design is just one example of a designerly way of taming one of the workplace’s nastiest demons. What other demons deserve to be doomed by designers? How about employee on-boarding (and off-boarding), workplace education, executive dashboards, and even super-annoying everyday tasks like scheduling meetings, managing shared files, and keeping the office quiet (but not too quiet)?
  • Reconsidering and redesigning everyday places: There are places—physical and digital and combinations thereof—where we’re required to spend our time, and unhappily so: waiting rooms, queues, traffic jams… Are these problems or really opportunities?
  • Keeping technology from making our lives unlivable: Amber Case’s Calm Technology (no, didn’t publish it; yes, wish we had) has been out for four years, but life has only become more plagued by a destructive dysphoria of ear-shattering street noises, beeping devices, and alerts alerts alerts and yet more alerts. UX people: what are we going to do about it? We’d better get cracking; as the world becomes more urbanized and squished together, these constant distractions are going to make it really hard for us to live together peacefully.

There are no processes, products, services, systems, and environments that can’t benefit from reconsidering and rehumanizing their experiences. And there’s room for more books to help us help make work more enjoyable and life more livable.

2018 (the original article on what Rosenfeld Media wants to publish)

There’s a little submission form on the Rosenfeld Media site, designed for people who have ideas that they’d like to see turned into books. Some of those folks are very familiar with Rosenfeld Media and what we’re about. Others find us on some generic list of publishers, and pitch us irrelevant ideas from genres that range from business thrillers to dystopian young adult fare.

While it’s flattering to be considered, we should be clearer about what books we would like to publish. That’d make filling out that little form feel less like leaving voice mail for a random stranger, and more like the start of a really interesting conversation with a colleague. Which, incidentally, is a great model for writing a book.

All of our books should help designers, researchers, and other creators make the world better. Really and truly, we believe that good design makes the world better—and we exist to enable and amplify that. We want to help you do good.

That said, you’ll note that there is no suggestion below for a book specifically on how to design ethically. We’d rather that ethical design be an implicit promise that you can count on from all of our books — ”Ethics Inside,” to paraphrase Intel.

Our books should be written by people who are on a journey, and want you to come along and talk and learn with them. Their journeys should make sense of the complex and unknown when they can. And when they can’t, our authors should acknowledge this, because our readers are grown-ups who can handle, and even appreciate, ambiguity.

Most of all, they should be written from the heart.

We prefer evergreen topics—ones that will remain current for years to come, regardless of changes in technology. They’d certainly better be highly relevant one or two years from now, because that’s generally how long it takes for a book to be written, edited, produced, and promoted. Books are the “slow food” of content; they’re not the best format for every idea.

What specific topics and categories? Well, Rosenfeld Media’s patented Book Acquisitions Algorithm is pretty powerful. It combines data from Lou’s personal network, his contacts’ networks, detailed analysis of major conference programs, and actual honest-to-god user research conducted via both surveys and an ingenious trojan horse.

Here are the book categories The Algorithm came up with for 2018:

  1. Synthesis across silos, tribes, and practices: You may not know this, but our branding is crawling with elephants. That’s because we fervently believe in the fable of the blind men and the elephant: you can’t get to truth and insight without bringing different perspectives to the conversation. We’d love to see books that help readers succeed at building bridges across all kinds of yawning gaps. Dave Gray’s Liminal Thinking helps us do that in a general, person-to-person way. How about more books that crack the code of cooperation between corporate silos? Or that help combine and synthesize different types of user research and data? (That last one’s a personal hobby horse, but I’m too swamped to write it.)
  2. Design in new contexts: We’ve published one “vertical” book so far—Peter Jones’s Design for Care. Though it came out in 2013, we’ve recently seen a spike in its demand. Perhaps it’s time for more books that help designers understand unchartered problem spaces? Think design for protecting security, design for financial services, design for better government…
  3. Design for new audiences: Similarly, there are audiences that would really benefit from a basic knowledge of user experience design. Developers, product managers, marketers, and educators are good examples; books written in their language and accounting for their unique perspectives and challenges might go a long way in democratizing good design.
  4. Designing with new materials: Greg Petroff’s Enterprise UX 2016 keynote on software as a design material was mind-blowing—not just the idea, but the familiar framing (design materials) applied to unfamiliar new opportunities. Books that similarly frame complicated things like machine intelligence, customer data, and (ahem) time as design materials might cause a lot of light bulbs to turn on.
  5. Scaling design: The success of our Enterprise UX and, more recently, DesignOps conferences demonstrates that so many design leaders and managers are looking for ways to scale up their teams’ impact. What tools, libraries, policies, procedures, and principles can help design get established, stay established, and sustainably amplify the work that designers do in large organizations that are thirsty for design? It‘s time for more Ops: not just DesignOps, but ResearchOps, InsightOps…
  6. Making sense of systems: I’m not sure I have the right words to describe this topic (omni-channel? cross-channel? big picture?). But I can tell you that there are so many indications that UX people are trying to learn from one flavor or another of systems thinking (in fact, we’ll soon publish Chris Risdon and Patrick Quattlebaum’s Orchestrating Experiences, a great example of tackling complexity). Perhaps designers are waking up to the fact that we operate levers that have impact in all sorts of unanticipated, invisible places. And that how we operate them can have some stunningly positive—or disastrous—consequences.

OK, six categories; did our algorithm miss any big ones? And what specific topics should we address? Please share your comments and questions below.

And let’s revisit this discussion in a year and see if it’s changed much. Until then, thanks for indulging me in this little exercise in defining UX.

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