3 Books every Industrial Designer must have

Alvaro Uribe
Products of Design
Published in
8 min readApr 23, 2023

Some people collect stamps, others collect rocks, and I collect books on design. I have about 300, I hunt them for inspiration, expand my design knowledge, learn new perspectives, and go in-depth in specific industries. Today I want to share 3 books every designer should have in their library.

Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals

I have seen and read most of the modern books on manufacturing and this is hands down the best resource to learn production methods. What makes it good?

  • Modern Examples: It presents modern examples that you can easily relate to, by designers you might know or products you might own. Unlike other books that showcase highly engineered products such as cars or aeronautic components, this book displays a diverse range of modern designs, from furniture to packaging and jewelry.
  • Photography: The book features beautiful photography that brings the manufacturing process to life. As a designer, visiting a factory and witnessing machines and cookie-cut products can be exciting, and this book captures the essence of the production process with amazing pictures of various steps.
  • Quality Diagrams: The book features easy-to-understand graphics. Unlike other books that contain difficult-to-read diagrams or high-complexity graphics, this book presents easy and intuitive graphics that make it easy for readers to grasp the concepts.
  • Taxonomy: The book is divided into four easily referenced parts-Forming, Cutting, Joining, and Finishing- and provides detailed technical descriptions of over seventy manufacturing processes. The book is also highly organized, with an impressive segmentation that allows you to find a process quickly and efficiently without flipping through the entire book.
  • Quick Facts: Furthermore, it provides readers with detailed information such as cost, finish quality, environmental impact, applications, speed, and similar processes.

Why you should have it? As an industrial designer, you are working to make objects of mass production, yet with very limited access to factories and fabrication facilities. Not only that, there are thousands of processes, with thousands of new ones every year, and old ones being revamped. This book provides an in-depth exploration of innovative production techniques and materials that are impacting the design industry worldwide, in an easy, and artful way. I love this book so much, I ask all my students to buy it at the beginning of every course.

Buy the book on Amazon

The Aesthetics of Industrial Design: Seeing, Designing, and Making

Buying a book on aesthetics can be a challenge as it could be argued that aesthetics are subjective rather than universal. While it is true that beauty in products is not universal, as humans, we are wired to perceive form, space, color, and value in certain well-defined ways. This book focuses on how these perceptions relate to Industrial Design. Ironically this book is not the most visually rich read, as it is text-heavy and presented in black and white. I really wish the book had a better design; however, the concepts discussed in the book give a true in-depth understanding and exploration of the old question, “Form follows Function, or Function Follows Form?”

  • Context: Ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
  • Applied Theory: It provides a clear path from professional philosophy to the thoughtful execution of high-quality industrial design work. It successfully illustrates how theoretical concepts can be applied to real-world design challenges. Even complex theories are made accessible through the use of references and illustrations.
  • Learning Aids: The book offers useful exercises and debating points that are beneficial to both tutors and students.
  • Wide Range of Topics: Breaks down aesthetics into digestible concepts and topics including visual perception, constraints, lines, surfaces, curvature, product semantics, and craftsmanship.

A similar book, “Elements of Design,” covers the teachings of Rowena Reed Kostello, a leader in breaking down the different layers of how we understand and create forms. However, Elements of Design, focuses mostly on different exercises, to gain perspective with hands-on problems. This could be a great complement to my above choice as it puts concepts into practice.

Buy “The Aesthetics of Industrial Design: Seeing, Designing, and Making” on Amazon

Buy “Elements of Design” on Amazon

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

I find that many times as designers we idealize the world and the design process, thinking that while the user is at the center, no other external forces can affect the outcome, which is not true. Good design success doesn’t happen on its own, but when all other motors of the business machine are pushing in the same direction and speaking the same language, this is why Apple is a juggernaut of a company. This book is an incredible resource to get designers to learn about sourcing, marketing, sales, distribution, customer service, building loyalty, and other practices surrounding design. If design is a language, and you learn the language of business, you will be the perfect bilingual diplomat in the world of products.

The Business Model Canvas: Introduces the concept of the Business Model Canvas, a visual tool that helps entrepreneurs and managers map out and analyze their business models. This tool enables businesses to communicate their model, identify key assumptions and explore potential changes.

Business Model Innovation: Provides a clear understanding of the importance of business model innovation for companies of all sizes. It explains why it is important to continuously challenge and improve your business model to stay relevant and competitive in today’s fast-paced business world.

Customer Segmentation: Emphasizes the importance of understanding your customer base and dividing them into specific segments. By doing this, businesses can create targeted marketing campaigns and tailor their product or service offerings to specific customer groups.

Value Propositions: Discusses the importance of creating a strong value proposition for your product or service. This means identifying and communicating the unique benefits that your product or service provides to your customers, and why it is better than your competitors.

Revenue Streams: Explores different ways businesses can generate revenue, including direct sales, subscriptions, and advertising. It also discusses the importance of diversifying your revenue streams to ensure a stable and sustainable business model.

Partnerships: Discusses the role of partnerships in creating a successful business model. They explain how businesses can identify potential partners, establish partnerships, and how manage them effectively.

Overall, “Business Model Generation” is a great resource for designers who want to develop a deeper understanding of the business side of product and service design, and who want to learn how to create successful, sustainable businesses that meet the needs of both customers and stakeholders.

Buy Business Model Generation on Amazon

✨Bonus✨: The Materials Sourcebook for Design Professionals

As a designer, your materials are your pallet, but you often end up working with materials that a relatively accessible in your local store. As a designer, you will have a chance to design beyond what you have at hand and know how those materials behave and how you can mold them to your design.

Why is this book so great?

Comprehensive coverage: The book covers a wide range of materials used in industrial design, providing a comprehensive resource for designers. It includes detailed information on the properties, characteristics, and potential applications of each material, making it a valuable reference for designers.

Innovative materials: The book covers newer, innovative materials such as smart materials and nanomaterials that are becoming increasingly important in industrial design. These materials have unique properties and potential applications that designers need to be aware of to stay at the forefront of their field.

Material selection: The book provides guidance on how to select the right material for a particular design project, based on factors such as functionality, aesthetics, and sustainability. This is an essential skill for industrial designers, as the choice of materials can have a significant impact on the final product.

Sustainability: The book emphasizes the importance of sustainable design and provides guidance on how to choose environmentally friendly materials and processes. This is becoming an increasingly important consideration for industrial designers, as consumers and companies are demanding more sustainable products.

Visual inspiration: Well given that it is published by the same publisher and same author as Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals, the book is beautifully designed and includes high-quality photographs and illustrations of the materials, making it an excellent visual inspiration resource for designers. as each picture captures the essence of the material and its qualities in a way I have never seen before, giving designers a better understanding of their potential applications and aesthetic qualities.

Overall, “The Materials Sourcebook for Design Professionals” is a great resource for any industrial designer. Its comprehensive coverage, emphasis on sustainability, and visual inspiration make it an invaluable reference for designers looking to stay up-to-date on the latest materials and design techniques.

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