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April 12, 2020
2 min read

Books for designers—or, at the least, this designer

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug isn’t present in the pho­to above. I gave it away to anoth­er design­er a few years ago. It’s arguably the ugli­est book in the lot, but it’s def­i­nite­ly at the top of my list of most influ­en­tial design books. While tran­si­tion­ing from an agency design­er pri­mar­i­ly focused on invent­ing inter­faces with each client, to an expe­ri­ence design­er fine-tun­ing a prod­uct to sat­is­fy a much broad­er demo­graph­ic, this book pro­vid­ed me with cru­cial lessons in sim­plic­i­ty and empa­thy.

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

I sup­pose the sec­ond-most uti­lized books would be some­what of a tie. The Ele­ments of Typo­graph­ic Style and Uni­ver­sal Prin­ci­ples of Design both func­tion as ref­er­ence materials—field man­u­als, if you will. While the for­mer has a bit of a nar­ra­tive and is more of a plea­sure to read, the lat­ter is more of an ency­clo­pe­dia of design prin­ci­ples, for­mat­ted in alpha­bet­i­cal order. They are both valu­able resources.

The Visu­al His­to­ry of Type is a new­er acqui­si­tion and a glo­ri­ous book-lover’s book. A type­face for every year, start­ing with Gutenberg’s Bas­tar­da in 1454. The Hi-Fi pho­tog­ra­phy enables the read­er to exam­ine each letterform’s char­ac­ter­is­tics. The author also cre­at­ed a clever frame­work to include detailed meta­da­ta for each type­face.

I like Eva Hesse’s paint­ing and sculp­tur­al work, but I love her draw­ings. I always thought there was an uncan­ny com­mon thread her draw­ings and some of my inter­ac­tion sketches—both being unre­fined, method­i­cal, and hints of a frame­work. Eva Hesse Draw­ing is anoth­er book-lover’s book, with excel­lent typog­ra­phy, a great size and weight, and beau­ti­ful pho­tographs of her draw­ings.

Here’s a few more titles that have helped me “keep my sword sharp” over the years:

  1. Don’t Make Me Think Steve Krug
  2. The Visu­al His­to­ry of Type  Paul McNeil
  3. The Visu­al Dis­play of Quan­ti­ta­tive Infor­ma­tion Edward R. Tufte
  4. Eva Hesse Draw­ing Elis­a­beth Suss­man
  5. Uni­ver­sal Prin­ci­ples of Design William Lid­well, Jill But­ler, Kriti­na Hold­en
  6. It Is Beautiful…Then Gone Mar­tin Venezky
  7. The Design­er and the Grid Luci­enne Roberts,  Julia Thrift
  8. Merriam-Webster’s Col­le­giate Dic­tio­nary  Mer­ri­am-Web­ster
  9. Sag­meis­ter: Made You Look Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter,  Peter Hall
  10. The Ele­ments of Typo­graph­ic Style  Robert Bringhurst
  11. Under­stand­ing Media Mar­shall McLuhan
  12. Think­ing with Type Ellen Lup­ton
  13. Between You & Me  Mary Nor­ris
  14. Shady Char­ac­ters Kei­th Hous­ton
  15. Notes on Syn­the­sis of Form Christo­pher W. Alexan­der


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Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug isn’t present in the pho­to above. I gave it away to anoth­er design­er a few years ago. It’s arguably the ugli­est book in the lot, but it’s …
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