The 30 Most Important Books for Product Designers

digg_url = ‘//’; digg_skin = ‘compact’; What are the most important books for any product designer–or anyone hoping to crib some design thinking?



One of the most common questions at any student Q&A with a master of design is: Where do you get your inspiration from? And the only answer we’ve ever heard which makes any sense is: Books. Reading. Keeping your eyes open to ideas, rather than literal pieces of design. And that makes Design Sojourn’s list of the 30 most important books for industrial designers particularly useful. That link has short descriptions of each book on the list, from Kenya Hara’s Designing Design, a meditation on simplicity and haptic design to Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, by Edward De Bono, which dissects academic research on creativity. Here’s the entire list, with links to Amazon, and which Design Sojourn has helpfully organized into three sections: Thinking, Process, and Designer Skills. The first two will be particularly useful to anyone hoping to apply design thinking more broadly:


1) The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

2) The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) by John Maeda

3) Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop–from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication by Neil Gershenfeld


4) Designing Design by Kenya Hara

5) Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler. 

6) Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

7) It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be: The World’s Best Selling Book by Paul Arden

8) The Lovemarks Effect: Winning in the Consumer Revolution by Kevin Roberts


9) Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas by Seth Godin.

10) Design (Tom Peters Essentials) by Tom Peters.

11) Journals from the Design Management Institute by DMI members.

12) The Creative Priority : Putting Innovation to Work in Your Business by Jerry Hirshberg

13) Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge.


18) Design Secrets: Products 1 and 2: 50 Real-Life Product Design Projects Uncovered by Lynn Haller and Cheryl Dangel Cullen, and edited by Industrial Designers Society of America.

19) Process: 50 Product Designs from Concept to Manufacture by Jennifer Hudson.

20) Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals by Rob Thompson.

21) Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine M. Benyus 

22) Product Design and Development by Karl T. Ulrich and Steven D. Eppinger.


23) Managing the Design Factory by Donald G. Reinertsen.

Designer Skills

24) Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell. 

25) Creative Marker Techniques: In Combination With Mixed Media by Yoshiharu Shimizu

26) Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers by Koos Eissen and Roselien Steur.


27) Architecture: Form, Space, & Order by Francis D. K. Ching.

28) Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships by Gail Greet Hannah.

29) Basic Visual Concepts And Principles For Artists, Architects And Designers by Charles Wallschlaeger and Cynthia Busic-Snyder.

30) Digital Lighting and Rendering (2nd Edition) by Jeremy Birn.

Read more on the list here. If you’ve already got all these books, you might be interested in Design Observer’s summer reading list


[Via Core 77]

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.