The Best Product Design Books (That Every Product Designer Should Read)

Camren Browne, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

As designers, we are tasked with creating useful, intuitive, and even addictive products that users can’t wait to interact with. Without even knowing it, decisions we make are often backed by research into human behavior, current trends, and psychology. 

These product design books are invaluable for applying research to creating products that people value and love. They’ll give you the tools you need to make design decisions conscientiously and efficiently.

It’s time to go deep, from the psychology of product interaction, to the history of font creation, to streamlining your workflow.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug 
  2. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
  3. Change by Design by Tim Brown
  4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
  5. Solving Product Design Exercises: Questions and Answers by Artiom Dashinsky
  6. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  7. Just My Type by Simon Garfield
  8. Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Better Design Products and Services by Jon Yablonski
  9. The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
  10. Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love by Jon Kolko

Let’s get started!

The top 10 product design books

There are hundreds of books on product design and related fields. It can feel overwhelming to determine which ones are worth a read. I’ve made this top 10 list to help narrow down your choices. 

1. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited by Steve Krug 

Think of the last app you downloaded onto your phone. Did you need instruction on how to use it? Products that seem effortless to use often employ excellent use of intuitive navigation and information design. This is what Steve Krug’s book is all about.

The book describes human nature’s pattern to choose the first available solution to a problem. Krug demonstrates how to take advantage of this pattern. Real-world examples, engaging illustrations, and a witty tone make it an engaging read. 

Who it’s for

I highly recommend this book for its fresh perspectives, useful examples, and a new chapter dedicated to mobile usability. It’s a great product design book for those interested in all types of digital products, including web and app design.

2. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman 

Ever wonder why some products delight users while others only cause frustration? This  book, written by one of the most famous pioneers of UX, gives invaluable insight into the relationship between product and user. 

Norman provides readers with trusty fundamentals of interaction design and easy-to-follow rules for creating human-centered products. You can expect to learn how to capitalize on natural relationships between control and function, principles of accessibility, and how to provide assistance.

Who it’s for

This book is essential for all designers, novice or seasoned, who want to understand why products succeed or fail, what users expect, and how to use those expectations to optimize your designs

3. Change by Design by Tim Brown

In this book, former CEO of IDEO Tim Brown argues that the strategies and techniques of design serve a purpose at every level of a business, no matter the industry. 

Brown delves into design thinking and how to use it to solve problems in a way that is feasible, useful, and profitable for both the user and the business. 

This book demonstrates how great ideas are not generated solely from individual brilliant minds, but come from a collaborative process of relentless examination and identification. Brown offers case studies from big-name brands like Kraft and Kaiser Permanente.

Who it’s for

Brown’s work has been a huge part of how I understand great design thinking. I’d recommend it for just about any creative leader looking to find viable solutions for the problems of individuals, businesses, and society at large

4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Have you ever closed an app on your phone just to reopen it seconds later? How do these products hook us in so well? What does it take to elicit such an emotional response? These are the exact questions Nir Eyal answers in this product design book.

With his four-step “Hook Model”, Eyal explains how companies gain loyal and consistent users without gimmicky or aggressive advertisement. Eyal uses years of research, experience, and real-life examples to describe human behavior and how to increase conversions.

Who it’s for

I love this book for how quick but meaningful it is to read. I suggest Hooked for designers, product managers, startup founders, and marketing executives alike. You’ll learn more about human behavior and what it takes to win over and retain users. 

5. Solving Product Design Exercises: Questions and Answers by Artiom Dashinsky

There’s no better way to test your product design knowledge than putting your skills into practice. In this book, Artiom Dashinsky offers over 30 examples of design exercises you can use to step up your design career. 

Some examples include redesigning an ATM, creating an online dashboard for a medical provider, and redesigning the NYC metrocard system. Many of the exercises included are used by major companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, and more. 

Dashinsky offers preparatory practice and a 7-step framework for design interviews and insight into how companies hire (and should hire) product designers.

Who it’s for

These design challenges and exercises helped me tremendously with my overall design skill as well as giving my portfolio a boost. I’d give this to anyone just starting in the field or someone looking for a new position.  

6. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Building a startup is no easy feat. Founding members of even the most successful startups have to create something never seen before, without any guarantee of success. Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup offers a novel approach for building products.

His approach focuses on creating products with high value and desirability that use human creativity efficiently and generate greater capital. Ries describes how to effectively experiment with product design. His methods aim to shorten product design cycles, learn what customers want, and allow companies the flexibility to change direction with finesse. 

Who it’s for

This book helped me see that many startup failures are preventable with Ries’s simple tips and easy-to-follow strategy. The Lean Startup is a great read for any new or experienced entrepreneur looking for an efficient, scientific approach to launching innovative products. 

7. Just My Type by Simon Garfield

We are constantly taking in typography every day on billboards, street signs, food packaging, and even our clothing. Thousands of different typefaces make our world, from ancient to AI-generated. But why are there so many, and why should we care about them?  

Garfield delves into how fonts affect us, describing what makes them look happy, exciting, formal, or even of a certain nationality. Garfield takes a deeper look at the obsession with Helvetica, the use of Times New Roman in all things business, and the extremely maddening response to the use of Comic Sans. 

Who it’s for

I was truly amazed by how this book affected my design choices moving forward. Out of all the product design books on this list, I’d recommend Just My Type for anyone curious about emotional responses to fonts, their origins, and how we look at the printed word.

8. Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Better Design Products and Services by Jon Yablonski

Many people ask about the best non-design skills for product designers to have. Jon Yablonski argues that it’s an understanding of psychology. Yablonski describes the value of observing common human behaviors, how users interact with digital interfaces, and the importance of forming a product around the user. 

The book offers breakdowns of real-world apps and digital experiences and insights into the effect of aesthetically pleasing designs. It also outlines key psychology principles and how they relate to UX design and heuristics. Yablonski even discusses the ethics of using psychology in design. 

Who it’s for

This is a great read for those looking to back their design decisions with concrete psychological principles. I was also blown away by Yablonski’s online platform for the Laws of UX that offers supplemental information on the concepts in his book. Both the book and website offer a wealth of information for anyone going into user-centered design. 

9. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell 

Not too long ago, society entered into the age of “going viral”. But before that, trends and behaviors spread in a virus-like fashion across cities, countries, and even oceans. Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell describes the moment an idea takes root and spreads rapidly as “the tipping point”. 

Gladwell emphasizes the importance of first impressions, something designers can take to heart when designing first interactions. He breaks down three rules or “agents of change” to consider when observing the epidemics of a trend or product. 

Who it’s for

The Tipping point is a must read for anyone involved with selling products or the dissemination of ideas. I learned what it takes for something to gain rapid popularity through Gladwell’s real-life case studies, straightforward commentary, and breakdowns. 

10. Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love by Jon Kolko

The drive to be innovative in today’s tech-heavy world often comes at the expense of actually satisfying the consumer’s needs. Creatives often get stuck trying to add cutting-edge or flashy features. In this book, Jon Kolko demonstrates how to build successful products that resonate with the emotions of users.

Kolko uses real-life examples to explain how empathy is used by leading companies to promote deep customer engagement with their products. Using his 15 years of experience in the field, Kolko breaks down the process into a simple, 4-step process that ensures your designs evoke positive emotions and influence consumer behavior.

Who it’s for

I found this book to be to the point and full of valuable insight. I’d give it to designers that want to focus on regular customer engagement through emotional appeal rather than trying to rope them in with trendy features.

Closing thoughts

Whether you are an aspiring designer or heavily experienced one, reading product design books like the ones listed above can help hone your skills, expand your creativity, and freshen your perspective.

If you want to dive deeper and explore hands-on exercises, check out our free 5-day short course in product design.

And if you’re interested in reading product design books within other genres, check out our guides:

Or watch our video about the must-read books for designers:

What You Should Do Now

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  2. Take part in one of our FREE live online product design events with industry experts, as well as info sessions for how to break into the field.

  3. Become a qualified product designer in 5-10 months—backed by the CareerFoundry job guarantee.

  4. This February, we’re offering a limited-time deal worth up to $1,365 off—on all of our career-change programs 🎉 Book your application call and secure your spot now!

     

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