This short list of readings is intended to reframe how you think about design. Starting with high-level think pieces and narrowing down to more practical, focused guides, I’ve curated this list from the articles and books that have made the biggest impact on me personally. Hopefully they’ll do the same for you.
The Web's Grain
First, break down your perception of UI design as something that happens in a box. When you’re designing for an edgeless, sprawling space like the web, don’t start by drawing a box for it to fit inside. Instead, go with the grain. What is the web’s grain? It’s “an edgeless surface of unknown proportions comprised of small, individual, and variable elements from multiple vantages assembled into a readable whole that documents a moment.”
The Best Interface is No Interface
Along the same lines, challenge your belief that the solution to every problem is an app—or even a screen. In this (admittedly preachy) book, Golden Krishna walks you through three principles of thoughtful design that go beyond “slap an interface on it,” and envisions a future where computers serve humans, not the other way around.
Don’t Make Me Think
Take a break from the cerebral stuff for a moment, and absorb some of Steve Krug’s practical, common-sense advice about usability. You’ll be surprised how well this 20-year old book has aged (but you can also pick up the revised version from 2013).
Design for Cognitive Bias
It’s time to confront the invisible biases that shape the way we design for others, and the way others consume that design. This is a short, consumable introduction to a complex topic, so look into the Resources listed at the back to deepen your understanding.
Laws of UX
A good designer understands the basic human psychology, so read through and then bookmark this pocketbook guide to some of the most common UX concepts. If you’ve been designing for years, or just have a good eye, you may have intuited some of these ideas already.
The Modes of Appeal
Learning to write, and to write convincingly, is essential to becoming a better designer. That takes practice, so get a jump start by learning Aristotle’s three elements of rhetorical appeal: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Yes, a little bit of ancient Greek philosophy is going to help you write sharper H1s. It’s also going to inform how you develop design concepts, how you communicate with clients, and how you present your work.
Lastly, it’s time for some nuts-and-bolts, tactical advice to improve your work. Design is about thinking, yes, but at the end of the day, the designer should be able create something something beautiful, accessible, and delightful with the flick of a wrist. The tips and tricks in this book are the kinds of things I tend to do without thinking, which sometimes makes it hard to teach to others. But Steve and Adam manage to do it.