75 Books and Counting

I didn't get a degree in UX or HCI *shock*  

Despite the setback, I designed a curriculum with my mentors and began to grind it out.

It's become my responsibility as a designer in public service, a lifelong passion... and a borderline addiction.

Evolution of my library at work from a stack of books to a sitting space

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2020 Reads, 12 Books+

Trello Notes | Annotated | Favorite | Multiple Reads

Book cover of The Ethical Handbook of Design

The Ethical Handbook of Design

Mar.2020 | 4/5 |

This is a great introductory book to ethics in design. I was familiar with most of the talking points from prior reads, so I skimmed a good number of chapters. However, I did find their downloadable ethics scorecard (which I’ll be using to evaluate my own projects), explanation on international laws, and breakdown of cookies very applicable!

The Classic IA Polar Bear Book

Information Architecture

Mar.2020 | 4/5 |

The classic polar bear book! I was late to read this, but was delightfully surprised at the modern nature of the 4th edition's content. It was fun to read the author's commentary on the evolution of the field of IA and I was able to fill in some big knowledge gaps on content in UX from classic sitemaps, search semantics, and even reports to the client. The parts on research are shallow (intended), but otherwise I would recommend this as a solid foundational read on content strategy.

Book cover of Rituals for Work

Rituals for Work

Mar.2020 | 3/5 |

This book was... ok. Of the 50 rituals, I bookmarked only 4 for use- but those 4 were a great match for my workplace. Definitely a better fit for smaller organizations and startups, but many of these will be harder to scale to larger enterprises.

Book cover of Design for the Real World

Design for the Real World

Mar.2020 | 5/5 |

The best book I’ve read in 2020 so far. Victor Papanek is a brilliant human being. His call for designers to recall their greater purpose to design for what is needed rather than what is wanted is chillingly relevant in modern times despite this being written decades ago. I also love his proposed redesign of design curriculum to be a smaller in scale, multi-cultural, and multi-disciplinary workshop. I can’t summarize everything, but I loved just about everything. Please read this book.

Book cover of Brotopia


Feb.2020 | 4/5 |

The tech industry is fucked up, and we men are largely responsible for it. Emily clearly documents how inequality emerged and why it still persists in the present. This is a must read for men in tech, especially designers. It’s a wake up call reminding us that no, we can’t claim to be “user-focused” if we fail to ignore gender inequality in our own offices. If we are complacent in an industry that disrespects and excludes women, how can we expect to design products that don’t do the same?

Book cover of Inclusive Components

Inclusive Components

Feb.2020 | 4/5 |

This is the book I wish I had when I was studying CS in undergrad. Like his other material, this book is a golden reference for creating an accessible web from to-do lists to modals. Perfect for helping both developers and designers grow an accessible-leaning and creative mindset.

Book cover of So Radical Candor

Radical Candor

Feb.2020 | 5/5 |

Everyone should read Radical Candor, regardless of level, to understand what good leadership looks like. Kim makes it clear that being a boss is not a binary prescription of being an asshole or a people-pleaser. Instead, it’s a layered process of understanding your people...

and showing them that you care by being honest and specific in both praise and criticism. Unlike some other management books I’ve read in the past, Kim’s theory on leadership is well-grounded, reflexive, and provides real/replicable examples that don’t pretend to be magic apply-to-all solutions.

For me personally, this book was humbling. According to Kim, I have occasionally stumbled into the worst possible quadrant of leadership: manipulative insincerity. To quote Kim, “people give praise and criticism that is manipulatively insincere when they are too focused on being liked or they think they can gain some sort of political advantage by being fake, or when they are too tired to care or argue any more.”

In prior projects, I have definitely hit imaginary walls before in providing candor up the chain to bosses I feared… usually out of retribution. In those moments, I regret turning to manipulative insincerity where I would either criticize behind the boss’ back or simply stop caring due to intense burnout (60-70hr work weeks are one hell of a time).

Rather than complaining or writing off a boss off for being “an asshole,” I should have provided candor. I should have done even more to build a relationship to give feedback for improvement. Ultimately, everyone deserves a chance to hear honest, specific, and impersonal feedback 1-on-1. And, if they cannot accept it in good faith, it’s time for a new project/job.

Big thanks to my mentor Rica Rosario for recommending this to me.

  • Buy

Book cover of Inclusive Design Patterns

Inclusive Design Patterns

Jan.2020 | 4/5 |

TL;DR I'm not an accessibility engineer and this website needs to get fixed ASAP. Designers will get a little less out of this as Heydon speaks mostly in code, but I found it still very helpful in explaining the why behind UI patterns that are better for accessibility on the web.

Book cover of The Best Interface is No Interface

The Best Interface is No Interface

Jan.2020 | 5/5 |

A (Golden) masterpiece. I can't remember the last time I read something so well-crafted and written. Think About Face, but repackaged in contemporary bar banter form. Krishna reminds us that people don't need more UI in their life, they just want better and faster solutions.

Book cover of So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race

Jan.2020 | 5/5 |

This book was painful and awkward to read-- but it was important and valuable. It has made me realize the amount of privilege I have by simply being an East Asian male along with the consequences that privilege has on those less fortunate. Ijeoma is right...

We can’t make the world a better place for everyone until we are willing to acknowledge that privilege and fight for those without it.

As a UX Designer, that has real implications in the way I approach my work. How I plan sampling strategies, how I prioritize design decisions, when I'm willing to push back for the sake of inclusion... all of these easily (or conveniently) forgotten details have incredible relevance. This book was a strong reminder that we can't afford to allow our lived experiences to act as a proxy for others. There are real and heavy consequences otherwise.

Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership

Jan.2020 | 2/5

Recommended by my PMs. The book follows a repetitive formula of war story time, a lesson, and a business example. The leadership lessons are pretty basic (be a responsible and proactive leader), but I guess the SEALs branding sells. There is also a possible gulf in usage amongst minorities and women as the SEALs are mostly white and male.

How to Do Nothing

How to Do Nothing

Jan.2020 | 5/5 |

Odell helped me realize that although I love design, I don’t love the work-a-holic culture it can ensnare us into. She makes a strong point that commercialism has narrowed how success is defined, and that our attention deserves more than just small screens and comparing salaries. A must read.

2019 Bookmark, 41 Books

At the beginning of 2019, I set a goal to hustle harder by studying and annotating 30 books by year end on top of my client work and volunteering obligations. 365 days of studying later, I completed 41 books based on recommendations from mentors, peers, and curiosity.

View my 2019 reads >>

Key Takeaways

  1. Context is everything.
  2. I still know very little about design.
  3. Unconscious bias is ever-present in design.
  4. Male designers should study feminism.
  5. Move fast and break things is outdated.
  6. Triangulate, triangulate, triangulate.
  7. The design hustle has narrowed our understanding of success.
Read my full thoughts >>

2018 Bookmark, 22 Books

I read a total of 22 design books (not including re-reads). I annotated 11 of them, including 4 digital chapter by chapter trello notes.

I've also started up a small library using the books I've collected at work. It's been an absolute delight sharing what I've learned with others. I hope I can continue to do so in the future.

Most importantly, learning about design has become a calling to me- not just a responsibility or a new years resolution. I'd like to thank Brendan, Zoey, Ryan, Chris, Jason, Rica, Molly, Ayoung, and Kim for lending me their recommendations and support to this endeavor.

In 2019, I hope to double on that number if not more.
See you next year :)

View my 2018 reads >>