I love reading UX and design books in my free time.


But it used to suck. I didn't get a degree in HCI, and catching up felt hopeless at first. Despite that, I designed my own curriculum with the help of my mentors and peers and started grinding it out- even when I was sleepless working 60-70 hour weeks.

Several years later, what felt like a chore has become my life's greatest passion. I'm reading even more now because I've found my calling to design better experiences for the world. You can browse my reads below!


Trello Notes, Annotated, Favorite, Multiple Reads



Present Reads. (1)





Future Reads. (5)


The Innovator's Dilemma

The Innovator's Dilemma

Recommended to me by my fellow UX book consultant Jason. Looking to expand on my start up/innovation knowledge through this book.


Design Systems

Design Systems

Browsed smashing magazine and this book caught my eye.


The Design Way

The Design Way

Read the last two chapters of this book in a printed article and I fell in love. Really hyped for this one.


Linkography

Linkography

Recommended to me by my fellow UX book consultant Jason.


Designing Your Life

Designing Your Life

Recommended to me by my design mentor Rica!





Past Reads. (35)


Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries

Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries

Mar.2018

This book is awesome as it makes the whole field of user research feel more approachable. The "War Stories" documented are from a diverse cast of authors which makes every page fresh and insightful. Portigal also leaves useful tips at the end of each themed chapter which I found very practical. You can view them all on my trello notes if you want a quick summary, but I still would highly recommend reading this book!


Form Design Patterns

Form Design Patterns

Mar.2018

I couldn’t have asked for a better concrete read on UI than this. Despite being passionate for inclusive design and working to champion it more in the work that I do, I never took the time to formally read a comprehensive guide on best practices associated with it. I have many regrets after reading this book from the time I spent on Amtrak on several poorly informed design decisions I made while working on their PWD (passengers with disability) flow.

With that in mind, I can’t recommend this book enough to any practitioner in the UI space. Beyond acting as a guide for designing forms, this book is a fantastic way for beginners to reframe their mindset towards inclusive design when making wireframes. Too often, I see designers simply copying what “looks cool” off behance or dribbble without giving a second thought towards the underlying usability of it all. Even when mimicking UX powerhouses like Amazon and Microsoft, we need to remain vigilant that it’s so easy to forget to design for accessibility and that the designers/developers on those teams aren’t foolproof. To motivate myself to design for inclusion more, I’ve made a new goal to start using a screen reader when accessing new websites in 2019.

Please, please read this book. Don’t assume the knowledge you have on accessibility is good enough without properly understanding how it works from design to code and ultimately on a screen reader.


The Medium is the Message

The Medium is the Massage

Mar.2018

Recommended to me by my fellow UX'er Jason! It’s amazing how contemporary this book feels despite its age. Both the message/themes by Marshall McLuhan and the medium/illustrations by Shepard Fairey are masterful in delivery. McLuhan had me thinking more about the environments that I live in now and the way they subtly define my role in them.

Most notably, McLuhan argues that the “observer” will no longer exist due to the growing social and engaging nature of contemporary media. More than ever that holds true to the present with the ever-growing increase of media’s presence in our social relationships and growth. Definitely worth a read. I highly recommend reading “Hooked” after this as well!


Shiro

Shiro

Mar.2018

Shiro by Kenya Hara is a masterpiece. It’s not often that I come by a book that is so true to its core ethos in both form and message. From the textured white in the title, the pure white on the first page and the printed white within the pages; Hara has put an amazing amount of meticulous detail into making the act of reading his book such a physically and mentally enjoyable experience. He has, in his own words, mastered the art of “controlling differences” at its most visceral form.

Aside from strictly the architecture of his work, Hara does a great job of explaining what makes “white” so amazing- particularly to designers. The creative individual, Hara argues, looks at the empty bowl as a powerful thing. Rather than having no use, it is great in its potential to be filled with something. White represents this potential power found in emptiness that designers need to understand and appreciate in order to use to its fullest magnitude.

Throughout the book, Hara often makes comparisons to Japanese culture and mythology which adds even deeper layers to the story of white. Coming out the end of it, I can’t see white- or emptiness- in the same way I did before. And for that, this is easily a 12/10.


Sketching User Experiences

Sketching User Experiences

Feb.2018

I have mixed feelings about this book. I came in with the expectation that I would learn how to "sketch" better, but in reality, this is more of a rudimentary guide for students. For the veteran UX designer, much of this will be a 101 review of the basics. However, for the student or new practitioner, I see incredible value in this as an introduction to the many of the techniques used in the workplace.

For example, the book explains in a very beginner-friendly and illustrative manner how to conduct a think aloud session, how crits work and introductory level usability testing techniques. So, all in all, don’t expect too much depth here if you’re a couple of years into the industry; but if you’re a beginner looking for an easy starter book on UX sketching, this is your pot of gold.


Living in Information

Living in Information

Feb.2018

Recommended to me by UX mentor Brendan. This is the book I should have read ahead of Conceptual Models because it gives a more emphatic “why” to Jeff Johnson’s vision. Jorge Arango does an amazing job of explaining the importance of informational environments through easy to understand examples and inspiring dialogue.

By comparing digital “places” (instead of products) to more traditional building architecture, I’ve grown a more holistic understanding of what I create as a designer. My biggest takeaway from this read came early on when Arango discussed the nature of context. The “products” we create are so much more than just products since they introduce new contexts in which our users interpret and act with the world- hence they are digital “places.” It is thus in our duty as the architects, or more appropriately the “gardeners,” of such experiences to be cognizant of both the internal processes and external long-term consequences of what we decide to create.

After reading this book, every designer should come away with a sense of responsibility. In Arango’s words, “we must realize the great power we have over people’s understanding of the world and their behavior in it, and wield that power responsibly.”


Living in Information

Conceptual Models

Feb.2018

Recommended to me by UX mentor Brendan. I started this book with high expectations as I love Johnson’s cog psych background in application to design. I can’t say this book really hit the highs I was anticipating, but it still had notable highlights I definitely enjoyed. Johnson and Henderson’s book boldly starts by addressing why Conceptual Models (CM) should be at the core of the design of every artifact that people use to help them get their work done.

The purpose of CM is to get the product’s concepts and their relationships right to enable a desired task-flow. While I don’t disagree with the many arguments made by the authors, I wasn’t convincingly sold on why it’s worth the effort of training a team to realign to CM from other existing processes used in mastering concepts and relationships.

To start, I was a little let down that there weren’t any case studies to reference. Although Johnson does reference some of his own work in examples listed in the book, there were no mentions of other companies/startups/etc successfully replicating it. Granted, this is a caveat of the style of the volume “About Synthesis” which I’m relatively new to- the volume’s word-for-word purpose is to provide concise, original presentations of important research and development topics, published quickly.

That in mind, I don’t think Johnson and Henderson were correct in making such a bold statement at the beginning that CM should be at the core of the design of every artifact that people use. The idea still feels very raw and untested in industry; it’s also sold in a similar way with the typical “it will save you money in the long run” statement. I don’t disagree that this may not be the future, but I also have built up industry sentiment that design is about process and creation. If we are able to still create products effectively without CM now, why would I want to add 2-3 additional weeks to the product’s lifecycle? Would it not be better to get an MVP out faster and test?

If I could improve this book I would first change the initial statement to something less definite in favor of something more inspiring and challenging. E.g, “CM could be the future of mastering experience design, here’s why…”- yea fuck it, I’m not qualified enough to rephrase that thoughtfully enough. Second, I would provide more case studies and examples conducted by others showing that the process is easily replicable. Third, I would make the example documents downloadable; making the process more easy to pick up would encourage more replication and usage right? Finally, this is definitely not worth $30 bucks for the length and format of this book; I can honestly see the information in this book being packaged into a powerpoint without that much difficult.

I know I said a lot of rough stuff, but you should still really read this book! I still love the thought and reasoning put into why CM works from safeguarding against vocabulary mix-ups to managing version updates. All in all? Started at a 3/5, but it’s Johnson, so I’m giving it a 4/5.


Interviewing Users

Interviewing Users

Feb.2018

Recommended to me by my UX mentor Brendan! Steve Portigal has done an incredible job in packaging the complex subject of interviewing into a short and sweet 101 reference guide. I can see this book being valuable to both the beginner and experienced practitioner, so I highly recommend buying this for your office.

Although I didn’t learn too much more about the underlying methodology of interviewing, there were still many useful case studies, insights, references and rabbit holes that kept me engaged throughout. Portigal also provides many helpful artifacts as references to create your own interviewing guides, documents and more. My favorite chapter was easily “How to Ask Questions” (chapter 6) which provided a list of useful contextual questions to ask; I’ve made good use of this already in my client work.

In reflection, I regret not reading this book earlier in my design career. Knowing the ins and outs of interviewing is a critical skill to have doing UX research, and Portigal masterfully covers the most important bits in an easily digestible way. If you are a beginner UX’er, this is mandatory reading!


Conversations with Design Entrepreneurs

Kern and Burn: Conversations with Design Entrepreneurs

Jan.2018

Recommended to me by Jason, again. What an inspiring read! Many (if not all) of the designers interviewed in this book are like superheroes to me. They're the giants that have the “shoulders” we stand on in the present. That being said, there are two major things I loved about this book.

First, many of the interviews put the hustle and sweat needed to create a success story front and center. It’s a humbling lesson in the utmost need for hard work and risk taking that differentiates great from good. Second, it’s comforting to know that many of these superheroes have experienced the same kind of human failures, discomforts and anxieties that I catch glimpses of in my budding career. I appreciate the authors for consistently asking questions regarding failure; many of the best and most insightful responses came from the reflections that followed.

My biggest takeaway from this can be summarized as: hustle harder, surround yourself with good talent and just do it.


Practical Empathy

Practical Empathy

Jan.2018

If you know anything about me, I'm a big believer in empathy. I approached this book with high expectations, and Indi Young did not disappoint! The first half of this book is incredible. I love Indi's explanation of cognitive empathy: it is purposely discovering thoughts and emotions that guide someone else's decisions and behavior.

She breaks this down by explaining that empathy is a noun- a thing. You can't apply it until you've developed it first by listening to someone. Too often, people confuse this "use of empathy" with empathy itself- and that's a huge problem. Assumptions are dangerous, and Indi rightfully explains the havoc it can cause to organizations both internally and externally.

Indi also does a great job of explaining how to listen. It's about simply absorbing and understanding what's being said without holding any underlying agendas. Some of my favorite tips included: resist the urge to demonstrate how smart you are, use the fewest number of words to nudge a neutral response, avoid offering advice, and let the speaker choose the direction.

As much as I love this book, I wasn't very engaged in the final few chapters. There is a full chapter dedicated to listening session analysis, but the persona piece is basically a reskinned version of Cooper's goal-directed design and the affinity grouping part is a summarized version of Dr. Hartson's more thorough WAAD explanation in the UX Book.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. Knowing how to develop and apply empathy is such a critical skill for both work and day to day life. Buy this book, bring it to your office, and evangelize!


Designing Voice User Interfaces

Designing Voice User Interfaces

Jan.2018

I am so happy I reached out to my UX work buddy Jason for a book rec to get into the voice-first world because this field is d-o-p-e. I can't remember the last time I've enjoyed learning so much. Anyways, delight aside, Cathy Pearl has written an awesome introduction to VUI (Voice User Interfaces) that has successfully addressed my initial curiosities and more.

Upon completion I've become much more aware of the interactions I have with my own google home device and the many intricacies that make it tick. There are so many new things to consider as UX designers as the world's digital devices become more and more human, so I can't recommend this book enough. Please read this. This is a part of our collective future.


101 Design Methods

101 Design Methods

Jan.2018

I have mixed feelings about this book. Starting with the positives, I love how Professor Kumar breaks down the design methods into different categories based on the design innovation process. This is done masterfully both in organization and in visual presentation.

It is incredibly easy for anyone who is familiar with the process to pick up the book and quickly find a method to solve their need at hand. However, due to the brevity of explanations (usually limited to a page or two)- many of the methods come off as something I couldn't pick up and use easily. I would have personally preferred a smaller set list in exchange for more quality instructions and guidance or resources for follow up learning.


Mapping Experiences

Mapping Experiences

Jan.2018

Recommended to me by my UX captain and life mentor Chris Mother***ing Wilson! Kalbach perhaps repeats a little too much why maps are needed to uncover the value of experiences in the first segment, but I can see the importance it has for those new to the field.

The more practical use of this book comes from Kalbach's inclusion of when, why, and how to use the maps he describes. Example maps are provided in varying fidelities along with case studies; I found these useful in thinking of ways I could apply them to my own projects at work. All in all, this is a great read for anyone who needs an introduction to mapping, people who are curious as to why experience (and holistic IoT) is the big new thing for value, or for the consultant on the road needs a nice reference book when diving into a new project.






2018 Bookmark

I read a total of 20 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 :)





Switch

Switch

Dec.2018

Recommended to me by my UX co-worker (she is designer goals) Rica! This book is so good. Chip and Dan Heath provide clear guidance on how to find the patterns necessary for change to flip the switch on your co-workers, your friends, or even the world. Change, in the book, is split into aligning three parts: the elephant (our powerful, but emotional and instinctive side), the rider (the long term planner, but overanalyzing brain), and the path (the surrounding environment and situation). From a UX perspective, I love the application of cognitive psychology referenced by the authors to design a better, smarter path. Do read this book, it is delightful and incredibly empowering!


Designing with the Mind in Mind

Designing with the Mind in Mind

Nov.2018

Recommended to me by Jason Brier! Jeff Johnson has done an excellent job of putting together a solid foundational book on cognitive psychology in HCI. Not only does he explain the scientific sources of various design tenets/heuristics, he gives measured guidelines on how to apply them (to the millisecond in his chapter on timing). In this manner, Johnson achieves his goal of creating a starting point for UI designers in mastering the skill of knowing how to prioritize and balance guidelines according to whatever their contextual situation may be. This is a must read.


Observing the User Experience

Observing the User Experience

Nov.2018

Recommended to me by my UX mentor Brendan! I actually didn't annotate this book. Immediately from the foreward it was clear this was written to be accessed as an on-need resource rather than an educational chapter-to-chapter study. That, by all means, does not discount this book as anything short of an amazing investment. Observing the User Experience fills in a noticeable gap in my library by providing an instructional guide on how to conduct user research. The book successfully addresses the full spectrum of practitioner levels as well, so it's great as a teaching resource as well.


Creative Confidence

Creative Confidence

Oct.2018

Saw this on an IDEO publication while searching up potential student workshop ideas! Wow. What a fantastic book. Tom and David Kelley do a fantastic job of explaining the design world and the steps needed to bring the inner creative out of us all. I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting to master a "doing" mindset and especially those who are new to the design world. There's an entire chapter of creative activities to get started with, but the true value lies in the infectious positivity of the message.


Handbook of Usability Testing

Handbook of Usability Testing

Sep.2018 - Oct.2018

A must have for anyone interested in conducting a usability test. Rubin does well to provide not only instructions on how to conduct a test, but also the motivations/theory behind testing and downloadable resources online. Quick thought: within a design consulting firm where people are typically staffed to projects under the umbrella term "UX Designer"- it's hard finding individuals outside of your project with the proper experience to conduct a usability test for you. I think this leads to the argument of the necessity of different specialities/titles instead of hoping that every UX Designer will be a unicorn.


Evil By Design

Evil By Design

Aug.2018 - Sep.2018

Evil by Design is an incredibly enjoyable read. Chris Nodder cheekily splits up the book’s chapters by the seven deadly sins which makes approaching the content easy. The greatest value Nodder provides through Evil by Design is the principle of purposeful design. By listing and explaining “evil” patterns, it becomes easier to identify and apply them appropriately to nudge and persuade users on an emotional level. There is a whopping total of 57 patterns described in the book which are invaluable tools in any experience designer’s toolkit. I highly recommend having this on the desk.


Designing Products for the Digital Age

Designing Products for the Digital Age

Jun.2018 - Aug.2018

Recommended to me by my Deloitte UX mentor Brendan! This textbook is the penultimate on-the-desk resource to have. From questions to use in user interviews to day-by-day team schedules, Kim provides a full spectrum of thorough and thought-out anchors to reference as an ultimate experience design guide. I've already found this book useful in situations where I've needed specific direction in areas I lack experience in. While this book is a great reference book, I'd warn against seeing it's methodology as black and white; Kim herself (and literally everyone else in this field) are adamant that you should always consider the context first.


Thiking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Jul.2018

Recommended to me by my Deloitte reading buddy Ryan. I was having trouble at first keeping focus on the pages, and had to take short breaks every section (~5pages) or so. This is exactly how I believe Kahneman wanted this book to be read. By giving examples that required the use of our "system 2" through engaging personal examples, many of his lessons stuck on more. My favorite chapter was easily the one on intuition vs. formulas. I had a fun conversation with my UX friend Zoey on this chapter as we questioned how good we really were as UX designers- particularly in the domain of heuristic evaluations.


Nudge

Nudge

Jul.2018

Recommended to me by my Deloitte reading buddy Ryan. This book vibed well with my UX side; the concept of libertarian paternalism is not a foreign concept by any means to anyone who has been within the usability field. Thaler does an excellent job of citing the consequences choice architecture has in relevant contextual environments along with justifiable solutions. This book has a heavy cognitive load, so if you're short on time I would recommend skipping the meat of the content; the introduction and conclusion of the book do a great job of summarizing Thaler's thoughts and arguments.


Universal Principles of Design

Universal Principles of Design

Jul.2018

Recommended to me by my UX peer Zoey! What a fantastic book! The design, both visual and architectural, is spot on making what would be a boring encyclopedia into an effortless delight. I was already familiar with many of the concepts and theories in this book, but there were a plethora of engaging examples to make the review enjoyable. Do check out the piece on project pigeon, it's unforgettable.


Hooked

Hooked

Jul.2018

This was delightful as it was light. Eyal explores and documents examples of his "hook" life cycle theory which has given me an extra layer to eyeball and contemplate products and apps I use in my daily life. One of the more interesting topics that caught my attention was "labor makes love" and the many ways users can invest their lives into products from building furniture to grooming a social media page. I might turn instagram off for a bit because I feel like a druggy after reading this.


The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup

Jul.2018 2

Recommended to me by my Deloitte reading buddy Ryan! The Lean Startup is a must-read for anyone who takes up the mantle of "PM" at any point in their career. Eric does a great job of mixing real world examples, case studies, and management theory to make a compelling argument towards the acceptance of "validated learning" as a means of judging start-up success.

Validated learning, in many ways, intersects with some core fundamentals behind UX research e.g. experimentation and iteration. The key difference to me lies in the itensity of each iteration. Whereas validated learning encourages experimenting with customers, moving quickly, and reducing waste- the quintessential UX research process is much more thorough. From my experience working on designs for complicated work domains, single-batching or chunking out an experience in pieces risks increased friction in that experience's transitional phases. For example, if we were to focus to rapidly design, development, and release a transportation booking profile page before the payment page or vice versa, there will inevitably be a break in the experience for profile/payment transitions such as saved credit cards, addresses, etc. In other words, from a traditional UX perspective an experience cannot be evaluated as an experience unless the full system is designed and thought through as a whole rather than in parts.

To be fair, two things can be said. First, this book is clearly written for startups- they don't have a large customer base already established so experimentation is safer, speed is a key factor for survival, and work domains won't be as complex. Second, in the case this were to be applied to a complex domain, Eric is smart to document the use of the andon cord- popularized by Toyota, this acts as a speed-bump mechanism to ensure quality is not compromised. However, as nice as it would be to have an andon cord, most work environments will storm through problems to meet deadlines which will inevitably causes errors.

To me, there are two ways to solve this. First, we need better managers who understand the importance of investing into quality of experience and are willing to spend more time conducting UX-based research which matches Eric's enthusiasm for experimentation with customers and validated learning. Second, as designers we also need to know when to draw the line. Often the best design solution is the most satisfactory one, not the most perfect.


The Atomic Chef

The Atomic Chef

Jun.2018

I bought this book since it was the spiritual successor of Set Phasers on Stun. In hindsight, the first book was more than enough and a second really wasn't necessary. The scenarios and explanations are more long-winded and did not pique my curiosity as much, but I think it's more of a result of having too much of the same. I'll try and pick this one up maybe again two or three years down the line.


Understanding Comics

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Jun.2018

Recommended to me by my UX work buddy Felicia! This comic is awesome. By awesome, I mean it explores new areas of thought I've never even imagined before. This took me only two days, mostly because it was a crazy enjoyable read. I'd recommend this to anyone who's ever been interested in art, writing, and the fabulous medium that blends them together- comics.


Renegade Dreams

Renegade Dreams

Jun.2018

Recommended to me by the lovely and talented Molly! I picked up this book with hopes it would give me better insight into the ethnographic process- particularly with lower income based communities as I become more involved with state work at Deloitte Digital.

I did not, however, expect to become attached to the emotional dialogue shared between the many individuals in Eastwood. Laurence, the author, does a masterful job in objectively analyzing these interactions without peeling off the humanity. The biggest take away anyone can get from this book is within Laurence’s penultimate conclusion of the “Frame.” Though the world may see Eastwood through the narrow lens of a newscaster’s camera, there is still so much more to be understood and interpreted. From the symbol of the cane, to Jordan sneakers and faux poetry there is a resilience and hope that cannot be captured unless seen within its proper context.


The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up

Jun.2018

Recommended to me by my close friend Ayoung! No, it's not really a UX design "book" in the scholarly sense- but it shares concepts of thought that translate well into our world. Most notably, Marie Kondo gives an even more positive spin to the oft quoted "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (we all need to collectively stop quoting this, it literally appears in every UX book ever).

In her words, it's important to systematically identify and keep items that "spark joy" while discarding those that don't. From a UX perspective it's a compelling challenge to commit to reaching the peak of our work- minimalistic experiences that bring joy through phenomenological interaction (Dr. Hartson gives a good explanation of phenomenological aspects of interaction in "The UX Book" if you want to learn more about it).


Set Phasers on Stun

Set Phasers on Stun

May.2018

Recommended to me by my UX peer Zoey! From the very first chapter I was sold; there's a dark, twisted curiosity that makes this book hard to put down. Casey never offers clear design answers on how these accidents could have been avoided, which kept me constantly brainstorming lists of possible solutions. I would recommend this book as a tongue in cheek follow up to the Design of Everyday Things.


About Face is lit

About Face Ed. 4

Apr.2018 - May.2018

Alan Cooper has sold me on his goal-directed approach as a substitute to contextual inquiry. Using About Face as a reference, I was able to create personas that guided decision making on my project the Perfect Brew! That being said, the first part "Goal Directed Design" stood out the most to me in terms of utility. While Cooper's extended documentation on best practices for interaction design is helpful as a reference point, many of its contents will be a repeat of information for most UX practitioners.


Pretty cool

How to Make Sense of Any Mess

May.2018

A light and easy read. Abby Covert's application of her own book's theory is perhaps where this publication shines most. Although I was familiar with most of the concepts documented, I learned volumes simply by taking notice of Abby's meticulous efforts to create a paragon IA example page by page. Also a banger for easy-to-pull quotes!


The UX Book

The UX Book

Jul.2017 - Mar.2018 2

My holy grail of UX. This is probably the perfect starting book for any beginner and worth two reads if you have the time. Great as a UX reference point for any situation. The content is a little dense, so I recommend splitting this up into parts.


The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things

Sep.2017 - Dec.2017 3

I think everyone in the UX field has read this book. If you haven't, you probably should. Norman is a pioneer in usability design, and this is a great starting point for anyone interested.


The Design of Business

The Design of Business

Dec.2016

The book that started it all. This was given to me by my first UX mentor during my tenure as a UX Intern for Virginia Tech NIS. Great introduction to design thinking and an easy read.