Kickstart Your Education With These Books on Product Design
The world of product design is a complicated and complex realm. Designers are faced with the task of taking on this multifaceted industry with them often having to understand various disciplines, including design, engineering, manufacturing, and marketing.
As with many roles, the most successful designers turn to the best product design books to give them a head start. The books in this article are particularly helpful for aspiring product designers—those just starting their journey in the industry.
Reading these books helps newbies build foundation knowledge, pick up best practices, and understand working methods that will help them create products that are user-friendly, efficient, and appealing to users.
The 5 books in this article are:
- The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
- Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- The Design of Business by Roger Martin
- The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
In The Design of Everyday Things, Norman focuses on the importance of design being human-centered, detailing why products should be easy-to-use.
It sounds like an incredibly simple concept, and it is. However, because this book is fantastically easy-to-read, and packed with practical examples of how to improve everyday products, it’s a great starting point for aspiring product designers.
Upon completion, readers will have established foundation knowledge of human-centered design. However, it is dated and doesn’t factor in some of the more modern product design trends.
- Easy to read
- Foundation knowledge of human-centric design
- Packed with practical examples
- A little dated—it doesn’t cover the latest industry trends
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think is one of the best product design books because it drills down into why it’s so important to keep products simple and easy to use, meaning users have to do little-to-no thinking.
Although the book doesn’t cover some of the complex product design elements, it expertly provides practical advice that aspiring product designers can use in their work—now and in the future.
- Easy to read
- Practical advice that can impact a designer’s work
- A rapid way to learn about the basis of user-friendly design
- It covers mainly simplistic principles while missing a few more complex topics
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
One of the best books for product designers has to be The Lean Startup. It dives deep into one of the most important product design challenges—building products customers actually want.
A key theme of this book is drilling down into how product designers should be led by users when iterating prototypes.
By the end of the book, readers will have a methodology they can implement into their own work with many real-life examples of how they can utilize the Lean Startup methodology.
While this book focuses on a single methodology, it does miss out on other product development strategies that would benefit aspiring designers.
- Introduces a methodology that designers can actually use
- Emphasizes the importance of iterating based on customer feedback
- Well-structured and easy-to-read content
- It doesn’t cover alternative ways of developing products outside of the methodology presented
The Design of Business by Roger Martin
In The Design of Business, Roger Martin introduces and explains why products aren’t only about aesthetics, discussing why balancing functionality and appearance is crucial for successful product design.
Aspiring designers should have this on their list of best product design books because it is thought-provoking and uses real-life case studies, illustrating why you can’t sacrifice functionality for aesthetics.
Overall, readers will get a holistic view of design and develop an understanding of how design impacts an entire business. However, some people consider the book to be quite academic and recommend understanding design thinking before picking this one up.
- Understand how design impacts an entire business
- Learn about balancing aesthetics and functionality
- It could be considered complex and academic
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
Unlike our other books for product designers, The Innovator’s Dilemma looks at the struggles of established businesses and how they fail to innovate.
It presents the idea that many companies that have seen success tend to focus on improving existing products rather than producing new innovations.
This book is perfect for aspiring product designers who could work for a successful company by presenting ways of overcoming the innovation problem.
The only thing letting this book down is how it doesn’t consider the trends and challenges of today’s product designers.
- The book uses evidence and case studies to support its theory
- Readers will understand the challenges faced by large or successful companies
- It may not be applicable to some early-stage designers
- It doesn’t cover some of the latest innovation challenges and trends
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the best books about product design. However, these recommendations provide the perfect platform for aspiring product designers to gain a well-rounded foundation of multiple of the most important product design principles.
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