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04 24 2008
Please Enjoy

Powerful Design Books

As someone who is always reading three books at a time, I’ve read more than a fair few of books on aspects of the web design industry. Unfortunately I think quite a few of them are duds; while others are particularly good. So good in fact, that I lend them out frequently to friends. Recently, one of them asked me for a list of the ones that I thought were the best, and I thought I would share it here as well.

Designing the Obvious

Designing the Obvious

Designing the Obvious was the book that created my passion for user interface design. Many of the principles within the book drive my thoughts about the tandem of simplicity and user experience. As far as application interface design goes, there is no better book for theory. That said, the information in the book is applicable to all facets of interactive design. The title itself, is pretty self-explanatory (obviously!) and the book makes for a good read, rather than being overly technical.

Don’t Make Me Think

Don't Make Me Think

A must-have for anyone working with front-end design on the internet, Krug’s book has aged particularly well. The examples are in most cases no longer on the internet, but the principles and ideologies are still very relevant. If you don’t own this book and you do any form of web design, you need to at the very least borrow this from the library; though you’ll probably want a copy as your bible. My copy is getting pretty dirty on the covers.

Analog In, Digital Out

Analog In, Digital Out

Brendan Dawes is a curious man. Analog In, Digital Out is a book about interaction – sort of. Dawes takes a look at how every day events can be information that can be harnessed to produce designs, and frequently challenges the way we see computers today. The examples in book even include snippets of code to reproduce what he has made. Reading this book opens a new way of abstract thinking. Someone is going to read this one day and create some sort of technological marvel.

Thinking With Type

Thinking With Type

This book introduced me to the world of typography. Over time I’ve found that nearly any book on typography repeats the history of type for the first half of the book, and while this one is no exception, it presents it in an interesting manner. The examples and explanations are more manageable than The Elements of Typographic Style and I would highly recommend this as a starting point for those interested in learning more about typography.



  1. Nice roundup Kyle.

    I own Don’t Make Me Think, and Thinking With Type. Both excellent books.

    Thanks for the two other suggestions — I’ll add them to the reading list. :)

  2. Looks like an intersting list Kyle, thanks for posting it. I’m definately going to check out the last one, Thinking With Type. It’s always great to find what inspired people and influences their work.

  3. Good suggestions. Thank you for posting them.

  4. I know I’m in a minority, but I really don’t believe Krug’s book has aged all that well. The principles are sacrosanct but the methods illustrated grapple with a world where there is no great internet culture (let alone competition in every field of web service / blog / whatever), and the user is intimidated and confused to far more significant levels. Nowadays users are empowered, savvy, and bold, and very often… The tone and level of intuitive education Krug’s book suggests for site UI is almost patronising, and not concise enough — or to put it better — in the right way.

    Thinking With Type’s a firm favourite. What a book! The attitudes therein on typographic design applied to web — as you imply — are a lot more reverent and hopeful than I see in most places.

    The other two, I think I simply must get!

  5. very useful list. Thank you. I’ve already ordered 2books

  6. Thanks!

  7. Great list of books. Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think is one of the more powerful out of those that you have highlighted.

    @Barney - You do bring up some good points that I agree with. In some forms, Krug is a bit out dated with relevant information to where the web is beginning to head. But the base he supports most of his concepts around is rock solid, and surprisingly still widely underused in the professional community at large. Once these concepts of usability design have been adopted by the majorities as opposed to the minorities, we can start to tackle some of the new issues that have arisen recently with the birth of new interactive technologies. Thus is the life of our profession, and yet here we are loving every minute of it. :-P

    I might also suggest for books Transcending CSS. A beautifully structured resource book with great advice in combining the technical and asthetic sides of CSS for effective design.

  8. I saw you on smashingmagazine today man, I’ve been been waiting to see you on there.

    Also I have 3 coding books that you suggested for me, so I will check these out, thanks.

  9. I’m a huge fan of ‘Don’t make me think’. It’s a classic.

    Coming from a print background, I needed the concept stated in a simple way to take me to the next step - learning about web design.

    Nope, designing a poster is NOT the same at all.

  10. Added on my ever increasing wish list…

    Read “dont make me think” and while its a good book, think its slightly over rated.

  11. I just finished re-reading “Thinking With Type” and found so many little nuggets of wisdom in there. And don’t even get me started on “Designing the Obvious” - anyone out there claiming to be a “web designer” should have this memorized.

  12. Thanks!

  13. oh, go to your blog from the, i very very want to get 3 your wonderful ebooks
    thank so much

  14. As an experienced web designer, I found “Designing the Obvious” to be far more informational than “Don’t Make Me Think”, however, for the novice web designer or anyone for that matter, you have to read “Don’t Make Me Think”.

    I recommend reading “Why We Buy” by Paco Underhill in addition to “Don’t Make Me Think”. The parallels on compulsive buying and today’s web user’s compulsive clicking habits is too clear to ignore.