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Professional Development

Essential Reading for Product Designers

Tandem

At Tandem, one of our core values is Continuously Improve. Our product designers learn and teach every day! Here are some of our team’s favorite books that have helped them learn over the course of their careers in UX/UI design.


Jewel: Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

Design is form, but also function — so I like how this book focuses on the value of implementing usability principles within a design when building user interfaces.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

I like that the author talks about how design is the bridge between the object and user, and how to optimize that communication in order to make the experience of using the object pleasurable.

Change by Design by Tim Brown

I’m interested in impactful design and using creativity as a catalyst for change. This book touches on how creative leaders can infuse design thinking into every level of an organization, product, or service to deliver impactful solutions for business and societal challenges.

 

Amy: Liftoff! Practical Design Leadership to Elevate Your Team, Your Organization, and You by Chris Avore and Russ Unger

Liftoff! is a guide to leveling up as a design manager or leader written by two incredibly thoughtful humans. They took the initiative over several years to research diversity and inclusion initiatives across many companies. The words might be theirs, but every page has a multitude of references to co-editors they met along the way and who lead them to their conclusions.

Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience by Michael J. Metts & Andy Welfle

This book is centered around how words make software human-centered. It is co-written by a former colleague of mine who I greatly admire.

 

Chris: Design Is A Job by Mike Monteiro and You’re My Favorite Client by Austin Kleon

Design is a Job and You’re My Favorite Client are both really good at describing the realities of the ‘business’ parts of the design world — which, as consultants at Tandem, every designer on every project touches in some way or another. Lots of practical tips for everyone looking to better communicate the value of design work to non-designers as well as understand best practices for managing feedback, contracts, and client relationships.

 

Taher: The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger

It’s not exactly design-related, but it’s very design-related at the same time. Catalyst is all about how you can get people to think in new ways. It is a great read for rethinking how to present design decisions to clients!

 

Elizabeth: anything from the A Book Apart series.

They tend to be quick reads: the content is digestible, fun, and full of real-world applications. Some of my favorite from the series are Expressive Design Systems, Everyday Information Architecture, and Design is a Job.

 

Eli: Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

Thinking with Type is a fascinating and comprehensively illustrated history of typography and guidance for laying out written content. I especially like how each point she makes is shown visually with concise annotations.

 

McKenzie: Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley

This book opens the door for everyone — regardless of trade — to incorporate creativity and design thinking into their daily work!

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

This book talks about where the inspiration for well-known products and concepts came from, and how we can all train ourselves to have those lightbulb moments more often by close observation and trial/error.


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