We always love the question, “Have you read any good books lately?”. We recently asked the Lyssna community what product design books they’ve enjoyed, and you came through with some fantastic recommendations. 

Let’s dive into the top nine product design books you should check out.

1. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Author: Susan M. Weinschenk

Product design books

Design is more than making pretty products that turn a profit. Sure, aesthetics matter, but so does creating something that helps people and makes their lives easier. Susan M. Weinschenk’s 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People offers a wealth of insights based on cognitive science, making it one of the best books for product design.

The book covers topics like what colors symbolize in different cultures, how our brains make sense of symbols and text through patterns, and how confirmation biases keep people from considering different perspectives. There’s plenty of hard science and research, but this isn’t overly academic read. The lessons are short and to the point, and reveal so much that goes on in people’s brains.

We love books on product design that get into the psychology of how people process information, which is crucial to a customer-centered approach. Exploring the links between cognition and behavior, Weinschenk's book teaches the psychological concepts that every product designer should know.

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2. No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram

Author: Sarah Frier

Product design books

When Instagram launched on October 6 2010, it was very different from what you have on your phone today. Being a social media influencer wasn’t a career choice. Government regulations were just starting to catch up in protecting people’s data. And Instagram was a quirky app for those who wanted their flawless digital photos to have the artifacts and grit of analog cameras.

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram is a wonderful piece of journalism and storytelling. It covers Instagram at the beginning, when it was an app for the hipster economy, all the way to its mainstream proliferation and acquisition by Facebook. Along the way, we learn from the people who worked at the company how Instagram’s features, community, and marketing strategies shifted as their audience changed and grew. There’s much they did right and many missteps, and depending on how you view Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, Instagram’s acquisition was either the best thing to happen to them or the worst. While we all know how the story of Instagram and Facebook ends, this is a real page-turner in seeing how it all played out.

With its strong sense of narrative, No Filter is a Silicon Valley hero’s tale, with Instagram ultimately coming up against Facebook, who was neither friend or foe, and ultimately coming out the other side as a company that changed social media forever. With a great deal of research, an informed perspective, and plenty of takes on what happened behind the scenes, this is a gripping and engaging read, making it one of the best books on product design.

3. Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

Author: Simon Garfield

Product design books

Typography has a huge impact on how digital products are experienced and their effectiveness in relaying information to users. It’s so important that big brands like Apple, Google, and even Netflix put in the extra effort and money to develop proprietary typefaces. But why are certain styles of lettering preferable to others? 

Even to the untrained eye, it’s apparent how typefaces may differ. Times New Roman and Arial are two distinct typefaces, and even non-designers would pick up that one is more stuffy and traditional while the other is more loose and contemporary. If you’ve ever wondered what makes one style of typeface look and feel different from the other, Just My Type is an essential read.

While Just My Type doesn’t often come up in discussions regarding books on product design, learning about the history of typography, it’s technical aspects, and how it can evoke emotions makes Just My Type a great read for anyone who wants to understand typography at a deeper level. For those in product design, reading about public reactions can be informative. For instance, Ikea changed its font from Futura to Verdana, and the Obama campaign used Gotham. Even the lettering on Beatles' albums shows how font choice can make or break a product's success.

4. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

Authors: Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

Product design books

Many in tech put their faith in the adage of “Breaking things and moving fast” without a trace of self-awareness. Yes, Google also moves quickly, but embraces a more mindful and less reckless approach. Authors Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz all worked at this tech giant, and their experiences and knowledge make Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days a useful guide showing how to tackle challenges with precision, but without sacrificing innovation.

We’re huge fans of product design books that offer advice that can immediately be put into action. Learning how to map out challenges and goals, storyboarding, and the importance of gathering targeted user feedback are important lessons. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days is one of the best books for product design that can help teams better solve the often complex difficulties they face in a shorter amount of time.

5. The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World

Authors: Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt

Product design books

There’s so much that we engage with that we don’t even think about, from the raised patterns on manhole covers that make them less slippery, to the gentle slope of curb cuts that prevent us from tripping over them, to the symbols and signs that communicate warnings and information. 99% Invisible City explores the design of what we interact with in our day-to-day lives. We love product design books that illuminate what we might otherwise go unnoticed, and 99% Invisible City talks about so many commonplace things that are extraordinary in terms of how they’re designed.

This book is divided into short vignettes focusing on what we encounter out in the real world, letting us view them through a more detailed lens. Along with its informative and upbeat text, the hand-drawn illustrations, which feel like they're from a graphic novel, complement what's being discussed.

With its snappy writing and beautiful artistry, this is one of the best books on product design to keep on your desk when you need a bit of inspiration or a quick jolt of design nerdery.

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6. Designing for Emotion

Author: Aarron Walter

Product design books

Design for Emotion is a gem of a book, tying together the more touchy-feely aspects of the human experience to the design and usability of products. Author Aarron Walter writes with enthusiasm about design and psychology, which makes this one of the best books on product design to bring these concepts together. Along with discussing psychological concepts and theories, there are also case studies that back up Walter’s claims, showing why emotionally rich designs can lead to more successful products. 

Design for Emotion stands out from other product design books as a must-read for designers who want to strengthen their knowledge about the psychology of design and connect with customers in more meaningful ways. If you’re looking for product design books you can knock out over the weekend, you’ll find Design for Emotion a quick and informative read that will help you better understand people’s needs.

7. Articulating Design Decisions

Author: Tom Greever

Product design books

Who hasn’t had a design meeting or presentation that’s totally bombed? It can be an awful feeling, but sometimes emotions and egos can get the best of us. And if you don’t know how to talk about design with non-designers, miscommunication can happen. Articulating Design Decisions will help you become a more effective speaker. If you’re looking for a book that covering the soft skills you need to be better in your role as a product designer, it’s a must-read. 

Author Tom Greever is a front-end designer and UX director. His book covers everything from building better relationships and how to sharpen your listening skills, to bouncing back from meetings when everything falls apart. The themes of understanding and empathy run through this book, and Greever shares so much of his personal experiences, making the scenarios very relatable.

Overflowing with great communication advice, real-world examples, and discussions about improving how people from different roles work together, Articulating Design Decisions will give even those with more introverted tendencies strategies for navigating the often tricky spaces of product design meetings.

8. Lean UX: Designing Great Products With Agile Teams

Authors: Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

Product design books

Product development combines human-focused design, business strategy, and collaborative, adaptable, and iterative agile practices. This creates products that meet both business and customer needs. Touching on the major points of product design with an impressive level of depth, Lean UX: Designing Great Products With Agile Teams popularized the term “lean UX”, and it’s one of the best product design books that focuses on user experience. Lean UX: Designing Great Products With Agile Teams fully explores how agile methods lead to better results. 

Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden delve into many aspects of iteration. By making iterative changes and checking if they make a product easier to use, the design process stays flexible instead of being limited by strict rules.. If you’ve ever wondered how to quickly test changes, analyze the results, and shift course if needed, you’ll find this a valuable read.

9. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation

Author: Tim Brown

Product design books

The term “design thinking” often gets thrown around in discussions about product design, but what exactly goes into this process? Change by Design is a primer on all things design thinking, covering how innovation, prototyping, iteration, and taking a customer-centered approach come together for more effective and flexible frameworks for product development

Tim Brown, who is the CEO of IDEO, a company known for its forward thinking and creative work, shares plenty of relevant insights, knowledge, and applications of design thinking. His agency has worked with a diverse range of clients, and he shares stories of helping Shimano develop coaster bikes that were more inclusive and easier to maintain than traditional bikes, creating a more friendly and efficient intake of patients at SSM Depaul Health Center, and helping improve surgical tools for Gyrus ACMI. It’s enlightening to hear about the different ways that design thinking can be implemented to create better products.

This was one of the favorite product design books our Lyssna community recommended, covering all of the principles of design thinking, and showing why this philosophy is so effective in building, refining, and launching new products.


Jeff Cardello is a freelance writer who loves all things tech and design. Outside of being a word nerd, he enjoys playing bass guitar, riding his bike long distances, and recently started learning about data science and how to code with Python.

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