Design Books

  • Antipatterns
  • Artful Design: This one was well out of my comfort zone, and I'm extremely glad I read it. Set up as a graphic novel with hundreds of photos, it traces the authors thoughts about design, humanity, engineering, purpose, and similar huge topics. With examples drawn from compute rmusic, games, and even social networks, it takes a very modern look at an old topic. I don't do a lot of designing but I expect I'll reach for the list of broad principles in this book the next time that I require inspiration. (Reviewed by Mike Gunderloy)
  • Design Patterns
  • An Introduction to Data Structures With Applications
  • Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior: I'm glad I read it, and I'll probably never re-read it. Super-structured and prescriptive approach to understanding user needs and then matching them back to product features in order to build better products. At least I've got more understanding of what it is that information architects do. (Reviewed by Mike Gunderloy)
  • The Mom Test: It's easy to get people to tell you that your startup idea is good: just make it clear that's what you want to hear, and don't require them to make any actual commitment ("Sounds like something I'd buy, great!"). It's a lot harder to get useful feedback, or to figure out what you can build that will actually sell. In this short (126 pages) book, experienced tech entrepreneur Rob Fitzpatrick shares what he's learned over the years that can help in this effort. The main lesson is to talk about their life, rather than your idea, but there's plenty more to dig into. Recommended to anyone chasing that elusive "product-market fit." (Reviewed by Mike Gunderloy)
  • Product Roadmaps Relaunched: I'm not a Product Manager - which is to say, that's never been my title on a business card (not that I've had business cards for twenty years or more, but that's another story). But as with many other fields in a small tech company, I end up pinch-hitting in this area. From that point of view, this is an excellent book, focused on balancing a lot of competing factors: predictability vs. uncertainty, multiple stakeholders vs. each other, sales bs. development and so on. There are plenty of useful examples, but more than anything else, this is about having the right mindset and skills to help develop an overall plan, present it, and get buy-in from everyone concerned. (Reviewed by Mike Gunderloy)
  • Ruined by Design: Those who ding this work because it's an unabashedly political rant and call to arms are, I think, completely missing the point. Many designers (and by that term Monteiro and I both include everyone who designs things, including software developers and product managers as well as UI/UX professionals) have become utterly complicit in the unethical practices of the venture-capital fueled giant tech companies, and it's time for this to just stop. If you don't agree with that statement, you might as well not read this book. But if you do agree (and I happen to be on that side of the argument), this is a fairly short summary of the mess we're in, together with a few thoughts on how we might get out of it. I've certainly been guilty of designing bad things in the past - my stint at a combined multi-level marketing/adware company springs quickly to mind - but I've finally reached a point (either in my maturity or my career) where I have deliberately turned my back on that path. At this point I rate working on software that actually makes the world a better place far above squeezing money out of bigger fools. I hope that becomes a trend, though I fear that it will not. (Reviewed by Mike Gunderloy)

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