Top Five Books Every Designer Should Read

Top 5 is a recurring blog and social series that divulges a studio-curated list of our favorite things. Expect to find must-reads, recommended listens, new experiences to explore, and more.

If you met a budding multi-disciplinary designer—or maybe, one who wants to continue to hone their practice—where would you direct them to look for inspiration? What would you recommend they read if they’re looking to develop a deeper understanding of the systems in which they operate and the psychology of the people they're designing for? Our studio attempted to narrow down a book list that begins to answer those exact questions.

Below, we’ve outlined five books (and a list of other notable texts) you should have on your shelves. Go on—get reading.

Just Enough Research (Second Edition) by Erika Hall

Erika Hall says, “good research is about asking more and better questions, and thinking critically about the answers. Done well, it will save your team time and money by reducing unknowns and creating a solid foundation to build the right thing, in the most effective way.” Enter Just Enough Research—a guidebook filled with research methods you can implement immediately, regardless of your team’s size or the budget you’re working with.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. “From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet, these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.” Work with brands? Read this book.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is an immensely helpful, reassuring, and gentle read for novice and serious writers alike. In it, she carries readers through a down-to-earth distillation of what she’s learned over years of trial and error. We can’t promise you won’t tear up from now and then while reading—but we can promise you you'll leave more inspired post-read.

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

Mary Neumeier shares all of his secrets to creating a brand identity that resonates across every business facet. Full of tips, advice, and a wealth of case studies to illustrate both “good” and “bad” branding, this reference is one that we constantly turn back to at One Design.

Make Time for Creativity by Brandon Stosuy

Co-founder of The Creative Independent, Brandon Stosuy ventures down a collaborative path with readers to answer a seemingly elusive question: How does one find time to express oneself and develop one's talents? In workbook format, Stosuy prompts readers with questions “on the themes of defining work-life balance, forming daily rituals, setting intentions, meeting goals, and taking time off from creativity.” If you’re on the search for assistance to bolster a personal creative practice, look no further.

Other notable recommendations:

Make sure to subscribe to The Weekly for more recommendations if you haven't already. Is there a book you swear by that wasn’t featured in our Top 5? DM us on Instagram—we’re always lookin’ to add to our repertoire!

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One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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