15 books to help you level up as a designer

Written By
Jake Tsacudakis
Read Time
6 min
Last Updated
August 9, 2023

As designers, we're never done learning. New techniques and theories are always emerging, pushing us to become better, faster, and more efficient. One of the best ways to stay relevant and competitive is by reading design books that introduce new ideas and challenge our way of thinking. That's why we put together this list of books. To help designers level up their skills and make better products.

This list includes classic design books that have stood the test of time as well as new books with interesting ideas and perspectives that are having a big impact on the design community today. While each and every book on this list is worth reading, the ones marked with 🔥are essential for a well rounded design education.

The classics

Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability 🔥

Author: Steve Krug

One of the most loved and recommended books in the UX/UI design community. Steve writes about intuitive navigation and information design in a witty and commonsensical style that makes it a quick read you'll find yourself revisiting every few years. This edition includes updated content including a chapter on mobile usability.

The Design of Everyday Things 🔥

Author: Don Norman

A book that finds itself at the top of every designer's reading list for a reason. It's a foundational book that studies how and why some things are confusing and difficult to use while some are easy and enjoyable. In it, Don shares his rules for making good designs which can be applied to everything from the design of a light switch to a digital product.

Design is a job

Author: Mike Monteiro

A book commonly recommended to new designers for its brief and practical advice about contracts, working with clients and collaborating with team members. This quick and entertaining read is packed full of helpful tips and info to help you do a job better.


Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products 🔥

Author: Nir Eyal

Hooked breaks down it's four-step process used to build customer habits and ultimately make products successful with frequent use. This book was written for product managers, designers, marketers, startup founders, and anyone else curious about human behavior.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People 🔥

Author: Susan Weinschenk

This book will teach you how to increase the effectiveness, conversion rates, and usability of your designs with real science and research that uncovers what makes people act the way they do.

Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love

Author: Marty Cagan

This book teaches readers how to improve their digital products and make a company consumers will love by assembling the right people and skill sets, discovering the right product, embracing an effective yet lightweight process, and creating a strong product culture. It also includes profiles of some of today's most successful product managers and technology-powered product companies, including Adobe, Apple, BBC, Google, Microsoft, and Netflix.

UX Research

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond (2nd Edition) 🔥

Author: Jesse James Garrett

A staple in most designers bookshelf, this book covers, in plain language, a wide range of topics including usability, brand identity, information architecture, and  interaction design to help teams make better products.

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

Author: Jeff Gothelf

This book covers valuable principles, tactics, and techniques to help teams rapidly experiment with design ideas, validate them with real users, and continually adjust design based on learned information. Focusing on the user experience and not the deliverable, it will teach you how to collaborate, gather feedback, and design assets that will improve your business.

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

Author: Jake Knapp 

Three partners at Google Ventures share their process of solving tough problems with a five day sprint. This practical guide to answering critical business questions can help anyone who needs to solve big problems in an efficient way.

UI Design

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design 🔥

Author: Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, David Cronin

This book is a practical and effective guide to designing great digital products and services. It covers principles of good product behavior and an understanding of Cooper's Goal-Directed Design method, which involves everything from conducting user research to defining your product using personas and scenarios.

The Non-Designer’s Design Book (4th Edition) 🔥

Author: Robin Williams

Robin uses four surprisingly simple principles to help readers improve their designs and make them look more professional in her signature, light-hearted style. This new edition includes even more practical design advice, including a new chapter on the fundamentals of typography, more quizzes and exercises to train your Designer Eye, updated projects for you to try, and new visual and typographic examples to inspire your creativity.

Refactoring UI 🔥

Author: Adam Wathan, Steve Schoger

This is a book written from the perspective of a developer who's learned actionable, specific tactics from his friend, a designer, to improve his own design skills and is now sharing them with the world. Accompanied with examples, video tutorials, and other assets, this book will teach you how to use tactics, not talent to improve your designs.

Design systems

Atomic Design

Author: Brad Frost

One of the most essential books for any designer, Atomic Design introduces a methodology for thinking of our UIs as thoughtful hierarchies, discusses the qualities of effective pattern libraries, and showcases techniques to transform your team's design and development workflow.

Design Systems 🔥

Author: Alla Kholmatova

Alla shares key qualities of a well-functioning, enduring design system and how they can be achieved. Included are case-studies from AirBnB, Atlassian, Eurostar, TED, and Sipgate, plus 18 months of research and interviews — all attempting to figure out what works and what doesn’t work in real-life products.

Laying the Foundation

Author: Andrew couldwell

This book is a comprehensive guide to creating, documenting, and maintaining design systems, and how to design systematically. It uses experience and practical tips to cover what design systems are, why they are important, and how to get stakeholder buy-in to create one.

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