Top 13 Product Design Books Nobody Talks About

7 product design books standing in front of a pastel coloured wall

The design world is evolving quickly and it can be hard to keep up with the latest trends. This guide will introduce 13 product design books that are actually not product design books. They bring tremendous value and help you differentiate from other designers. Yet, they are rarely recommended to designers.

13 Underrated Product Design Books

Discovery Discipline by Tristan Charvillat

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness by Edward Deci

Greatness Through Subtraction by Sam Schreim

Contagious by Jonah Berger

Actionable Gamification by Yu-kai Chou

Creativity, Inc. by Amy Wallace

The User Experience Team of One by Leah Buley

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Evidence-Guided: Creating High Impact Products in the Face of Uncertainty by Itamar GiladItamar Gilad

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

Discovery Discipline book


"Discovery Discipline" builds on the industry best practices and adds it touch to improve some of the shortcomings of the available methods commonly used in the market. More specifically, it addresses two main issues of the double diamond framework: speed and convergent ideas.

Why You Should Read It: This book is invaluable for those looking alternative frameworks they can experiment with and that will give them an edge over other designers. This book is gaining popularity among French designers and is not yet very well-known among the English design community.

Takeaway From The Book: Empathy is not just about understanding users; it's about designing with a heart.

About The Author: Tristan Charvillat is a VP product design from BlaBlaCar, a leading French scale-up with a mission of building the future of ground transportation.

Leonardo da Vinci biography book


Walter Isaacson's biography of Leonardo da Vinci is a testament to the power of curiosity, creativity, and the integration of art, science, and technology. It offers invaluable lessons on interdisciplinary innovation and creativity, that can fuel extraordinary outcomes in design and technology.

Why You Should Read It: For entrepreneurs and designers alike, drawing inspiration from the life of perhaps the most legendary creative genius in history is nothing short of transformative. In a world where specialization is often heralded as the path to success, da Vinci's legacy challenges us to broaden our horizons. His unparalleled creativity was not confined to a single discipline; instead, he explored various fields, demonstrating the power of a multidisciplinary perspective. Let da Vinci inspire you to break down the silos in your own thinking and discover the innovative potential that lies at the intersection of diverse disciplines.

Takeaway From The Book: Leonardo’s legacy teaches us that in the confluence of art and science lies the ultimate wellspring of innovation.

About The Author: Walter Isaacson is known for his detailed biographies of historical figures who have significantly influenced the realms of science, technology, and art.

Self Determination Theory book


This book delves into the psychological aspects of motivation, helping you to gain insights on how to design products that fulfill users' intrinsic needs. It dives deep into the psyche of human beings and dissects our motivations for doing what we are doing.

Why You Should Read It: Essential for understanding what drives human behavior, and how understanding it can help us live a more healthy life. This book can help designers understand the triggers of the human brain, and design better products as a result.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- Fulfilling autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs is crucial for psychological well-being.

- Self-determination theory focuses on understanding intrinsic motivation and the benefits of acting on internal drives.

About The Author: Richard M. Ryan, PhD, and Edward L. Deci, PhD, are world-renowned psychologists celebrated for their groundbreaking work in motivation and self-determination theory.

Greatness Through Subtraction book


Greatness Through Subtraction by Sam Schreim is all about finding happiness and creativity by keeping things simple and getting rid of clutter. It teaches you how to clear your mind, be more creative within limits, change from wanting everything to be perfect to appreciating the simple things, and gives you tools to make better choices and grow as a person.

Why You Should Read It: For entrepreneurs, this book is a must-read because it shows you how less can actually be more, helping you find success and satisfaction in a simpler, more focused way.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- Discover the power of decluttering your mind and spaces, paving the way for infinite creativity.

- Learn how embracing simplicity can lead to profound personal and professional growth, inspiring you to see the world through a new lens of elegance and efficiency.

About The Author: With decades of experience as a senior strategy consultant, he has significantly impacted consulting firms and startups through his Storytelling with Charts (STC) method. He is also a seasoned entrepreneur and advisor to top-tier executives and firms.

Contagious book


Jonah Berger's "Contagious" explores the mechanisms behind vitality to help us make our communications more viral. This book is about the science of social transmission, exploring six key principles that make a piece of content shareable.

Why You Should Read It: For anyone looking to create products or designs that capture the zeitgeist, "Contagious" offers actionable insights into leveraging social dynamics and human psychology to make your work stand out.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- You will learn how to create social currency build triggers to make your ideas more likely to be shared.

- You will learn how to stir strong emotions and tell compelling stories to have an unforgettable impact.

About The Author: Jonah Berger is a distinguished marketing professor at Wharton, renowned for his research in top academic and popular media. He's an acclaimed author, celebrated for his expertise in how ideas spread.

Actionable Gamification book


"Actionable Gamification" by Yu-kai Chou introduces a new paradigm in design, focusing on human motivation and engagement through the use of gamification. Chou shares his research on the Octalysis Framework, demonstrating how integrating game mechanics and behavioural psychology can revolutionize product design, workplace dynamics, marketing strategies, and even personal development.

Why You Should Read It: If you are looking to leverage gamification mechanisms to improve user engagement in your product, this book is the perfect introduction to the field.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- You will learn how to use game design mechanics to push people to do certain tasks.

- You will learn to go beyond leaderboards and badges to deeply engage and motivate users.

About The Author: Yu-kai Chou is a leading figure in gamification and behavioural design, known for creating the Octalysis Framework and authoring "Actionable Gamification." He's recognized worldwide as a top gamification guru, having spoken at prestigious venues and assisting companies from startups to Fortune 500s in harnessing the power of gamification.

Creativity Inc. book


This book offers an insider's look into the creative culture at Pixar, revealing the principles that have led to its success. Catmull shares his journey from dreaming of creating the first computer-animated movie to founding Pixar and producing groundbreaking films. The book highlights the importance of fostering a creative environment where risks are encouraged, communication is open, and excellence is pursued daily.

Why You Should Read It: For those looking to foster an environment where creativity thrives, this book provides invaluable lessons on overcoming the barriers to innovation and empowering teams to achieve their creative potential.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- Unlock the secrets to fostering a creative, high-performing team through lessons from Pixar and Disney's success.

- Discover timeless leadership skills that encourage innovation and creativity in any workplace.

About The Author: Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, together with journalist Amy Wallace, shares the leadership principles and steadfast commitment to fostering creativity that have made Pixar a synonym for innovation and success in animation.

The User Experience Team of One book


This book is a practical guide for those looking to make a significant impact in UX with limited resources. Offering efficient approaches and tools, this book is ideal for anyone aiming to enter the UX field or seasoned professionals seeking to advance their organization's UX practices with agility.

Why You Should Read It: This book is a goldmine for people who are starting their design career. It’s a book that you can come back to for years to come as a reference.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- Grasp the essence of UX as both a practice and an outcome, focusing on deeply understanding user reactions.

- Learn practical methods and techniques for designing products and services that users truly want and need, enhancing their overall experience.

About The Author: Leah Buley is a UX expert who has carved a niche in advocating for high-impact design practices that can be implemented by individuals or small teams, proving that great design isn't constrained by team size.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People book


Bridging the gap between psychology and design, Susan Weinschenk's book is an essential read for designers who want to deeply understand the people for whom they are designing. It explores how psychological principles can inform design decisions, leading to more intuitive and user-friendly products.

Why You Should Read It: This book equips designers with psychological insights that can enhance user engagement and satisfaction. It's a must-read for those looking to base their design decisions on human behavior and cognitive processes.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- Grasp the role of psychology in design to craft experiences that align with how people perceive, think, and behave.

- Learn to navigate human cognitive limits to design interfaces that are intuitive, fostering trust and emotional engagement.

About The Author: Susan M. Weinschenk combines psychology expertise with practical application as CEO of The Team W, Inc., consulting with a range of organizations from Fortune 1000 companies to startups. With a Ph.D. in Psychology, she also shares her knowledge as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Building a StoryBrand book


Donald Miller's "Building a StoryBrand" emphasizes the power of storytelling in creating compelling brands and products. It guides readers through the process of clarifying their message so that it resonates with customers, using the timeless elements of storytelling.

Why You Should Read It: This book is invaluable for designers and entrepreneurs who want to craft a unique brand. It's about making your brand's story the cornerstone of your design strategy.

Takeaway From The Book: When you clarify your message, your customers will listen.

About The Author: Donald Miller is the visionary CEO behind StoryBrand and Business Made Simple, renowned for his bestselling books on clear marketing and business growth strategies.

Evidence-Guided book


Itamar Gilad's "Evidence-Guided" provides a roadmap, the GIST model, for making informed design decisions, even when faced with uncertainty. This book is a data-driven and evidence-based guide for approaching product development.

Why You Should Read It: Discover how to navigate product development with confidence and create significant impact, making it essential reading for anyone committed to building successful products in today's unpredictable market.

Takeaway From The Book: In the absence of certainty, evidence is your best ally.

About The Author: Itamar Gilad is a seasoned product management expert with a rich background at tech giants like Google and Microsoft, now focused on teaching evidence-guided product development. Creator of the GIST model and other influential frameworks, he's a sought-after speaker and author, sharing his insights through a popular newsletter.

The Brand Gap book


Marty Neumeier's "The Brand Gap" explores the critical distance between business strategy and design, arguing that the most successful brands bridge this gap with creativity and innovation. It's a concise and powerful read that challenges you to think differently about branding.

Why You Should Read It: This book is a must-read for those looking to understand the interplay between strategic thinking and creative design in building iconic brands.

Takeaway From The Book: 

- A brand is a person's gut feeling about your company.

- Learn how marrying good strategy with creativity can transform your brand into a charismatic entity perceived as irreplaceable by customers.

About The Author: Marty Neumeier is a branding authority who has dedicated his career to exploring how businesses can harness creativity and strategy to forge memorable brands.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy book


"Good Strategy/Bad Strategy" provides a clear, jargon-free exploration of what true strategy is, debunking common misconceptions and offering a new approach to overcoming business challenges. Through various case studies, Rumelt delivers practical advice and insights that distinguish good strategies from bad ones.

Why You Should Read It: Strategy is one of the most impactful things you can master in business. The book gives clear and simple, practical ways to distinguish a good and a bad strategy and helps you design a good strategy for your business.

Takeaway From The Book: “Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does”.

About The Author: Richard Rumelt is a distinguished professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Business with teaching experience at INSEAD in France, and a seasoned consultant for diverse organizations including the Samuel Goldwyn Company and Shell.

Final Thoughts

As you go through your product design journey, these product design books can be invaluable companions. Although they are not specifically about product design, they will give you invaluable insights on related matters that are worth their weight in gold, or the book's weight rather. The product design books on this list are chosen to help all designers, from junior to more experienced ones. The books that are not specifically about product design, are a curated collection of wisdom that will give more experienced designers food for thought for long hours of we hope, enjoyable reading.

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