Our Summer Reading List, 2015

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Our Summer Reading List, 2015

Whether we’re digging into a new design manifesto or getting caught up in a classic novel, summer vacation is our favorite time to clear our heads, hit reset and expose ourselves to fresh ideas and ways of looking at the world by reading a good book. Earlier this summer Li’l Robin founder Anke Stohlmann completed her thesis in the School of Visual Arts MFA Interaction Design program. For this year’s edition of our annual reading list, we asked nine of our fellow 2015 SVA IxD graduates and one alumni to recommend books that have inspired them—during their time in the program, over the course of their careers, or simply what they’re reading right now. Now that our studies are over—and as a new school year begins for others—these titles will help us continue to learn.

The selected books explore how design and technology intersects with our lives, how organization can lead to creative breakthroughs (two readers chose the same book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), and include more than a few good novels and visual narratives. Here’s what we’re downloading now. You can also find them on our bookshelf.

Matthew Brigante, Interaction Designer, Amazon
Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow.
My favorite book from this past year is Subliminal, a really good cognitive science read that is written in layman’s terms. From unconscious behavior to how the brain has evolved to understanding information, and really great when it comes to mental models and habit forming.
Also I’m looking to start these:
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier.
Designing Design by Kenya Hara.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Sam Carmichael, Co-founder, The Upstanding Desk
H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald.
Brilliant, deeply poignant, and also full of fascinating information about falconry.
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.
A classic for good reason. Incredible characters and poetic descriptions, all based on a real-life political machine in the American South.
Loitering: New and Collected Essays by Charles D’Ambrosio.
Great non-fiction essays by a master of the craft. If you like David Foster Wallace’s essays, you’ll love this.
Maker’s Alphabet by Melody Quintana and Sneha Pai.
Wonderfully written and illustrated with huge cross-generation appeal. Makes a great coffee table book, too!
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
I’m sure that somebody else has listed this, but it’s just an excellent interwoven story. Beautiful writing and really magical vignettes scattered throughout expansive historical fiction.

Nga Nguyen, Interaction Designer and 2015 NYDesigns Fellow
A few books I appreciate:
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon.
Design by Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design by Maggie Macnab.
Emotionally Durable Design Objects, Experiences and Empathy by Jonathan Chapman.
Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler.

Melody Quintana, Product UX Designer, Tile
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters.
A slim read, but packed with interesting ideas. I was glad I read it before working at a startup.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.
Interesting to understand the cognitive grounding behind what motivates people.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.
Pivotal read for behavioral science geeks.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.
Several of the references in this book are dated, but the principles and system holds strong. Largely influenced the way I think about and approach work from a project management point of view.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Finally got around to reading this classic and I couldn’t put it down!

Sunnie Sang, Product Designer, Wealthfront
The two books I would highly recommend:
Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.
Written by two professors from the Royal College of Art, proposing designing as a tool for creating ideas and designing for the future.
Economics: The User’s Guide by Ha-Joon Chang.
Engaging and comprehensive manual explaining economic concepts, written by a Cambridge economist.

Trent Thompson, Head of Design, AppFigures
Unflattening by Nick Sousanis.
Perception + Art + Understanding + Creating.
Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall.
The endless conflict between simplicity and complexity. Told from the lens of working within Apple.
Here by Richard McGuire.
See the echoes of space and time. A master class of visual storytelling.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll.
You are seduced by its stirring visuals, and before you know it, you are trapped in its horror. You’ll love every frightening moment.
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard.
Raw. Blood-pumping. Adventure.

Sam Wander, Interaction Designer, Facebook
To be honest almost all my reading in the last year was for thesis (unsurprisingly), so I’d lazily point you to my bibliography for links but specifically point out these titles:
The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive by Brian Christian.
Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence by George Dyson.
Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas by Seymour Papert.
Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold.
I’ve also recently been enjoying:
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield.
Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production by Johanna Drucker.

Amy Wu, Founder, QnsMade
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.
I actually just finished reading this yesterday. I absolutely loved it. (I’m sure someone else will already have this on their list since it’s such a bestseller.) Any designer can relate to the meticulous way Kondo goes about each category in the home and the “joyful” details she mulls over. I found myself laughing on my morning commute to work––she’s funny without knowing she is.

Tina Ye, Founder, Scratchhouse
Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg.
Sage advice, artfully delivered, and a joy to read. Gave me new perspective on how to improve my writing.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.
200 pages of philosophically unyielding rhetoric for why and how to get rid of things. It worked. My apartment is far less cluttered.
The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer.
Changed my perspective on how to relate to others and ask for help graciously.
How to Get Lucky: 13 Techniques for Discovering and Taking Advantage of Life’s Good Breaks by Max Gunther.
Gave me an appreciation for the unpredictability of life, and license to do more random things without good reason.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith.
You know that song “Common People” by Pulp? This is like the book version of that song. Smith’s writing is uncomfortably piercing and relentlessly observant, and gives you a good look at how cultures, class and identity clash in one working-class neighborhood in 1970s-90s London.
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon.
Hilarious and often dark but always cheeky. I read this because I was told it was one of Pynchon’s more accessible novels.
The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber.
I’m a Dan Barber fangirl, so of course I had to read this book. If you like food, beauty, and ecosystems, this should be a fascinating read.

Effy Zhang, Product Designer, Square
The Circle by Dave Eggers.
#Tech #SiliconValley.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks. Great post. I’ve already ordered a book from this list from Amazon. See designersandbooks.com for more book lists from designers of all stripes.

    Comment by Brian Wu — August 21, 2015 @ 8:21 am

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