Arts + Design

Want to dig into design? Facebook’s UX master offers some must-reads

Jan 20, 2015 /

As Facebook’s director of product design, Margaret Gould Stewart (TED Talk: How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too)) has to come up with designs seen by literally billions of people. No pressure. She’s an old hand at this game, though, having previously worked on the digital output of those other giants, Google and YouTube. So what principles of design does she live by, and how does she think about scaling them? Check out her must-read books and articles.

Great reads on design

1. The Design of Everyday Things
Don Norman
Basic Books, 2013

“Originally published in 1988, this is a longstanding classic in the field (25 years is a long time in technology!) which really helps you see the world around you differently. We are surrounded by design, and yet we don’t always have the vocabulary to describe what works and what doesn’t. This book provides readers with a solid start to that vocabulary.”

2. The Laws of Simplicity
John Maeda
The MIT Press, 2006

“This slim but insightful volume delves deeply into the concept of simplicity, and applies that principle in a variety of contexts, including design, technology and more generally our day-to-day lives.”

3. The Universal Principles of Design
William Lidwell et al.
Rockport Publishers, 2010

“A great introduction to design for those interested in understanding the hows and the whys. It’s a fairly comprehensive overview of the concepts, terminology and theories that drive much of the conversation around design today. It’s also something you can pick up and put down easily due to its easily digestible format. I sometimes refer to it, lovingly, as the Uncle John’s Reader for design.”

4. How Buildings Learn
Stewart Brand
Penguin, 1995

“For me, architecture has always been the design discipline that has the most in common with interaction design. In this book, Brand considers how design changes — and must change — over time, but also how some designs endure while others deteriorate.”

5. Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud
William Morrow, 1994

“Entertaining and accessible, this seems to be a comic book about comic books. But it is also about something much broader: visual language and how it helps us interact and communicate. A great read for designers and non-designers alike.”

Designing at a global scale

1. The Year of the Looking Glass
Julie Zhuo

“My colleague Julie Zhuo publishes insightful posts on many aspects of designing at scale, and building and managing design teams, as well as general observations about our industry.”

2. Product Design for the Web
Randy J. Hunt
New Riders, 2014

“One of the rare books on the subject, this title does a nice job of putting you inside the head of a modern-day digital product designer.”

3. Should Tech Designers Go with Their Guts — or the Data?
Braden Kowitz
Wired, November 11, 2013

“Google has learned a lot about experimental design over the years, and this blog post outlines some interesting case studies and learnings.”

4. Design for continuous experimentation
Dan McKinley
Warm Gun Design Conference, November 30, 2012

“A thoughtful and entertaining walk-through of some case studies for product launches, and how experimental design helped Etsy make the right design decisions.”

5. Building Websites with Science
Peter Seibel
Code as Craft, June 21, 2012

“One of Etsy’s former software engineers shares a broad view of the scientific method and how it can be applied to product development.”

6. Change Aversion: Why Users Hate What You Launched (and What to Do about It)
Aaron Sedley
Google Ventures, April 24, 2012

“Some solid best practices for managing the introduction of change to platforms with a lot of existing usage.”

7. Here Comes Everybody
Clay Shirky
Penguin, 2009

“Clay Shirky is one of today’s most insightful and accessible writers on how technology is impacting society, and vice versa. I always feel informed, inspired and entertained from his work.”

8. Hidden in Plain Sight
Jan Chipchase with Simon Steinhardt
HarperCollins, 2013

“Jan Chipchase is one of the world’s experts on emerging markets; his regular reports from the field are a fascinating way to stay aware of the bubble many of us live in while we try to design for the whole world. His blog is also great to follow.”