From time to time I get asked for product recommendations. Here are some old faithfuls that have significantly influenced my design process and output in recent years. Ten books, five tools, five apps. I get a referral fee for some of these, but all are listed on merit.


The Art Of Looking Sideways – a sightseeing tour of the creative process via anecdote, inspiration, and objets d’art. [ ·]

How Designers Think – Sideways’s more analytical counterpart. A thorough examination of the design process, the mental approaches designers bring to it, and its blind spots. Recommended for managers and senior designers who want to improve their effectiveness. [ ·]

Being Good – bite-sized ethics, readable but incisive. Essential for an immature industry wrestling with large social questions. [ ·]

HTML & CSS – webbish designers should know some code; this is the only place to look. [ ·]

Visual Grammar – an infuriating red booklet of simplicity. Core visual design principles that combine into complex forms the more you think about them. [ ·]

Universal Principles of Design – reading this semi-reference manual many years ago sparked my interest in design theory, arming me for a lifetime of critique and improving the quality of my work. [ ·]

The Personal MBA – kind of a shitty airport book, true, but it worked well for me. I now at least say the right words in front of product and marketing folk. [ ·]

Undercover User Experience Design – I wrote this one. It's a solid choice for someone who wants to introduce design to their organisation but who lacks support and mentoring. [ ·]

Managing Humans – Rands’s book on engineering management translates well to other tech disciplines. Readable, funny, and surprisingly direct advice. [ ·]

Thinking in Systems – a book that has shaped my recent thinking more than any other. A point of no return for seeing problems differently and identifying the patterns that govern mass behaviour. [ ·]




Pentel Graphgear 1000 – design could do with less stationery fetishisation, but damn, I really like this pencil.  [ ·]

HP Designjet Z2100 graphics printer – visible work is better work. Print early and often, deface with Sharpies and diverse opinions. Make amendments and repeat. You’ll need foamcore (below) and a cooperative Finance team. [ ·]

Foamcore – stick your big printouts (above) on these, lean them nearby until needed, then carry them into a meeting on request: today’s canonical view of user journey X. Whiteboard pressures melt away. Go A0 or bigger – I prefer 60×40” – and stock up on map pins. [London Graphic Centre]

Fujitsu Scansnap S1100 – for sketches, receipts, letters that for mediaeval reasons need an ink signature. OCR the world and fling it into a bottomless indexed database. [ ·]

IPEVO Ziggi-HD document camera – has precisely two uses: presenting sketches at critique sessions, and recording handheld screens during user testing. [ ·]




GifGrabber – freeware GIF-making machinery. Ringfence some desktop and hit Record to demo bugs and interactions, show users what words can’t convey, and impress your chatroom friends. [ · iTunes]

FreeAgent – for freelancers and anyone else who has to do the receipts-’n-accountant dance. There’s a reason it has a Net Promoter Score of 72. []

Fantastical – bind it to a handy key combo and you have a terrific popup calendar with pretty decent natural language processing. I use it for seeing the day’s threats and entering intricate train journeys. [ · iTunes]

xScope – better than holding a plastic ruler up to the screen. [ · iTunes]

Squarespace – after losing my patience with Plesk, CMS updates, and being hacked, I threw the whole lot overboard and switched this site to Squarespace. Much better. []