The bored designer’s reading list

At some point in their career, every digital designer gets tired of the typical didactic tech literature. So many tools, so many techniques, so much heat – yet so few ideas. Lately I’ve been fortunate to read some fascinating books that loosely orbit my design and technology interests. Most bias toward theory rather than practice. They’ve helped sharpen and reinvigorate me; perhaps they might work for you too. I’ve included a couple of suggestions from Twitter – thanks to everyone who contributed; please forgive curatorial omissions. See replies to my original tweet for more.

Disclosure: I’ve put referrer links on these. I’m currently playing the role of low-income writer myself, and I’m not too proud to try to cover some of my unabating research costs.


Thinking in Systems: A Primer – Donella Meadows

Crystalline and readable overview of systems thinking, a one-way valve to new perspectives.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work – Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams

A bold left-accelerationist manifesto on the coming years of automation and intractable unemployment. High concepts supported with passion and rigour.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

How Designers Think – Bryan Lawson

A thorough analysis of what makes a designer a designer, ideal for elevating oneself beyond those dreary ‘But everyone is a designer now’ discussions.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change – Victor Papanek

“There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them.”

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

Four Futures: Life After Capitalism – Peter Frase

Short, provocative speculations about the intersection of technology and inequality in our near futures. It’s true: design is politics now.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

The Prince – Machiavelli

Classic study on power and ethics, more nuanced than its notoriety suggests.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves – W Brian Arthur 

Suggested by Matt Jones.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

Frame Innovation – Kees Dorst 

Suggested by Chris Jackson.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

Metaphors We Live By – George Lakoff & Mark Johnson

Suggested by Sol Kawage.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]

Finite and Infinite Games – James Carse

Suggested by Austin Govella.

[Amazon US · Amazon UK · Goodreads]