Best industrial design books of all time

According to Design Sojourn the essential books that Industrial Designers should both own and read can be grouped into 3 categories: thinking, process and designer skills.


A best seller on how design serves as the communication between object and users is ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald Norman. One of the main premises of the book is that although people are often keen to blame themselves when objects appear to malfunction, it is not the fault of the user but rather the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present in the design. Norman uses case studies to describe the psychology behind what he identifies as good and bad design, proposes design principles touching several disciplines including behavioral psychology, ergonomics, and design practice.

The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life), by John Maeda, who wrote on his equally simple website; “I wrote this 100-page book just as the Apple iPod was starting to take off and while I was earning my MBA as a kind of hobby”. The book, based on the blog he used to write at the MIT Media Lab, has been translated into more than 14 languages.

Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell,KritinaHolden and Jill Butler, which contains a collection of design principles that makes it an essential “cheat sheet” for designers wanting to look at a design problem from different angles.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. A book on sustainable design that can encourage you to get ahead the majority of designers out there.

Design (Tom Peters Essentials) by Tom Peters will give you a very useful insight on how to pitch your design work in a language that business people can understand.


Design Secrets: Products 1 and 2: 50 Real-Life Product Design Projects Uncovered, by Lynn Haller and Cheryl Dangel Cullen, and edited by Industrial Designers Society of America.

Fifty design projects are shown in detail from concept to completion and all the stages in between for a behind-the-scenes look that uncovers design processes. These products are the winners of the Industrial Designers Society of America’s acclaimed Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA). Each project provides text describing the designer’s insights and inspirations, as well as the evolution of the illustrated project. From cutting-edge product design ranging from electronic gadgets for the kitchen to high-tech equipment.

Process: 50 Product Designs from Concept to Manufacture by Jennifer Hudson, is a “must buy” which, unlike Design Secrets which focuses on the creation process, is all about getting to the finishing line, something many design stories miss out. It will show you the inspiration behind 50 products in every aspect of product development processes.

Product Design and Development, by Karl T. Ulrich and Steven D. Eppinger, focuses on Industrial Design as part of a bigger process. It covers the entire product development process plugging in many of the gaps.

Designer Skills

Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell became an instant classic, as it was probably the first of its kind in the sketching or presentation category. This all-rounder covers all presentation techniques in general, starting from sketch, to marker rendering, and finally to the presentation boards.

Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships by Gail Greet Hannah. An essential for all Industrial Designers as it is the reproduction of the author’s Form theory class at the Pratt institute of design. It teaches designers how to be sensitive to the manipulation and control of forms so that they can solve complex design problems.


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