Design Thinking FAQ

During different design thinking sessions participants frequently ask for my advice about what books to read to acquire more knowledge in the field. Sometimes they are even more specific and ask about books for specific parts of the design thinking process.

So here it is: my selection of books for each stages of the design thinking process. I hope you will like them as much I do. Have a good reading !

Just a short note: this is not a complete catalog for design thinking, just a selection of some of the fundamental books, that have special importance to me, helped me to improve as a designer

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This phase is all about stepping in the shoes of the customer, using emphaty and understanding customer problems. At this point you use a combination of qualitative & quantitative research tools to build up your own understanding about the user problem. Important not to use only quantitiaive researches You need to go and meet your customers at this point (YES in person), so better to use different qualitative / entnographic research tools (ex.: shadowing, observation, interviewing,...etc.).

Just Enough Research

Erika Hall

A practical guide to execute design research in the whole organization. It doesn't matter which field of business you are in, this book will provide you with a quick way of learning how to carry out design researchGreat tips on how you can optimize cost and save money.

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Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes

Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, Linda L. Shaw

This book is all about practical advices, about writing ethnographic studies as well as provides guidelines on how to write fieldnotes. It also gives you hands on info on how to do observation, but you will also find info on desk research, coding,...etc.

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Mental Models

Indi Young

This is a book to help you deep dive in user needs. It will assist you to understand the advantages of a mental model and gives a step by step guide on how to build up your own. You get advice on how to setup up your research project, interview participants, look for patterns, build the mental model and much more.

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Interviewing Users

Steve Portigal

This book is a fundamental guide to conduct great interviews. In the field of design making interviews and understanding users is critical. Creating a good interview sounds obvious, but it is not! In this book you can read about how to setup your interview project, how to ask questions and document them.

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Wired to Care

Dev Patnaik

How to use our amazing power: Empathy. This is really a entertaining book to help your organization to refocus on empathy. Back in the past when connection was more tangible between the end consumer and the organization empathy was a natural process. Nowadays we need to recover this strong superpower of humans.

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During this phase you take your time to finalize your key insights and create your design challanges (HMW / What if...). This is a super important part of the process: this is the point, where you are stepping out of the problem space and start to move into the solution space. So it is important to translate your insights into inspiring , motivating and memorable design challaneges. For me personally a good design challenge is sharp, focused, concentrating on how might we give an answer to a specific insight / problem relevant to the space we are working in.

Exposing the Magic of Design

Jon Kolko

Exposing the Magic of Design is one of the few books that are effectively describing the theory of synthesis and also provides a practical guide to execute it. This is a super helpful book to understand how to deal with research walls and how to cluster insights, then turn them into a story.

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The Essential Persona Lifecycle

Tamara Adlin, John Pruitt

All what you need to know about personas! How to setup a persona project, create a persona family, manage the personas across the different lifecycles. The book is full of real examples and helpful implementation charts.

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This step is all about group and personal creativity: we start to work on the solution. With the help of the insights we collected and the design challenges we created, we start to develop the first shitty drafts . At this point you have to use many tools to bring out the creativity from the participants of your workshop. Many people feel, that they are not creative, but this is not entirely true. With the help of different ideation tools this inner creativity could be easily revealed and great results an be achived.

Sketching User Experiences

Bill Buxton, Saul Greenberg, Sheelagh C., Nicolai M.

In this book you can learn about how to create sketches to demonstrate / visualize your concept. This a very visual book, full of real life photo examples. It is really a workbook, that helps you to master sketching.

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Michael Michalko

This book is a collection of different ideation tools. With the help of this tool you can boost your and your group's creativity. You will find, that many ideation tools in the book can act for you as a safety net for creativity.

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Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo

This is an ideation toolbox, a collection of ideation best practices from the greatest minds in the industry. The book contains more than 80 tools clustered around different use cases.

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Free Play

Stephen Nachmanovitch

This book aggregates knowledge on creative process from many different fields - science, art, spiritual...etc. It opens up the everyday world of improvisation, helps you to get in touch with your own creativity.

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Prototype & Test

That's when the whole thing comes to life. I think prototyping is a magical space . This is the point when things get real, you create the physical artifacts of you products / services. This means that it gets inclusive -and this is super important- because you can now show it to other people and they can react to it . The best part in showing your solution to other people is, that you get their feedback, so you can further improve, sharepen your solution or make a completly new one.

Prototyping: A Practitioner's Guide

Todd Zaki Warfel

Besides the basic knowledge of what is prototyping and why we need it, the book provides a practical guide on different types of prototyping. It also includes a list of useful tips - “principals”- on the execution part of prototyping.

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Rapid Viz

Kurt Hanks, Larry Belliston

Good sketching skills could be a super advantage during prototyping, this book provides a basic guideline to quickly learn the fundamentals of sketching. The book is really visual, with several examples and also includes many exercises for practicing.

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Prototyping for Designers

Kathryn McElroy

The book covers the fundamentals of prototyping why, how and the process. The book offers a collection of different prototyping tools for digital and non digital products. You can acquire some knowledge regarding the testing part of the prototyping.I believe this is one of the most exciting part of the process.

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The User's Journey

Donna Lichaw

In this book you will learn a lot about what is a good story and how a good story works. You will also learn about story flow,  how to structure it and use it in stories strategically.

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Business Model Generation

Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur

You can prototype so many things, but it is not so well known that you can also prototype value! This book provides you with an excellent framework to quickly prototype the value part of your product.

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General Books

And finally a few books for the end, that are not connected directly to any of the steps above, as they cover all the steps of the design thinking process or I consider them as fundamental readings to understnad product / service design.

The Design of Everyday Things

Don Norman

This is a fundamental book on user experience design. Investigating the usability of everyday things, the book provides a deep psychological understanding of what is a good or a wrong solution and why! This is a must read for everyone working with service and product design.

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Creative Confidence

Tom Kelley, David Kelley

A engaging and entertaining book from the founder of IDEO on creativity. It is not just about creativity, but it uncovers the reality, that basically everybody is creative, we just lost this capability along our socialization process.

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Service Design for Business

Ben Reason, Lavrans Løvlie, Melvin Brand Flu

This is a super book on how to implement service design / design thinking in an organization. It provides information in general about service design. What I find the most intriguing are the suggestions around building a customer centric culture and setting up a service design driven organization.

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This is Service Design Thinking

Marc Stickdorn

This is one of the most fundamental book on service design. It starts with the main principles and guides you through all the steps of the service design process. Not just describing the process, but also elaborating on the tools that you can use ex.: Customer Journey mapping.

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Design Thinking FAQ

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