Designers from Shopify, VICE Media, Microsoft, and Automattic recommend books that have helped them throughout their career as designers.
Adrian Mato has lived and designed in places like London, Madrid, and San Francisco for the last 10+ years. Starting out as a software developer, Mato quickly recognized his passion was Design. He’s worked at a number of companies across the globe, even founding and selling his own (Eramusu) student community with 2M+ registered users to Spotahome in 2011.
Today he’s a part of Microsoft’s Azure DevOps team in the San Francisco Bay area but who knows where you’ll find him next?
These are some of the books that have helped him arrive at where he is today:
“One of the classics, and also one of my favorite books from Otl Aicher, founder of the Ulm School. Aicher re-inforces the idea that every design decision must have a purpose and a reason behind it.” (Adrian's Notes)
A comic book that teaches you how to design comics. One of the biggest challanges we face as designers is to tell compelling stories in different ways, I think this book does a pretty good job explaining it. (Adrian's Notes)
One of the most difficult challenges as designers is to find the right balance between the complexity and simplicity: granularity of information, visual resources, mental models, and so on. Maeda does a pretty great job explaining what simplicity is while sharing his methodology to transform complex problems into simpler ones. (Adrian's Notes)
An excellent introduction to the psychology and design decisions behind the day to day objects that surround us. I’d recommend you read the book while combining it with others as it can get a bit dense and dull (rhythmically speaking, don’t get me wrong). (Adrian's Notes)
When designing, typography is the foundation of print and web design. This book will give you the best historical background, terminology, and every technical consideration you need to know when thinking with type. (Adrian's Notes)
This is the kind of book you’d like to read jumping back and forth between different topics. It’s a beautiful compilation of several design principles along with in-depth explanations, illustrations, and examples. I find it useful whenever I want to refresh theory or don’t land the right words for explaining the reasoning behind design decisions. It’s also a good source of inspiration. (Adrian's Notes)
Josef Albers was one the most important artist-educators in the Bauhaus in 1920. His learnings and systematic approach to the color theory are a great way to understand how surrounding colors influence our perception of colors. (Adrian's Notes)
A pragmatic, realistic and simple way of summarizing what being a designer means. Contracts, clients, peers, and the less fancy and artistic part of the craft. (Adrian's Notes)
Christine is a design lead at Shopify and is based in the Montreal area, leading the team for the last year-ish. She’s been working in design roles ever since she finished her degree (also in design) for the last 10-ISH YEARS.
Christine on her reading habits
My reading habits have shifted over the years, but these days with young children at home I mostly read while commuting. It’s about 20 minutes in the morning and evening, and keeping a book in my purse means I spend less time on my phone. If I’m particularly captivated by a book I’ll keep reading it in the evening, but those moments during the commute ensure I don’t lose momentum. I read mostly non-fiction these days but I love a good fiction book if I get a great recommendation.
There have been tons of books that have influenced me throughout my career at different stages, but here are a few that were very influential for me.
I had a surface level understanding of what a growth mindset was before reading Carol's seminal work, but this really helped me internalize the concept and recognize the traits of fixed and growth mindsets in my professional and personal life. It has really transformed the way I approach challenges and setbacks, and helped me focus on being a constant learner. (Christine's Notes)
I read this book when I was working in a design studio, but I was restless and wanted a much tighter feedback loop with users to validate what we were building. This book really changed the way I thought about my work and the role of design in learning and validating business ideas. It helped me fall in love with a different way of working. I left my studio role to join a startup – and I haven't looked back. (Christine's Notes)
Maeda started as a Computer Science major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he completed both his masters and undergraduate degree. He then found himself completing a Ph.D. in design in Japan’s Tsukuba University’s Institute of Art and Design.
His work has laid the foundation of interactive motion graphics used on the web today, finding their permanent residence in collections in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Cartier Foundation in Paris.
Since then he has taught at both Harvard and MIT’s Media Lab, chaired the Rhode Island School of Design as its President, sat on the Board at companies like eBay, Google, Smithsonian Design Museum, Sonos Inc., among a number of other companies and organizations.
Today he sits as the global head of Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic where his work focuses on addressing the diversity gap in the technology industry.
I read this book at least twice a month. It helps re-center my thinking about work, life, and the challenging pursuit of change. (John's Notes)
When you discover that all that you do is simply a copy of all that you see around you, it puts life in perspective. We copy to survive. (John's Notes)
Understanding something is all about knowing how the parts come together as a whole. We fill in the pieces until we see the bigger picture. (John's Notes)
The topic of Inclusion is difficult to understand but vital as a means to live life to its fullest — in service to others around us. (John's Notes)
Spending three years in Silicon Valley exposed me to a kind of optimism that is hard to explain. Elle’s book does it perfectly. (John's Notes)
Marvin is a graphic designer at VICE media based in the Toronto area after completing roles like Creative Intern at Juniper Park, and completing his Bachelor at OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design), he continues his pursuits in beautiful things in his current role. With more stuff on his pretty beautiful site (linked above).
The NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual contains scans of Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda's (Unimark) modernist masterpiece. The manual describes the design and construction for the iconic NYC subway signs that we still see and use.
The first book by i-D, published in 1987. It so rarely turns up that we forgot how good it was. The i-D Bible: Every Ultimate Fashion Victim's Handbook . We love how its not 'Fashion Victim'. This is a handbook for all victims and especially 'Ultimate Victims'!The book has become invaluable now for the thirty page Style Wars section edited by Caryn Franklin. B-Boys, Mods, Psychedelics (patchwork not paisley), Punks and Rockers, Goths and Gents and Preppies (music taste: Huey Lewis or Dire Straits on DAT).
Stüssy has worked with IDEA to publish a 240-page super book edited by Ryan Willms and Alastair McKimm. An Idea book about T-shirts by Stüssy features an essay, interviews, editorial by Ari Marcopoulos, and a series of photographs by some of the leading image makers in the industry today including Alasdair McLellan, Amy Troost, Ari Marcopoulos, Collier Schorr, Dan Martensen, Daniel Jackson, Glen Luchford, Inez & Vinoodh, Josh Olins, Mario Sorrenti, Terry Richardson and Willy Vanderperre. There is also a large archive section featuring unseen and iconic images from the brand over the past 38 years.
Creativity, Inc. is a manual for anyone who strives for originality and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about creativity—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
Yvon Chouinard--legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia, Inc.--shares the persistence and courage that have gone into being head of one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on earth.
Boys Don't Cry is a book that speaks against the stigma that makes men feel like they are less-than for struggling, making sense of depression and anxiety for people who might not recognise those feelings in themselves or others. It is a brutally honest, sometimes heart-breaking (and sometimes funny) tale about what it really takes to be a 'real man', written by one who decided that he wanted to change the status quo by no longer being silent.
Handwritten and heartfelt, this pocket-sized book by designer Adam J. Kurtz offers wisdom and empathy from one working artist to others, with perforated pages to share or display. Deceptively simple, this full-color book will be a touchstone for writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and anyone else working to harness their passion for a more creative life.
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