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UX, CX, and design thinking books pull from a variety of disciplines—psychology, art, design, sociology, tech—and are applicable for experience professionals regardless of industry.

The core concepts are topics that all companies, serious about design thinking, should be looking at. Here is our pick of the ten of the best design thinking books out there to add to your reading list in 2023.

The first in the Design Thinking series, "The Design Thinking Playbook" is a handbook for transforming business operations and embracing the digital age. Packed with visual aids, practical frameworks, and real-world examples, this book provides the tools and knowledge necessary to mindfully lead organizations to new heights in the ever-changing business landscape.

This is a must-read precursor to the other books in the series: The Design Thinking Toolbox: A Guide to Mastering the Most Popular and Valuable Innovation Methods (2020), Design Thinking for Business Growth: How to Design and Scale Business Models and Business Ecosystems (2022), and Design Thinking and Innovation Metrics: Powerful Tools to Manage Creativity, OKRs, Product, and Business Success (2023).

Topics it Covers:

  • The new design criteria to create value for users
  • Fostering radical innovation
  • Building and deploying high-performing teams
  • Creating Minimum Viable Ecosystems (MVE)
  • Applying principles like Lean Startup, Systems Thinking, Design Thinking and Big Data Analytics

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Quickly, we realize that repeatedly asking 'why' brings us to the limits of our comfort zone in no time at all, so that we are actually moving toward earth-shaking and difficult-to-solve problems—so-called wicked problems.

2. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
By David & Thomas Kelly

A design process book about our power within and using personal experiences to help you be productive and successful in our professional and personal lives. Find out more on their website Creative Confidence.

Topics it covers:

  • Innovation
  • Insight
  • Planning – Action
  • Creative Confidence

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process.

3. Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka

A book specifically aimed at managers to bring out the potential of their employees and business. It focuses on how to use creativity to help with problem-solving.

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Topics it covers:

  • Looking at reality
  • Thinking about alternative futures
  • Users helping us make tough choices
  • Making things work

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Design thinking is an approach to solving problems especially suited to conditions of high uncertainty.

4. Design Thinking by Tim Brown

A book that looks at how design thinking brings together the things that humans want with what technology is able to do while being economically workable. It helps people who are not trained to be designers use their creativity to meet workplace challenges.

Topics it Covers:

  • Desirability
  • Feasibility
  • Viability

Most Memorable Takeaway:

There’s no single definition for design thinking. It’s an idea, a strategy, a method, and a way of seeing the world. It’s grown beyond the confines of any individual person, organization or website.

5. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

A user experience book about the intricacies around business, design, and technology. The author notes that we should lessen tech where we are able and avoid it when we can. Do less but end up with more.

Topics it Covers:

  • Reduce & Organize to simplify
  • Learn as knowledge simplifies
  • Trust in simplicity
  • Outcomes of more with less

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.

6. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

This is a product design book about design but is completely applicable to UX as it is also about usability. It is simple and solution-focused on making useful products, not just those that are only good looking.

Topics it covers:

  • Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Human constraints
  • Errors
  • Design in business

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Two of the most important characteristics of good design are discoverability and understanding.

7. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

The best UX book to help people start to think like a usability expert and learning to ask questions so they can make something more usable than it is. Explained in a way that makes it easy to do after reading the book.

Topics it covers:

  • Making usability happen
  • People want easy
  • Keeping testing simple
  • Accessibility

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what's left.

8. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

This is one of the best user design books ever written to help you understand people and how to design with that understanding. It is psychology-based so you can create intuitive and useful websites, software, and products. Learn to link up with how people think and generally relate.

Topics it Covers:

  • The impact of colors
  • How people think
  • Peoples memories
  • Socialization
  • Emotions

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Be aware that most people, most of the time, are more influenced by time and experiences that produce a personal connection than money or possessions.

9. Igniting Customer Connections by Andrew Frawley

Andrew offers insight into connecting with customers in a good way across multiple channels and throughout time. It is a CX book that looks at how we need to inspire connection and measure it so we get better business results.

Topics it Covers:

  • Budget marketing spending
  • Connections through “atomic moments of truth”
  • Customer experience and how we are engaging
  • Create a growth process that is measurable and can be repeated

Most Memorable Takeaway:

Technology is only an enabler of change, not the change itself.

10. The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway

A rare look at the top four companies that are unavoidable parts of our lives. A tough look at the way these companies are redefining the world they have infiltrated. Thought-provoking and entertaining.

Topics it Covers:

  • No way to avoid them
  • Stock market influence
  • The race for power and money
  • Up and comers

Most Memorable Takeaway:

People who received a great deal of attention for their looks at a young age are more likely to opt for cosmetic procedures when older. It’s the same in business.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for more information and sharing beyond these UX design books, sign up for The CX Lead Newsletter and get more insight into CX, UX, and Design Thinking.

Related Read: What Is Customer Experience Design And How Can You Approach It?

Related List of Tools: 10 Best Design Thinking Tools on the Market Right Now

By Ben Aston

Ben Aston is an online media entrepreneur and founder of Black & White Zebra, an indie media company on a mission to help people and organizations succeed.

Ben applies his expertise in design and strategy to enable businesses to deliver innovative products and services that delight customers. Ben is passionate about understanding customer needs through design research, identifying opportunities based on those insights, and empowering designers and technologists to create solutions. He is driven to develop and uncover new opportunities for clients, establishing strong connections with their customers through product solutions that create lasting value.