A Non-UX Reading List for UX Designers


There seems to be an infinite number of resources out there for UX designers to grow in their skillset. I can trace much of my UX journey through the collection of free online resources and library books over the years. But with how easy it is to find lists of UX resources out there, it can be easy to just read UX related resources. 

What are the intangible tools that  a good designer has in his toolbox? Empathy, interconnected thinker, good communicator. But how does one develop these seemingly intangible skills? Part of being a good designer is being a well rounded thinker and one of the best ways to round out your thinking is by reading. 

I am a huge advocate of reading, and especially reading a variety of types of work. Want to become more empathetic? Read a novel; the novel gives you an inside look at the way someone else sees the world. Want to expand your interdisciplinary thinking? Struggle through some sociology or philosophy. Being well read will also help you be a better thinker and a more articulate communicator. 

Here are a few of my recent reads, and why I think they should be added to your reading list... 

1. Brave New World, Huxley

In his classic dystopian novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley constructs a futuristic picture of humanity where technological advancements have numbed and entertained the culture to a point of complete apathy towards reality and truth. Brave New World raises some interesting  questions about the role of technology and information, and paints a picture in which – according to Neil Postman– "what we desire will ruin us."

2. The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger

In this short yet dense piece of philosophy, Martin Heidegger takes a look at the the epistemological side of technology, analyzing how our technological mindset purports a way of knowing that –while good– shouldn't be seen as ultimate or complete. Heidegger encourages readers to balance our highly technical ways of learning and experiencing the world with other, less scientific and organized ones, like art.      

3. Technopoly, Postman

Postman analyzes the every changing relationship of technologies to each other. Taking technologies at their face value, he views our tools as having the power to change us. Technopoly is a good introduction to the world of media ecology and the study of culture's relationship with technology.

4. Harry Potter, Rowling

I am currently reading through this series for the first time (way behind the eight ball, I know). Getting lost in a good story is always a good thing since so much of good communication revolves around good storytelling. Find a classic book (even if it's written for children) and let the story take you to another world. 

5. A Little Manual For Knowing, Meek

Similar to Heidegger's essay I mentioned above, Meek's book A Little Manual for Knowing is a great exploration of what it means to know something. We often think that knowing persists of measuring and data, but Meek suggests that a knowing venture takes much more than  a passive observance; it takes community, sacrifice, and commitment. 

6. Attending to Technology, Jacobs

As technology permeates more deeply into our everyday life, it is vital that we understand the role that attention plays in this new economy. Jacobs explores some of the nuances of this rising attention economy, stating "The question of what I should give attention to is inseparable from the question of what I should decline to give attention to." Our attention isn't unlimited, and we therefore must be thoughtful about how we 'spend' it.