The Design of Everyday Things

Don Norman

Who wants to read a book by the man who gives his name to terribly designed doors?


A “Norman Door” is one that gives you the wrong signal and needs a sign to correct it. E.g a door with a handle that looks like it should be pulled, but has a small sign saying push. In The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman gives us a framework to describe bad design, and thus create good, human-centered design. If you have ever pulled when you should have pushed, this is the book for you.

The Materials Sourcebook for Design Professionals

Rob Thompson, Martin Thompson

These books are constantly getting passed around the office – they give a four-page overview for almost every common manufacturing process and material, supplemented with data, case studies and photography. This book is guaranteed to increase how often you inspect everyday objects for material and manufacturing process clues.

Every Tool's a Hammer

Adam Savage

Mythbuster and Maker Adam Savage was many of my generation’s first experience of engineering. This eclectic autobiography was really hard to finish, but for all the right reasons. Every page makes you want to stop reading, get up and create something.

Sprint: Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas In Just Five Days

Jake Knapp

I’ve never liked the process of brainstorming, it’s generally agreed that after defining the problem as a group, it is far more efficient for individuals to go away and create ideas alone and bring them back to the group for sharing. Jake Knapp at Google Ventures explodes this sentiment into a thoughtful and productive structure around ideation, prototyping and validation – a “Sprint”. Our ideation process at RPD takes many cues from the Sprint Model, and you can see it in action through our Workshop model.

Salt: A World History

Mark Kurlansky

So maybe this one is a bit leftfield for product design. Look a little bit deeper,however, and you’ll find everything from supply chain to packaging to cashflow in the story of salt. There are also tonnes of engineering tidbits – 19th century Sichuan salt mines percussion-drilled with bamboo were the first in the world to reach over 1000m in depth – perfecting a technique that had been used for two millennia.