A List of Must-Read Industrial Design Books

industrial design books

Whether you’re a new student looking to learn or a seasoned professional wanting to touch up your skills, books can help. Many great minds have put pen to paper, writing inspiring books for industrial designers. Some are written specifically for product designers while others are more general in nature.

To stay inspired is to be open to new ideas. Just looking at examples isn’t going to help you create your best designs. Which is why it’s good to read all types of materials, not just industrial design books. In this list, you’ll find some really inspiring stories, tips and tricks for product designers, and some more concrete product design books filled with practical tips.

  1. Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love by Jon Kolko

Design expert Jon Kolko lets us in on the thing that successful companies like Nest use to their advantage. He gives advice on tapping into the empathetic part of your being to design products that resonate with people’s emotions. The key, he says, is not to add more features but to evoke a response and engage with the user.

  1. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Every day we interact with plenty of designs that have the same functionality no matter here you are in the world, like a door or a phone. Professor Don Norman brings to attention these intuitive designs and asks us to think about what would happen if someone messed with them. Have you ever come across a door you couldn’t figure out how to open? You won’t think about product design the same way after reading this.

  1. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

While not about industrial design, Steve Krug gives some timeless advice on designing intuitively. Web designers swear by this book. It’s a pretty short read with plenty of examples and a conversational, fun tone.


  1. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

You might not have heard the name, but you’ve probably heard that quote before. Ed Catmull is the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He has some great advice on how to foster creativity not only independently, but also in a team. It’s an inspiring and very useful read for creatives in leadership positions who want their team to generate the best ideas possible.

  1. The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) by John Maeda

This is a pretty quick read, but crucial nonetheless. Jon Maeda gives us his 10 laws and three properties of product design, followed by examples and personal anecdotes. It’s filled with great advice and tips for designing with simplicity in mind.

  1. Designing Design by Kenya Hara

Kenya Hara is a world class Japanese designer, have designed the opening and closing ceremony programs for the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. It’s a wonderfully written monograph outlining Hara’s thoughts on design and how he infuses Japanese culture into his work. In the first section of the book, he tells us how he would redesign daily products to improve functionality. It’s a must-read for any serious designer.

  1. Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler

Look no further than this book to broaden your design skills. Whether you’re a designer, engineer, or architect, you’ll find something useful here. It’s a cross-disciplinary reference of 100 different principles of design with plenty of examples of the principles being applied to modern examples.

  1. Design (Tom Peters Essentials) by Tom Peters

A very short read filled with nuggets of wisdom related to design, leadership, and innovation. If you’re a product designer or even just work in the industry, you’d probably benefit from reading this. He lets you in on why he puts his emotions and passion behind his work. Prepare to be inspired.

  1. The Creative Priority: Putting Innovation to Work in Your Business by Jerry Hirshberg

Jerry Hirshberg, founder and president of Nissan Design International, shares some of the things he’s learned while in the field. He reveals how he designed his organization around creativity rather than just using it as a principle of design. Perfect for the business-minded designers.

  1. Designing Interaction by Bill Moggridge

While Bill Moggridge himself is an inspirational designer you should follow, this book isn’t really about him. He spends its entirety delving into other case studies, shining a light on other designers who’ve changed the way we interact with the world. The book includes interviews with Will Wright, the creator of The Sims; Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google; and the creators of the mouse and desktop. It’s illustrated with over 700 images and has inside interviews you won’t find anywhere else.

  1. Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward De Bono

By reading this book, you’ll level up your creativity. It’s about lateral thinking, which is the opposite of how we’re taught to think in school. We’re told to approach problems head on, but when this doesn’t work, what do we do? Edward De Bono is here to give you techniques to think laterally.

  1. Process: 50 Product Designs from Concept to Manufacture by Jennifer Hudson

If you’re looking for guidance with the product design process, Hudson’s book can help. It looks at 50 domestic design objects and shines a light on the creative processes as well as the manufacturing work behind them. It includes in depth information about the projects and has colorful images and detailed sketches. The designs are all significant in their field, whether it be furniture, textile, or tableware.

  1. Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals by Rob Thompson

This isn’t just a book with a few design tips. It’s a resource that all designers should have in their repertoire. It looks at the production techniques and materials that are affecting the design industry today. There are 1,200 photos and illustrations in the book to support the case studies, making it quite a read.

  1. Product Design and Development by Karl. T. Ulrich

If you’re about to kickstart the product development process for your new invention, give this book a read first. It leans more on the technical side, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you may want to skip this one. There is some pretty valuable information though, ranging from marketing advice and design help to manufacturing and prototyping.

  1. Managing the Design Factory: A Product Developer’s Toolkit by Donald G. Reinersen

Are you stuck in the product development pipeline? Looking for advice on how to finally get your product to the marketplace? This book is full of practical, useful tips that you can start putting to work for you right away. Rather than offering a set of rules, the tools he gives are applicable to your specific situation.

  1. Presentation Techniques: A Guide to Drawing and Presenting Design Ideas by Dick Powell

While a bit dated, Powell goes over some drawing techniques that it pays to know. Even if you don’t practice manual sketching much, knowing the best-practices just in case will be an asset to your career.

  1. Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers by Koos Eissen

A more updated book full of sketching techniques for product designers. It’s a great resource for learning the terminology behind industrial design sketching. There are also practical tips and tricks that can be applied to your everyday sketches.

  1. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order by Francis D. K. Ching

While an architecture book by nature, Ching does an excellent job at teaching the reader basic design principles. If you’re new to product design, this is a definite must-read as it details elementary design concepts and advanced principles. It’s a simple read full of practical tips you can use in every day life.

  1. Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships by Gail Greet Hannah

Rowena Reed Kostellow was an industrial design teacher at the Pratt Institute. Her teachings have influenced the product design industry greatly. Through the book, you can learn what she has to teach. It’s an instructive book that allows students to follow along with Kostellow’s design exercises. There’s also commentary from Kostellow herself and examples of how her students used her teachings to become leaders in their field.

  1. Basic Visual Concepts and Principles for Artists, Architects and Designers by Charles Wallschlaeger

This textbook-like book is full of exercises and informative information for designers and architects. It’s a pretty dry read, but if that doesn’t bother you, you’ll be able to learn the basics of design as well as advanced principles.

Hopefully you’re inspired to pick up one (or all) of these great books. They’re bound to help you along the way. If you happen to need help with the next step — engineering and manufacturing — Cad Crowd can help. We can connect you with the best engineers and manufacturing services in North America. Contact us for a free quote!