Top Book Recommendations to Get You Thinking Like a Designer

Filed Under
Culture, Design

The greatest influences on the way we think come from a variety of sources – a life experience, a formal education, a success or failure and for some a good book. At Worrell, there are a number of voracious readers with no dearth of opinions on which books one should read. Read on as we share a selection of these recommended books that have shaped the way our team thinks about design.


How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton

In How to Fly a Horse, author Kevin Ashton leads us on a journey through humanity’s greatest creations to uncover the surprising truth behind who creates and how they do it.

Drawing on examples from art, science, business, and invention, from Mozart to the Muppets, Archimedes to Apple, Kandinsky to a can of Coke, How to Fly a Horse showcases the seemingly unremarkable individuals, gradual steps, multiple failures and countless ordinary and usually uncredited acts that lead to our most astounding breakthroughs.

“Ashton is very good at debunking the myth that innovation is a magical occurrence. He offers a convincing argument showing that “brilliance” is not an innate quality, but is instead an output of a process.

Backed by research, the author shows how true innovation comes from an attention to what is out there and what people really need, followed by a lot of hard work and failure.“ -Lulu Petrina


The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay

This completely updated and expanded edition of author David Macaulay’s original work – The Way Things Work – describes the complicated world of digital machinery, in addition to the levers, lasers, cameras and computers covered in the original 384-page volume.

Each page is a remarkable overview of the machines and inventions that shape our lives, amusingly presented and brilliantly explained – with the help of a charming, if rather slow-witted, woolly mammoth.

“This book offered many of my first lessons in things like corkscrews and levers. As an adult, I realize that these simple explanations of commonplace mechanics have lodged themselves in the back of my brain, empowering me to build better objects.

And, on occasion, I still reference it for fixing things around the house.” -Reed Robinson

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

Nudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioral science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions.

“Many digital health companies we work with are at the crossroads of health and economics, attempting to use big data to “nudge” people towards making the right decisions.

This book helps to frame human decision-making and gives us a better understanding of how to build policies and value propositions that are most likely to create lasting behavior change.” -Derek Mathers


The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis

What does it mean to be human and alive? In Wayfinders, anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the world’s indigenous cultures.

Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. For at risk is the human legacy — a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.

“In his book, Davis uses varying research methodologies to write essays explaining the timelessness of indigeneity; in the process expanding the boundaries of what is commonly understood as Anthropology.

Most inspiring, were the author’s observations on nomadism across the world, which has expanded my thoughts on how we define wisdom.” -Amanda Weber


The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

The Art of Looking Sideways is a primer in visual intelligence, an exploration of the workings of the eye, the hand, the brain and the imagination. It is an inexhaustible mine of anecdotes, quotations, images, curious facts and useless information, oddities, serious science, jokes and memories, all concerned with the interplay between the verbal and the visual, and the limitless resources of the human mind.

This book will entertain and inspire all those who enjoy the interplay between word and image, and who relish the odd and the unexpected.

“Fletcher’s work dances between verbal and visual explorations of the capacity of the human experience. His book teaches aspiring designers that the world is meant to be observed; and its insights can be captured in the form of anecdotes, sketches, quotations and images.

And finally, the book shows that good design is revealed in the process, rather than in the finished product.”

-Amanda Weber


Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen. In a world where feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability and putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena—whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting or the creative process.

“Fostering an environment where vulnerability is respected and accepted is integral in the creative field.

Shame shuts down creativity. Vulnerability, albeit uncomfortable, is where greatness happens and where the truest connections are made. By allowing people to feel comfortable asking outrageous questions, innovative ideas flow.” -Heidi Ylvisaker



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