Sometime around 1996 I found myself standing in the upstairs library of a drafty, suburban Chicago Victorian owned by a mentor, marveling at what seemed to be a neurotic collection of books.
He had volumes on cooking, social science, biology, business, systems engineering, anthropology, architecture, comics, painting, science fiction, classic literature, graphic design, and a batch of academic papers, among others. When we went book shopping together, I often left with a stack in hand similar to what was on his shelves, despite other intentions. “You need these,” he would grumble, leaving little room for debate. Years later, my own library has many of the same lively characteristics.
While it was a bit confusing at the time, I’ve noticed a pattern over 20 years. This mixed bag is what designers and design researchers, in particular, read. It takes the form of a curated blend of material that broadens your perspective and forces combinations that may not be an obvious fit, but inspire fresh thinking. Here’s what you’ll find on our design research bookshelf.
What is Design Research?
A Designer’s Research Manual
Jennifer Visocky O’Grady, 2009
This is an overview of the methods and approaches for design research. It provides a comprehensive manual for designers on what design research is and how to apply it to design.
Liz Sanders, 2008
This book analyzes the evolution in design research from a user-centred approach to co-designing, and it argues that this shift changes the roles of the designer and researcher.
This is a practical, hands-on guide for anyone trying to design systems that reflect the way customers want to do their work.
Allison Clarke, 2010
Design Anthropology brings together a unique range of cutting-edge design theorists and social scientists to explore the changing object culture of the 21st century.
Brenda Laurel, 2003
Touches on qualitative and quantitative methods, design improvisation, trend research, formal and structural research practice, tactical discussions of design research process, and case studies drawn from a variety of areas.
Design Research Now
Ralf More, 2007
The authors of the essays — all leading international design scholars — stake out positions on the most important issues of design research right now in this series of essays and case studies.
Patricia L. Sunderland, 2010
A guide to the theory and practice of conducting ethnographic research in consumer environments.
Hammersley, Atkinson, 2007
This introduction to ethnography offers a systematic introduction to ethnographic principles and practice. New material covers the use of visual and virtual research methods, hypermedia software, and the issue of ethical regulation.
Ethnography of New Bikers
John Schouten, James McAlexander, 1995
This article introduces consumption patterns as category to better understand people and the manner in which they organize their lives.
The Interpretation of Cultures
Clifford Geertz, 1973
A classical text, this book helped define what anthropology is ultimately about. It serves as a great introduction.
Stumbling on Happiness
Dan Gillbert, 2006
A great read that perfectly supports the Ford quote, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
The Ten Faces of Innovation
Tom Kelley, Jonathan Littman, 2005
A manifesto on archetypes that contribute to innovation. It serves as a reminder to why design research is so important to innovation.
Jane Fulton Suri, 2005
A collection of humorous stories from field research that illustrate how user observation can inspire design. The book demonstrates a common-sense approach that can inspire anyone.
What to Do With A Human Factor
Rick Robinson, 1993
A short, informative manifesto on the importance of user centered design.
Why We Buy
Paco Underhill, 2007
A witty, eye-opening testament to the power of in situ research, “Why We Buy” is an engaging account of hours observing retail environments and how insights gained from research influence the evolution of retail.
frog in field
A collection of thoughts, case studies, and insights from frogs in the field. This publication serves as a manifesto of “how we roll” in the field.
Research Planning and Method Selection
Design Research Through Practice
Ilpo Koskinen, 2011
“Design Research Through Practice” takes advanced design practice as its starting point, but enriches it to build a design process than can respond to both academic and practical problems.
Initiating Ethnographic Research
Stephen L. Schensul, 2012
This book explores the many critical issues that ethnographic researchers need to consider before going to the field and in the earliest stages of the field experience.
Designing and Conducting
Margaret LeCompte, 2010
Written in practical, straightforward language, this new edition defines the qualitative research enterprise, links research strategies to theoretical paradigms, and outlines the ways in which an ethnographic study can be designed.
Specialized Ethnographic Methods
Jean J. Schensul, Margaret D. LeCompte, 2012
With individually authored chapters, this book provided cutting-edge approaches to ethnography and includes multimedia strategies for the collection of ethnographic data.
Universal Methods of Design
Bruce Hanington, 2012
You will find a detailed mixed methods guide to planning and conducting efficient, field research. The book compiles and summarizes 100 of the most widely applicable and effective methods of design.
Donna Spencer, 2009
Card sorting is an effective, easy-to-use method for understanding how people think about content and categories. The book shows how to plan and run a card sort, analyze the results, and apply the outcomes to your projects.
Nate Bolt, Tony Tulathimutte, 2010
Guide to designing and conducting remote research studies, with little more than a phone and a laptop. Includes lots of little tips, tricks to getting the most out of this fast inexpensive method.
The Ethnographic Interview
James P. Spradley, 1979
Step-by-step interview techniques commonly used to research ethnography and culture. The text also describes how to analyze the data and write an ethnography.
How to hack your Body Language
Design Staff, 2013
Insightful guide to reading body language and managing the nonverbal aspects of an interview.
Human Centered Design
An accessible toolkit for conducting in-field research and getting the most out of time with participants.
Observing the User Experience
Mike Kuniavsky, 2003
A practical approach to UX research to help designers and developers see through the eyes of their users. Chapters six to eight give advise and clear tips for recruiting participants and conducting interviews.
Data Capture in the Field
Essential Ethnographic Methods
Jean J. Schensul, 2012
Introduces the fundamental, face-to-face data collection tools that ethnographers and other qualitative researchers use on a regular basis. It provides tools to answer questions about setting, participants, activities, behavior, and more.
Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes
Robert M. Emerson, 2011
A series of guidelines, suggestions, and practical advice for creating useful fieldnotes in a variety of settings, demystifying a process that is often assumed to be intuitive and impossible to teach.
John Collier, 1987
Classic, clear, and straightforward guide to visually documenting research most effectively.
Sarah Pink, 2009
Through a series of case studies based on applied visual anthropological work in a range of contexts, this book examines the range contexts in which applied visual anthropology is engaged, and the methodological issues it raises.
Analysis and Synthesis
101 Design Methods
Vijay Kumar, 2012
The first step-by-step guidebook for successful innovation planning, 101 Design Methods is a practical set of collaborative tools and methods for driving innovation in design through design research.
Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking
Jon Kolko, 2010
Very insightful article on the process of synthesizing information for design.
Analysis and Interpretation of Ethnographic Data
Treating analysis as both a mechanical and a cognitive process, this book describes approaches for interpretation of ethnographic data and illustrates how the meaning of results can be communicated.
Exposing the Magic of Design
Jon Kolko, 2011
This book presents a set of actionable, learnable methods for design synthesis that can be applied to any design problem.
Indi Young, 2008
Provides detailed guidance for creating mental models and frameworks for how users relate to products.
Communicating and Translating Insights
Storytelling for User Experience
Whitney Quesenbery, Kevin Brooks, 2010
In this book, Quesenbery and Brooks teach you how to craft and tell your own unique stories to communicate, explore, persuade, and inspire.
Making Sense of Making Sense
Rick E. Robinson, 2010
Robinson presents a method to analyze perceptions based on a combination of individual, social, and cultural frameworks, and then gives tools to modularize features within those frameworks.
The Persona Lifecycle
John Pruitt, 2006
Describes how to create effective personas and using those personas to design products that people love; offers detailed techniques and tools related to planning, creating, and communicating.
Interactive Visualization: Insight through Inquiry
Bill Ferster and Ben Shneiderman, 2012
Draws on many disciplines and covers basic principles of inquiry, data structuring, information design, statistics, cognitive theory, usability, working with spreadsheets, and storytelling.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Edward R. Tufte, 2001
Contains 250 illustrations of the best (and a few of the worst) statistical charts, graphics, and tables, with a detailed analysis of how to display quantitative data for precise, quick, effective analysis.
Edward R. Tufte, 1990
Beautifully presents the classics of information design, combined with close analysis of design strategies that produce excellence in information displays.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Walker Evans, James Agee, 2001
A collaboration between a writer and photographer exploring sharecroppers in the south during the Great Depression. A great read for anyone interested in ethnographic research.
Anita Woolfolk, 2006
The text provides solid, up-to-date coverage of the foundational areas within educational psychology: learning, development, motivation, teaching, and assessment, combined with intelligent examination of emerging trends in the field.
A Primer in Positive Psychology
Christopher Peterson, 2006
This selection covers major topics that include positive experiences such as pleasure and flow, positive traits such as character strengths, values, and talents, and the social institutions that enable these subjects.