Essential Design Thinking Books

Best design thinking books

Many growth businesses share a deep-rooted desire to innovate and disrupt. But what does it actually take to consistently and systematically discover and design solutions which improve customer experience?

It takes a process called design thinking. Despite the name, it’s not a process restricted to designers, quite the opposite. Over the years, I’ve used design thinking processes to collaborate with executives from Real Estate Investment Trusts through to Aerospace corporations.

So what is design thinking? To quote Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO “ Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Sounds easy right? Not quite, like mastering any subject area it takes knowledge and practice to achieve exceptional results consistently. Luckily, there are a number of great books on this subject published by the masters of design thinking. My shortlist of recommended reads will get any novice designing great solutions in no time.

Best design thinking book - Change By Design. Tim Brown

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation

By Tim Brown

If you’re new to design thinking start here. Change by Design, by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO provides a roadmap to innovation, revealing techniques and strategies of design which will help any business innovate.

Brown dispels the myth that great ideas are created by geniuses. The reality is most innovations are identified and developed using a thorough process.

Change by Design is a roadmap for design success. When you’re done, you’ll discover you have all the tools to be a great innovate.

Best design thinking books, free book, The Field Guide To Human Centered Design, By IDEO

Human-Centered Design Toolkit


The Human-Centered Design Toolkit Toolkit is a personal favourite. It’s a free book designed specifically for the NGOs and social enterprises that work with impoverished communities across Asia, South America and Africa. The HCD Toolkit has led to innovations such as Cleanwell antibacterial products, the Red Cross Blood Donor System and HeartStart defibrillator.

The Human-Centered Design Toolkit Toolkit is available as a free download from the IDEO website. 

The Human-Centered Design Toolkit is an in-depth, but easy to follow guide on how to do human centred design. It contains all the information to take you from novice to expert.

 This is service design thinking - best service design book

This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases

By Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider

This is Service Design Thinking is a practical guide to designing and marketing outstanding customer experiences.

This Is Service Design Thinking pulls together knowledge and experience from more than twenty authors and a community of online contributors from the global service design. The book outlines five principles for service design thinking, as well as tools and methods for creating service design.

Regardless of your industry, this is a relevant read which will help you think about the service you deliver and how to make it better.

 Best design thinking book, Sprint by Jake Knapp

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Day

By Jake Knapp, ‎ John Zeratsky,‎ Braden Kowitz

The book slogan says it all “solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days”.

Entrepreneurs face challenging questions every day: where to start, where to focus time, money and attention. Answering these questions using traditional methods can be challenging.

Created by three Google Venture partners, Sprint provides a framework for entrepreneurs and leaders to pinpoint the right questions, and finding solutions using rapid prototyping.

Sprint is a practical framework for any startup or established businesses to follow. Reading this books provides a step-by-step guide on who to involve and how to run your sprint.

Classic design thinking book, The Design of Everyday Things by Don Normam

The Design of Everyday Things

By Don Norman

The Design of Everyday Things is a product design classic (I know, I read it in university) and a design thinking wild card.

By exploring many familiar every product design deficiencies, The Design of Everyday Things, moves towards demonstrating that good design is achievable. Using a few design principles you can guide users to the right action.

Reading this book will give you a firm understanding of design principles and how to use these principles to make things intuitive.