Now available: Design for Impact by Erin Weigel

What makes for a good design book?

02/08/2006

We’ve initiated some discussions with local (Ann Arbor, Michigan USA) firms that are involved in an aspect of user experience design. We hope to learn a little bit more about what makes for a well-designed design book (see a previous discussion on Bloug for more on this subject).

Based on our limited, unscientific, and purely anecdotal market research, some interesting issues are emerging:

  • Short chapters that can be read in one sitting. Some have suggested that chapters as short as four pages are ideal. Thomas Friedman and Kurt Vonnegut were cited as authors who can write short without writing choppy.
  • Concise writing is, not surprisingly, well-appreciated. Slightly more surprising: an appreciation for first-person voice.
  • Anecdotes and brief case studies are good; ones that describe mistakes are even better, even if not directly related to the topic at hand. The impending kayak accident that opens Bruce Tate’s Bitter Java was mentioned as an example.
  • The back-of-the book index is perhaps the favorite tool for book navigation, suggesting that many use their books as reference tools.
  • Readers asked for books with “layered” orientation and navigation tools. These would help you learn what the book is about and what it contains depending on how much time you have, much like travel books often feature 1-day, 3-day, and 1-week takes on “what to visit”.

What do you think makes your favorite design book stand out? We’ll keep asking and sharing what we learn here.

Want to write an RM book? These ideas are worth considering as you assemble your proposal.