12 User Experience Classics

Working with search and user experience, I have found plenty of inspiration in many well-written books, articles and lectures. Most of these inspirational sources deal with specific and applicable things like faceted search, design documentation, personas and user testing – familiar topics for everybody who practice user experience design. Other reading experiences leave a deeper mark, shaping in part my perspective on the design process. It’s these experiences that I would like to share with you.

Knowing one’s roots is important, and it feels good to point out where I stand as a practitioner of user experience design. After ploughing through years of bookmarks and downloaded PDFs – with subsequent strict self-censoring – I came up with this list of 12 extra important sources of inspiration. The selection is wide and eclectic – something pre-Internet, something from yesterday, something obvious, and perhaps even a surprise. I learn something by integrating this knowledge into my own design process, and I hope you find something you like as well. Enjoy!

Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation [PDF] by John Lasseter (1987)

Good animation = good interaction design! John Lasseter, the grand old man of Pixar and Disney, explains the principles of communication through movement.

The Myth of Metaphor [PDF] by Alan Cooper (1995)

Use conventions, not metaphors! Good conventions are easily learnt and remembered forever – metaphors just limit our thinking to old habits and frames of mind.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less [PDF] by Barry Schwartz (2004)

Few, but good alternatives are best! Read the whole book, which explains why low expectations are the key to happiness.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness [PDF] by Thaler & Sunstein (2008)

As designers we have an obligation to help people choose wisely. Not because people are stupid, but because we all would rather not think for ourselves.

How To Kill Creativity [PDF] by Teresa M. Amabile (1998)

Purpose, mastery and control (and pleasure) are fragile qualities that flourish with care, and wither if neglected.

The Analysis-Synthesis Bridge Model by Dubberly, Evenson og Robinson (2008)

An analytical and straightforward presentation of the creative process, which also puts the need for design documentation into context.

Design Thinking by Tim Brown (2008)

User-centered design – said with other words. Design is not just about practical knowledge, but also important personality traits – such as curiosity, empathy and “formidlingsglede”.

Bringing Holistic Awareness to Your Design by Joseph Selbie (2009)

Cross-disciplinary collaboration permeates everything we do with user experience design. Nobody can find all the answers on their own!

5 Decision Styles. What is Yours? by Jared Spool (2009)

There’s not just one true good design process. We all take shortcuts – and it’s important that we know about the consequences of doing so.

What Goes Into a Well-Done Critique by Jared Spool (2008)

Giving and receiving critique is perhaps the most difficult – and also the most important – thing we can do to help each other become better user experience designers.

Guiding Principles for UX Designers by Whitney Hess (2010)

Design is a creative decision-making process, where principles are more important than your particular choice of user research methods.

The Fall and Rise of User Experience by Cennydd Bowles (2011)

What does it really mean to design great user experiences, and are really anything more than self-centered beta junkies with turtle-neck sweaters and Apple logos on our breakfast cereal?

Other sources of inspiration:

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