IDEO U’s Design Thinking Book Recommendations

IDEO U design thinking book recommendations

We believe the best way to learn is by seeing, trying, reflecting, and sharing—all of which are the foundation of our online design thinking courses. We also believe that you need to get out into the world to internalize learning—here are books that have helped us deepen our understanding and practice of design thinking

We also love learning from our community. If there are any books you think we should add to this list, please feel free to message us at hello@ideou.com with your book recommendation and why it should be featured.



Design Thinking Mindset

Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World, by Tina Seelig

Tina Seelig, a Stanford University Professor, shares how everyone can make imaginative ideas a reality. Learn how to work through the steps of imagination, ideation, innovation, and implementation to ultimately create something complex, interesting, and powerful.

Six Thinking Hats, by Edward de Bono 

When you’re working on a team, how do you define your roles? In this book, you’ll learn about “six thinking hats,” or mindsets that you can adopt to tackle problems and make better decisions. 

The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead, by Warren Berger

Warren Berger shows us the power of asking the right questions to help us make better choices in four key areas: decision-making, creativity, leadership, and relationships.

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, by Jeff Dyer 

If you want to strengthen your (and your team’s) innovation capabilities, read this book. Based on learnings from companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google, it will teach you 5 skills that will help you move from an initial idea to lasting impact. 

Designing Your Life:How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans 

Design isn’t just limited to products or services—you can also apply the design thinking mindset to your life. Two Stanford d.school professors share how you can create a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.


Design Thinking for Specific Industries

Service Design: This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases, by Marc Stickdorn

Everything can be designed—including services. In this book, you’ll learn how to design and market services to create outstanding customer experiences.

Environments: Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration, by Scott Doorley

A lot of creative work is mental, but having a collaborative physical space definitely helps. After reading this book, you’ll gain tools and insights around how to craft spaces that ignite creativity.

Business: The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, by Roger Martin

Businesses rely far too exclusively on analytical thinking. Here’s how they can use innovation to level up and gain a competitive edge. Learn more from Roger Martin, an instructor in our Designing Strategy course.

Education: Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

Learn a process that can be incorporated into every class at every grade level to help students discover powerful skills—problem-solving, critical thinking, and imagination—that will help them shape the world’s future.


Design Thinking for Social Impact & Inclusion

The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, by IDEO.org

A how-to for practicing human-centered design for social innovation, written for both new and experienced practitioners with applicable methods, worksheets, and case studies. Download free pdf version here.

Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind, by Regine Gilbert

Inclusive design means that your product is created to be accessible to as many different users as possible. This book will share why accessible design is so important, different designs for disabilities on various platforms, and tools and best practices for research and user testing. 

Smart Communities: How Citizens and Local Leaders Can Use Strategic Thinking to Build a Brighter Future, by Suzanne W. Morse

Based on the results of more than a decade of research by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, this book is a guide to strategic decision-making in community planning, development, and collaboration.

Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, by Kat Holmes

Inclusive design methods—designing objects with rather than for excluded users—can create elegant solutions that work well and benefit all. Kat Holmes describes how design can lead to exclusion, and how design can also remedy exclusion.


Analogous to Design Thinking

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, by Jake Knapp

In just 5 days, you can make significant progress toward solving a big business problem. This book is about the sprint methodology from Google Ventures, which has led to the creation of products within Google Search and Google X.  

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin

If you enjoyed Designing Strategy, you’ll like this book as well. Our IDEO U instructor, Roger Martin, writes about how leaders can define their strategic goals and guide everyday actions that will lead to business success. 

Emotionally Intelligent Design: Rethinking How We Create Products, Pamela Pavliscak 

We shouldn’t leave the emotion out of design–especially when it comes to technology. This book will inspire you to reconsider the emotional side of technology, and share new ways to design with a blend of human and machine emotional intelligence.

Design is Storytelling, by Ellen Lupton

Good storytelling brings ideas to life. Here’s how you can use visual storytelling techniques to create engaging, persuasive, and emotional products, services, and experiences. Pair with Storytelling for Influence and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master storyteller.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

People won't truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the “why” behind it. This book shows the power of asking why—and how it can lead to well-functioning organizations, inspired employees, and even cultural movements. Learn more about leadership in our course Leading for Creativity

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle 

Where does great culture come from? In this book, Daniel Coyle shares a roadmap of the culture-building process, as well as strategies and skills that can generate cohesion and cooperation within a group. Learn more in our course Cultivating Creative Collaboration.


IDEO Authors

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, by Tim Brown

Design thinking isn’t just for creative industries; it can be applied to all types of industries, from healthcare to consumer packaged goods. This is a book for anyone hoping to infuse design thinking into their organization, product, or service. Learn more from Tim in our Leading for Creativity course.

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, by David Kelley and Tom Kelley

Anyone can be creative. Use this book to grow your confidence and tap into your own abilities for innovation. Learn more from David in our Hello Design Thinking course.

Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley

What are the different roles that you can play in an organization to help foster new ideas? Learn in this book, as well as how people overcome blocks to innovation in their businesses. 

Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking by Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin

Create great choices in your own work and learn a new approach—integrative thinking—that will help you leverage the tension of opposing ideas to create transformative new value.


Want to practice design thinking through real world challenges and connect with a like-minded community of innovators? Go deeper with our Foundations in Design Thinking Certificate

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