A tough year to pick a top five from, but here goes.
Jonathan Shariat and Cynthia Savard Saucier
Shariat and Saucier explain how poorly designed products can anger, sadden, exclude, and even kill people who use them. Through a series of historical case studies, the errors of design become woefully apparent. The designers responsible certainly didn’t intend harm, so what can we do to avoid making similar mistakes? For a taste of where the book goes, and how high the stakes for bad design can be, try Googling “ford pinto design flaw”. One of two books on the list where I was fortunate enough to interview the authors for the UX Belfast meetup during 2019.
Ethics and human-centredness in design have been a noticeable emerging theme in the last two years. Here, Kate O’Neill highlights the importance of meaning and purpose in tech. “The Tech Humanist proposal is to ensure that business objectives and human objectives are as aligned as possible so that as automated experiences scale, they scale human values with them, and a sense of what is meaningful to humans surrounds us.” Highly recommended for anyone seeking greater meaning in their work.
What a refreshing read. We can become despairing sometimes at the state of the world. And yes, a lot of what we understand in the world is wrong. However, this book by (now deceased) author Hans Rosling illustrates how much the world is improving over time. How quality of life is improving for those in the bottom tiers of society. Yes, there’s a lot wrong with the world, but this book teaches us to appreciate where and how things are getting better. And how we must bring critical thinking to our view of the world. Rosling’s children are continuing his work – see https://www.gapminder.org for more information.
This book needed to be written, given the amount of collective time we invest in sitting in rooms together, physically or virtually. This book treats meetings as a design problem, and offers highly practical advice on agendas, facilitation and actions. Favourite quote: “Meetings are usability tests for organizations themselves”. ‘Nuff said.
Ego is the Enemy
A great treatise on objectivity and not becoming attached to anything you feel defines you, either as an individual, or as an organization. “…at some point in time, every industry will be disrupted by some trend or innovation [which] the incumbent interest will be incapable of responding to. Why can’t businesses change or adapt? A large part of it is because they have lost the ability to learn, they stopped being students. The second this happens, your knowledge becomes fragile.” Sobering stuff, and a useful prompt to re-assess some core beliefs about oneself.
Work-related books only this time round. So much great fiction featured during the year also, but these are the books that really stuck with me.