Here are some of my favorite books about presentation design, design principles and startups. Check them out and let me know what you think! (Note: I don’t receive any affiliate income for my recommendations, they’re just resources for your education!)
Note: There are a lot of design books out there and a lot of design presentation books. Make sure you read the Amazon reviews before you go purchase happy…there are a lot of bad design books or ones that don’t really expand your horizons. I’m going to stick to the principle of “if you can’t say anything nice” and refrain from specifically calling out a few that I think are a waste of money but just do your diligence before you waste your money and time! Not to mention picking up a bad design book (or a dated one) and taking poor advice!
by Don Norman
If you’re at all interested in design you’ve probably heard about this book (or the numerous podcasts, videos, TED talks or articles that have revisited its pages). Don Norman’s classic on design really stands the test of time (largely because he doesn’t delve into the specifics of modern technology to make his points).
This book will help you understand how design plays an integral role in how we interact with the everyday world around us – from doors to phone systems. By stopping to think about the impact of design in these ordinary objects you’ll gain a greater appreciation for applying design techniques to your data and presentations for the highest impact.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
by Eric Ries
If you haven’t already read Ries’s tome on startups and the iterative process, do it now! A lot of the advice contained within his pages seems like common sense now but was really ground-breaking stuff when he wrote the book.
Take to heart the lessons of 1) realizing you don’t know everything (even if you have design training) 2) that you should listen to your customers/users and 3) that you really do need to live in a cycle of continuous iterative and improvement.
Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug
Just like Lean Startup, Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” offered such solid advice when it was first introduced in 2000 that we now regard much of it as “common sense” that we take for granted when it comes to design and web usability.
From user testing to cognitive load, his concepts seem so basic now but were really revolutionary when he put pen to paper. The book was last updated in 2014 to modernize examples but its lessons are the same – and it’s worth the read. Even if you find yourself saying “duh,” reading through his lessons will help you articulate concepts and reasoning to help justify design decisions to your clients.
by Stephanie Evergreen
Focused specifically on data presentation, this book will help you understand the most impactful ways to present your data. Pie chart? Bar graph? Line graph?
This is a great book for beginners or non-designers to get a feel for the most effective ways to portray data. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything ground-breaking here but it’s a quick enough read that will flesh out some of the reasoning behind your instincts for data presentation.
by Ed Swires-Hennessy
Published in Oct 2014, this book is a very nuts and bolts approach to cleaning up table designs. Swires meticulously walks you through best practices that he’s accumulated over a long career as a government statistician in the UK. If table design isn’t your thing this will be a little bit of a dry read, but it’s a great reference tome on tables.
I recommend using it as a reference as you’re working with actual tables so that you can immediately apply his principles. This hands-on approach will allow you to see the effect of his recommendations.
Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences
by Nancy Duarte
Nancy Duarte has been in the presentation space for over 20 years. Her firm, Duarte has created over a quarter of a million presentations for some pretty impressive clients.
Resonate is almost workbook-like in its approach to developing a presentation. It’s largely focused on the onstage presentations (think TED-style) but it’s a great basis for crafting your story and engaging your audience. Again, be prepared for a deep dive into some topics that might not be essential to getting your presentation done – feel free to skim those pages. Overall, this book will help you understand how to position yourself as an authority and engage your audience to action.
Additional books: Thinking Fast and Slow, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Lean UX, Lean Analytics,