Book List: Design Thinking
Portfolio Review
Whether you're looking for a fresh perspective on design, some creative inspiration, insight or innovative problem-solving techniques, RGD Members are sharing their recommendations for books that will get you thinking about 'design thinking'.  
  1. Paul Rand: A Designer's Art by Paul Rand
  2. A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel H. Pink
  3. Look Both Ways by Debbie Millman
  4. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon


Recommended by Danielle Jones RGD, Ottawa

Paul Rand: A Designer's Art by Paul Rand

When taking an inspirational break during the workday, I often gravitate to books about modernist architecture and design, so it's probably no coincidence that Paul Rand: A Designer's Art remains a favourite on my shelf. As a student in early 1930's New York City, Rand was influenced by the avante-garde architecture, art and design movements originating in Europe including the Bauhaus. A committed modernist, Rand soon became a multidisciplinary force as an advertising artist, industrial designer, art director, educator and graphic designer. His deft combination of design rationale, artistry, minimalism, salesmanship and wit produced highly influential work that resonates to this day.


The book contains a selection of Rand's graphic design along with some of his best essays. Titles including Ideas About IdeasDesign and the Play InstinctImagination and the ImageIntegrating Form and Content  and Politics of Design remind us that, despite massive changes in technology, the essence of good design remains timeless.


Recommended by Randal Boutilier RGD, Toronto

A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel H. Pink

A client of mine recommended this book a few years ago, and it really helped me acknowledge my right brain and embrace my creative mind. It sounds a little boastful, but as visual communicators we all need to recognize that we have a special set of skills and perspectives that lie dormant in many other people. In this book, Daniel Pink shows how the dawn of the ‘Conceptual Age’ has prompted a need for right brain thinkers - and how this line of thinking is key for future business and societal development. Under the listings of ‘Design’, ‘Story’, ‘Symphony’, ‘Empathy’, ‘Play’ and ‘Meaning’, he covers many features that creative people take for granted, while providing exercises that help strengthen right-brain thought.


I’ve shared this book with many other colleagues - from designers to writers to fundraisers - and we’ve all been able to see the characteristics that we share in our approach to problem solving. After reading this book, I have a better grasp on the concept of ‘design thinking’, and can better position myself when explaining work to clients.


Recommended by Tara Kelly RGD, Richmond Hill 

Look Both Ways by Debbie Millman

Look Both Ways is one of six books written by accomplished design leader and podcast host of Design Matters, Debbie Millman. It’s a collection of illustrative essays that engagingly associate the intertwined connection of design and real life experiences. Page after page presents delightful visual surprises combined with deep insights into Millman’s creative thought processes.

Unlike any other design book that I’ve read, it’s a down-to-earth journal with a shot of creative self-help and a large pinch of humour. Never really out of hand's reach, I see this book as a creative diversion that never fails to give me a boost of inspiration and motivation. This book reminds me to stop, look and listen to ordinary life and use these observations to spark my imagination. “If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. NOW.”


Recommended by Tim Lum RGD, Bracebridge 

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Steal Like An Artist is an inspiring guide to creativity in the digital age. Austin Kleon takes you through 10 things nobody told him about being creative. This book resonates with me because it explores how creative ideas originate in today’s modern world. It encourages the principles of remixing and referencing, and gives you great advice for becomming a successful designer.

I highly recommend this book because it is honest and provides practical life lessons for anybody in the creative field, touching on the importance of maintaining hobbies and side projects, staying out of debt and traveling to different places. “Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.” 


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