Five Must-Read Books on Design Thinking Methods

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As a practitioner of service design, I often get asked for recommendations on great books about design thinking methods. After many impromptu conversations at conferences, workshops and other events, I've finally decided to put them down on paper:

  1.  101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization by Vijay Kumar – Kumar is a professor at the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago, my alma mater. Sure, I may be a bit biased, but the book's extensive library of design tools and methods, simple, easy-to-apply format and great full-color photos and examples make it a worthwhile read. Here's how I'd best summarize its value: it's my three-year, six-figure Master's education in design methods in under 400 pages.
  2. Human-Centered Design Toolkit: An Open-Source Toolkit To Inspire New Solutions in the Developing World by IDEO – The original go-to tome on design methodsthe HCD toolkit provides a selection of design tools in an easy step-by-step guide. Originally written to help aspiring social innovators create innovative solutions in third-world countries, the tools and approaches can be applied to a variety of problems, including those you may find in your organization.
  3. This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider – Like the title says, this book offers the basics: the who's, what's and how's of service design. The applied service design section at the back has some great case studies of the different design methods in context.
  4. Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie – Admittedly this is shameless self-promotion for Peer Insight, however, Designing for Growth is unique in its approach to design methods as it was written for practicing managers and provides related business context aimed specifically at those readers. We've gotten great feedback, from managers and non-managers alike, on the ease of understanding and applying the design tools to their own growth problems.
  5. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries – Not really a book of design methods but Ries' overall approach to problem solving is akin to design thinking's basic "research, test and iterate" philosophy. As you read, challenge yourself to look for the overlap in methodologies as well as where one approach bolsters the other. 

Did I miss the mark? Share your thoughts below and let me know your top picks.

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Jessica Dugan

Hi, I'm Jessica. And the first thing you need to know about me is that I'm nosey. If there is something happening around me, I need to know what it is and why it's going on. It is this curiosity to know see, discover and be involved everything that lead me to my career in design research and design strategy. As a design consultant I get the opportunity to dive in and explore new cultures, new people and new problems and then create compelling services that improve the quality of life for us all. When I'm not sticking it into other people's business, you can probably find my nose in a good sci-fi or historical fiction book or stumbling around a museum or other historical landmark. I quite enjoy burritos, whether homemade, store-made, restaurant or delivery and on any given weekend it's safe to assume I'll be downing a delightful Mexican treat while chugging a home-brewed beer made by my husband.