Archive for Book Reviews

Review: Where Good Ideas Come From

Steven Johnson’s latest book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation could be seen, as others have noted, as a kind of meta-book of Johnson’s last few books: ideas about ideas. What Johnson sets out to find out is how people like Charles Darwin (who threads his way through the book) come up with their world-changing ideas.

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Book Review: The Nature of Technology

The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves by W. Brian Arthur is an attempt to put a framework around all types of technology, from “computer algorithms and beer brewing, power stations and pencils, handheld devices and DNA sequencing techniques.” Arthur wants a unifying theory (an -ology) of technology: what they are, how they evolve, and how innovation really happens. This is important because, as he rightly notes, “technology creates our world. It creates our wealth, our economy, our very way of being.” “The story of this century,” Arthur writes, “will be about the clash between what technology offers and what we feel comfortable with.”

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Review: Design-Driven Innovation

I’m surprised there wasn’t more discussion last year when Roberto Verganti’s Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean came out. It’s fairly controversial, striking as it does at one of design’s current sacred cows: user-centered design.

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Review: The Language of Things

The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects by Deyan Sudjic, director of Design Museum in London, is a curious, interesting book. It looks at the world of objects through several lenses: language, archetypes, luxury, fashion, and art. Some of these (language, archetypes) I found more interesting than others (fashion), but it has some smart ideas about the objects that surround us, and how we should design them.

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The Top Ten Essential Interaction Design Books

As this is the season of lists and of gift giving, I thought I would put together the top ten books I thought every designer of interactive products should have in their library.

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Review: Hidden in Plain Sight

I’m not going to lie to you: I find reading most business books a challenge, and Hidden in Plain Sight: How to Find and Execute Your Company’s Next Big Growth Strategy by Erich Joachimsthaler was no exception. Some of the difficulty lies in translation: how do I take what is in here and apply it to my own (design) process? This is especially true with this book, which contains techniques that designers frequently use, but are framed in the author’s DIG (Demand-First Innovation and Growth) model.

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Review: Inside Steve’s Brain

Even though we’re all currently interested in what’s inside Steve’s torso, Inside Steve’s Brain
is a pretty good examination of the work life of Steve Jobs. It’s a quick, enjoyable read, with lots of juicy Apple tidbits.

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Review: The User Illusion

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Tor Nørretranders is a remarkable book. It’s not hyperbole to say that it’s one of the most mind-blowing non-fiction books I’ve ever read, nor to say that nearly every page contains some sort of interesting or profound insight or revelation about the human mind.

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Review: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design

Let’s say this right off the bat: If Michael Bierut isn’t the best writer about graphic design, he’s certainly the most entertaining. 79 Short Essays on Design is a collection of Bierut’s writing, and it is highly recommended reading for any designer of any stripe.

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Review: The Race For Perfect

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to get a laptop from a concept to your hands, The Race for Perfect: Inside the Quest to Design the Ultimate Portable Computer by BusinessWeek writer Steve Hamm is the book for you.

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