The Never-ending Design Thinking Reading List

Whether you’re just curious about the concept of design thinking or you’ve been involved in the design thinking world for years, there’s always more to explore. We’re often asked about the best resources for learning more about design thinking, so we’re starting a living list of some of our favorite books.

Some of these are old classics and some of them are newer. Some of them are about general theory and some of them relate to specific fields or problems. Some of them aren’t even specifically about design thinking, but address the same kinds of questions and answers we find ourselves facing in this space. All of them are great reads.

Our Top 20 (Design) Thinking Reads

First, we asked around the office to get The Design Gym team’s top 20 recommendations.

  1. Setting the Table
    Danny Meyer
  2. Gamestorming
    Dave Grey, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo
  3. 101 Design Methods
    Vijay Kumar
  4. Scaling up Excellence
    Robert Sutton
  5. Creativity Inc
    Ed Catmull
  6. Let My People Go Surfing
    Yvon Chouinard
  7. Steve Jobs
    Walter Isaacson
  8. Business Model Generation
    Alexander Osterwalder
  9. Checklist Manifesto
    Atul Gawande
  10. Outliers
    Malcolm Gladwell
  11. Research Methods in Anthropology
    H. Bernard
  12. The Designful Company
    Marty Neumeier
  13. Everything is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us
    Duncan Watts
  14. The 10 Faces of Innovation
    Tom Kelley
  15. Nudge
    Richard Thaler
  16. A Whole New Mind
    Daniel Pink
  17. The Little Big Things
    Tom Peters
  18. Ignore Everybody
    Hugh MacLeod
  19. Linchpin
    Seth Godin
  20. Brewing Up A Business
    Sam Calagione

Additional Readings

Of course, a Top 20 list doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the awesome resources out there. Here are some other great reads:

Design Thinking 101

Design Thinking Resources

Design Thinking + Strategy

Creative Cultures + Teams

Creative Leadership

Visual Communication

Skill Building


This list is extensive but far from exhaustive. These are the works that we’ve found to be influential and interesting, but there are plenty of others out there. That’s one of the things we love about design thinking—it’s ever-evolving and there are always new questions waiting to be explored.

In order for this list to be never-ending, we’re going to need your help – there’s only so much we can read ourselves! Have a book, article, or other resource that should be included? Let us know!


The Design Gym
[email protected]

The Design Gym is a strategy and innovation consultancy helping leaders to grow their business by fully unlocking the power of their most important advantage: their people. We work at the intersection of business strategy, experience design, and change management to engage the people that matter most to your work: your customers, your leaders, and your employees. See something that resonates with a project or challenge you're working on? Shoot us a note at [email protected].


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