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You can now listen to the entire library of Design Better books for free

4 min read
Eli Woolery  •  Aug 6, 2019
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For the first time ever, our complete Design Better library is available as audiobooks.

That means you can brush up on product design, design leadership, and design thinking and learn new skills while you commute, work out, or sit by the pool with a cold beverage in your hand.

[Explore our audio library]

The Design Better library has been assigned in the graduate curriculum for design and business programs at UC Berkeley, the University of Southern California, the University of Georgia, and Stanford University among other institutes.

You learn from industry leaders like Meredith Black of Pinterest, Dave Malouf (independent), Collin Whitehead of DropBox, and Kate Battles of FitBit in our DesignOps Handbook, Richard Banfield of InVision in Enterprise Design Sprints, and Jina Anne (founder of the Clarity conference), Katie Sylor-Miller of Etsy, Diana Mounter of GitHub, Marco Suarez (independent), and Roy Stanfield of Airbnb in our Design Systems Handbook.

Watch the trailer video for all seven of our books:

In the spirit of the quickly approaching back-to-school season, we want to share some key ear-worthy lessons from our library, so you can learn and share new skills with your team.

These are some of our favorite lessons from our library on accessibility, the business value of animation, planning for design sprints, learning the language of design leadership, and more.

Lesson #1: Make your design system accessible

“The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.”

-W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

Accessibility on the web has faced an uphill battle for many years. Seen as too complex and costly, it was often an afterthought, if implemented at all. But the practice of making your site and products more accessible for the estimated 15% of people worldwide with a wide spectrum of permanent or temporary visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments have been gaining traction.

Accessible design makes for a better experience for everyone, has the added benefit of helping to improve SEO, and conforms to the legal standards that are increasingly common in countries worldwide.

Learn more about how to make sure your design system adheres to accessibility standards in the excerpt from Chapter Three, embedded below. Then find more fundamentals about building, deploying, and maintaining a design system, in the full version of our Design Systems Handbook.

Lesson #2: Capitalize on the business value of animation

“The more polish and personality we infuse, the more we see people responding to those qualitative metrics.” -Vicki Tan, Headspace

“Appeal” is one of the seven basic principles of animation that Apple Design Award winning designer and author Ryan McLeod discusses in the Animation Handbook. Not only can appeal serve as “the animated equivalent of branding” as Ryan says, but the character and appeal of a product can help bring users back for more, creating engagement that can be measured qualitatively (and financially).

The meditation app Headspace, for example, uses quirky, friendly animations to make the abstract concepts of mindfulness accessible, using metaphor and endearing characters to take the edge off of an activity that can feel daunting.

Learn about all seven principles of animation in the excerpt from Chapter Two below. Then go on to learn how motion provides context to users, the power of cross-functional collaboration and the opportunity to build motion into your design system, and more, in the full version of the Animation Handbook.

Lesson #3: Plan your sprint for success

“We meet with all the stakeholders to determine, is this the right business challenge to be taking on right now?”

-Kai Haley, Lead of Sprint Master Academy at Google

Design sprints are a great tool for solving challenges with ambiguous constraints, and for helping high-priority projects at large organizations build momentum. But if poorly planned, a design sprint can fail before it even leaves the starting blocks.

Richard Banfield, author of Enterprise Design Sprints says, “Getting prepared involves inviting the right people, finding a good place to work uninterrupted, having the right supplies and, most importantly, setting up customer interviews. These are all related but independent tasks, so it might be necessary to delegate to your team.” By their very nature, design sprints won’t work if only designers are taking part, so it’s important that key stakeholders are involved from the very beginning.

Learn all the right steps to take in planning your design sprint in Chapter Four below. Then, learn when to sprint, how to get senior buy-in and support, and more in the full version of Enterprise Design Sprints.

Lesson #3: Why DesignOps matters

“DesignOps is everything that supports high quality crafts, methods, and processes.”

-Dave Malouf, IXDA DesignOps Summit

DesignOps is a relative newcomer to the world of digital product design, at least in name. In agencies, the role of “producer” has been established for at least a few decades, which in turn evolved from the producer role in filmmaking. As Collin Whitehead (Head of Brand Studio and UX Writing at Dropbox, and one of the authors of our DesignOps Handbook) says, producers “maintain the creative integrity of a director’s vision while working to coordinate large teams against tight timelines and budgets.”

Now, in digital product design, DesignOps teams, which often include producers, are responsible for the tools, infrastructure, workflow, people, and governance within an organization. As design becomes increasingly crucial to the success of a business, DesignOps teams are becoming a critical part of scaling design teams successfully.

Learn more about the definition of DesignOps in the excerpt from Chapter One below. Then learn how to structure a DesignOps team, put it into play, and coordinate between teams in the full version of the DesignOps Handbook.

Lesson #4: Learn the language of leadership

“A lot of the anxiety about moving into leadership is that the typical introverted, thoughtful traits associated with designers are not a natural fit at the executive level. Therefore, designers wanting to increase their scale and influence have to be fully aware of the emotional challenges that are likely to result.” – Bob Baxley, former design leader at Apple, Pinterest, Yahoo

Most designers don’t start out wanting to be leaders. As Bob Baxley observed, we’re typically an introverted bunch, more comfortable with making things than making presentations or managing people. But “leadership is a quality rather than a job.” as Julie Zhou, design leader at Facebook and author of The Making of a Manager says. She also observes that you don’t have to be a manager to be a leader, but if you want people to follow you, you need to develop leadership skills.

In the Design Leadership Handbook, we begin with a discussion of what it takes to become a design leader, including being distanced from the hands-on design craft of design, and the potential emotional and communication challenges. You’ll probably need to learn to adapt to new cultures and speak new languages as you interface with leadership outside of the design team. For example, you might say, “This one feels like the right direction” to your design team. But to an executive, “This meets our business goals” will make more sense. Our goal with the book is to help you address these challenges and more, and give you confidence as you level up your skills as a design leader.

Hear about what it takes to become a design leader in the excerpt from Chapter One below. Then learn how to build and manage a team, operationalize design, forge alliances, and more in the full version of the Design Leadership Handbook.

Lesson #5: Democratize the superpowers of design

“Empathy is at the heart of design. Without the understanding of what others see, feel, and experience, design is a pointless task.” – Tim Brown, former CEO of IDEO

If you tell someone you’re a designer and they’re not familiar with product design, they may think you “make things pretty.” Aesthetics is certainly a component of design, but the secret superpowers of designers are in the way they approach problems: with empathy for their users or customers, with a divergent-thinking toolkit to come up with lots of potential solutions, and with a bias towards action in prototyping and testing these solutions. 

And these fundamentals of the design thinking toolkit aren’t an arcane practice that require years of study. Rather, they can be learned and used by everyone on a team, and like design sprints, they’re very effective at helping teams get momentum and alignment when facing “wicked problems.”

Hear more about why we need design thinking in the excerpt from Chapter One below. Then learn how to use design thinking to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test your way through challenging and ambiguous problems in the full version of the Design Thinking Handbook

Lesson #6: Guess less, talk to your customers more

“You win a race at the finish line, not the starting block.” – Laura Martini, Senior Interaction Designer at Google

Move fast and break things. Up until recently, that was the mantra not only of Facebook, but of many startups and larger companies in Silicon Valley (and often still is). Optimistic that they already understand how to design a winning product and eager to get to market, many companies dive straight into production without spending time learning about customers and their needs. They base their designs on guesses that make the odds of success long. And as Laura Martini, Senior Interaction Designer at Google, observes in the quote above, if you’re not heading towards the right finish line, the chances of you winning are slim to none. 

Only by talking to customers and understanding their needs can companies succeed fast, by guessing less. They find ways to inform their work each step of the way, tapping into existing data, setting up systems to continuously gather feedback, and talking to their customers throughout the product development process.

Listen to more about how companies benefit from guessing less, and listening to customers more, in the excerpt from Chapter One below. Then learn how companies incorporate fast research, use storytelling, think divergently, create a culture of feedback, and more in the full version of Principles of Product Design.

If you need an idea for a Christmas present then think about the Rubik’s Cube which is the best selling puzzle toy in the World.

Listen and level up

Whether you’re a design leader trying to scale your team, or you’re starting to roll out a new design system, or you’re hoping to run a design sprint…in fact, for just about any big design challenge you face, we have a book for you. Level up your design practice and leadership skills, and come away with more confidence and excitement about facing complex problems with a new set of tools. Use your new knowledge to take the next step in your career, do more impactful work, or even explore a new job opportunity in design.

You can get all of these audiobooks for free and take them wherever your travels may bring you as summer winds down. The books are available at DesignBetter.com, Apple Books, SoundCloud, and more fine audiobook platforms. Spread the word, share with friends, and happy reading listening.