Recommended Reading


In the last week of October 2019, there were some discussion on Design Twitter about ethics and whether or not people should work for “x evil company” of the day.

I have many complicated thoughts on that, but I won’t share them here. Instead, I think we should talk a bit more about ethics. I’ve realized most designers talking about ethics are doing so from a place of agitated feelings or research that doesn’t understand the roots of white supremacy or many of the other societal ills we have to inherently deal with by virtue of legacy and short-term memories.

Just a heads up...

These are not “design” books. Too many of us get stuck in this rabbit hole where we believe that design is “everything.” But design isn’t everything, it simply touches everything. Life is complex and confusing. There’s very little in this world that can be “everything” or touch everything around it, without consequence.

What do they cover?

The following books emphasize, analyze, and critique history, law, race, culture, feminism, civil rights, psychology, white supremacy, sociology + more because I firmly believe we need a baseline understanding to effectively engage in dialogue around design ethics. Many of us are lacking the baseline because many design schools (at least in the US) teach us that design is separate from everything else.

These books will provide a clear understanding of how we  got here and where we’re going.

Why am I doing this?

All designers should have the ability to engage difficult conversations with nuance and questions. I hope that by sharing these books, you’ll apply what you learn to critically think about what is happening around you and your impact, while also understanding how to cultivate empathy.

You can have space for that and more, despite what society tells you. (“You’re designer, just focus on design.” 🙄)

Understanding and changing our impact does not come from diving straight into “burn everything down, ANARCHY!!!” I, too, would like to burn everything down. But not only does that hurt people at the top, it also hurts people at the bottom.

So how do we start putting into action the feelings we have towards the positive change we want to see? We start by looking at the people who have done the work before us. By collaborating with and listening to the communities we want to we intend to “help”.

I’ll keep adding to the list as I think of more books to add, too.

And, if you’re grateful for this list, you’re more than welcome to send me a cup of tea via Ko-fi.

The list

This list is, by no means, exhaustive or definitive. Take what you need/can, leave the rest. All books on this list link directly to the publisher or indie book sellers, rather than Amazon where available.

Books that can only be found on Amazon are affiliate links, denoted by the following: 🥴. Academic papers are denoted by the following: 📄.

Finally, make sure you’re using the Library Extension, which can check your local library for books. Support libraries! ✊🏾