Visual Thinking reading list

I’ve had a lot of people ask me for book recommendations so I am putting together this list of suggested reading on various topics. I will add to this as I have time.

Design and Visual Thinking reading

The Doodle Revolution, by my Gamestorming co-author Sunni Brown, is an engaging, inspiring and breezy read about the power of doodling to enable productive thinking.

The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman, is one of the first books that got me excited about designing with users in mind. Many practical examples of how design is broken in our world and what can be done about it.

Experiences in Visual Thinking by Robert McKim. McKim taught engineering At Stanford starting in the 1960s and wanted to help his students communicate and brainstorm in language beyond text and mathematics.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte is the first book that caused me to fall in love with Information Design. Edward Tufte’s books are beautifully designed, elegant labors of love. This is his first book, which deals with principles for clearly visualizing numerical information (like charts).

Envisioning Information is Tufte’s second book, equally beautiful and focused on some of the best information design ever created.

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative is my favorite of Tufte’s books and completes his trilogy. It focuses on visual explanations and visual storytelling.

Thinking Visually: Business Applications of Fourteen Core Diagrams by Malcolm Craig. My dog-eared copy has many notes. This is a great book for learning how to use diagramming to improve business productivity.

Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century by my friend and colleague Bob Horn, is a manifesto for visual communication as the predominant form of communication for the 21st century. It’s written entirely with clip art so it also serves as a demonstration and primer on communicating visually.

The Icon Book: Visual Symbols for Computer Systems and Documentation by William Horton is a highly distilled treatise on clarity and simplicity in visual communication, with the computer icon as its subject.

Rapid Viz, by my friend and mentor Kurt Hanks, is a great book that delivers on the promise of its title. It’s packed with easy-to-learn techniques for visualizing ideas.

The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam is the perfect book to get you up and running with Visual Thinking.

Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work, also by Dan Roam, goes deeper into what to do when words don’t work, and shows you how to develop your visual grammar skills.

Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations is Dan Roam’s excellent book on how to develop compelling presentations.

Thinking with a Pencil, by Henning Nelms, is a classic book on how to think visually. It’s out of print now so availability may be limited.

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon is a wonderful manifesto for getting in touch with your inner artist.

Show Your Work, also by Austin Kleon, is a great, compact read about promoting yourself online.

The Sketchnote Handbook, by Mike Rohde, is a great primer that will help you take more visual notes and think more visually.

The Sketchnote Workbook, also by Mike Rohde, takes The Sketchnote Handbook to the next level with many visual activities and exercises for stretching your visual brain.

Unflattening, by Nick Sousanis, is a delightful and though-provoking graphic novel that uses visual thinking to explain liminal thinking. A real treasure!

Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics, by Scott McCloud, are classics on visual thinking and visual language.

If you have suggestions for additional books please let me know.

DISCLAIMER: These are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click through from this page it’s kind of like buying me a cup of coffee, a small reward for my efforts which is much appreciated 🙂 You won’t pay any more for the book than you would otherwise.