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57 Books Every Designer Should Have in Their Library

Building on our last post on recommended books for designers, we look at 57 books that will help you become a more successful designer

Self Help & Personal Growth

The Design Thinking Life Playbook: Empower Yourself, Embrace Change, and Visualize a Joyful Life 

Are you looking to create a life filled with joy and satisfaction? This book is for those who want to transform through self-empowerment, looking for a new path, or just need some inspiration. By giving you all of the tools and tips on how to act and think, you will find yourself filled with newfound courage to take on life headfirst. 

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Thinking in Systems: A Primer

In order to solve the big problems that we face globally, we have to develop a different way of thinking: interconnection is at the heart of function. We cannot intend to fix any issues like global warming, poverty, or hunger if we think of fixing one isolated piece. This book teaches us the basics of how to develop systems-thinking skills, in other words, seeing and problem-solving by understanding the interactions between all the “blocks” of a system.

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Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Simon Sinek has opened the eyes of everyone to the powerful idea of the Golden Circle, and provides us with a brilliant framework on how to build, lead, and inspire. In order to understand what it is that makes someone great as a leader, Sinek analyzed the similarity between the leaders of the world with the greatest influence, only to find they all had one thing in common the way they think- and it all starts with WHY.

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The Power of Discipline: How to Use Self Control and Mental Toughness to Achieve Your Goals

We have seen millions of people try to communicate their “proven” method to achieve goals, but what is the singular most important thing you can do in order to attain them? Develop discipline. In order to turn your dreams into reality you need to learn the skill of having discipline, yes you read that right, we are not born with discipline, we must exercise our self-discipline and this book is the roadmap to how.  

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Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

Drawing on countless stories from the Stanford d.school &  IDEO, David and Tom Kelley have created a fun to read narrative that will help you identify the principles and strategies to tap into your creative potential. Most people assume that innovation and creativity is the domain of a “creative type,” this book sheds the veil to show you that everyone is creative & that it´s innately human. Use this book to help unleash your creative potential at work and  in your personal life.

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How to Build a Billion Dollar App: Discover the secrets of the most successful entrepreneurs 

Have you ever wondered what it really takes to build a billion-dollar app? This book draws lessons & stories exclusively from billion-dollar app club members, such as Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Candy Crush, and Uber. You get an insight into the creation of these super apps from the get-go, and follow their development to maturity & how they plan to stay ahead of their competition. 


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The Power of Moments (Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact)

In this book you will uncover the mystery behind experiences, why some mean so much, and how others seem to fleet by, and why our most cherished memories are clustered in our youth. What makes for a life-changing experience? What are the experiences that form everlasting friendships? Discover this and much more, like what are those moments that turned billionaires into who they are now.

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Business

The Design Thinking Playbook: Mindful Digital Transformation of Teams, Products, Services, Businesses and Ecosystems 

A mind-shifting playbook to do great things – as it relates to your organization and the people that compose it. This book is for the leader who wants to take their people to the next level, and take a huge step forward with your business. By giving you practical frameworks, examples of radical innovation and real-world solutions this book is your guide to achieving new big things. 

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The Design of Business – Roger L. Martin

A staple of Design Thinking. This book shows us how as humans and organisations we rely too much on analytical thinking, providing only slight improvements to what is currently being offered. In order to create something outside the box, you need to implement design thinking – rooted in how knowledge advances from one stage to another and minimising the communication and delivery issues from stage to stage.


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Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation 

For the creative leader who is looking to infuse their methodologies with a little bit of design thinking. Every aspect of your organisation, product, and service will greatly benefit from implementing design thinking to problem solve. This book gives you some brilliant examples of how Design Thinking is not merely for the creative industries and gives you real-world examples of companies that overachieve due to this simple implementation.

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Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug

What makes one website better than another? What makes a website great? This book shows us that the secret to creating great websites is deeply rooted in human psychology. It offers valuable guidelines and principles on how to create well-designed websites that are pleasurable to use. These insights are relevant to anyone who wants to understand how people behave and how you can create products with better usability.  

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The Culture Code – Dr. Clotaire Rapaille

A brilliant explanation of how the cultures we grow up in shape our perceptions of the world. Why wouldn’t you market cheese the same way you do in America as you do in France? Why are some things repulsive in some cultures while adored in others? The psychology behind why we buy what we buy, and how where we are from defines that, all told expertly. To avoid stepping on your toes and being a global designer this is a must-read.

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Hacking Growth – Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis

How to increase your customer base through data-driven results. A must-read for everyone who plans on selling online is tired of wasting money in an effort to increase customer base or market share and wants to create real consistent, replicable results.  This book is a toolkit that your team, or company to use to create and execute their own custom growth hacking strategy.

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Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

What is the difference between downstream and upstream efforts? This is the same as band-aiding a problem that has already occurred instead of trying to prevent it from happening in the first place. Switching to an upstream mindset will help you start to surface strands of causation that were always there – but buried. Taking from a myriad of examples Dan Heath illustrates and underlines the poGint that upstream thinking is the only way to avoid our problems, big or small.

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Made to Stick – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

In an extremely fun to read narrative, Chip and Dan Heath explore the reason for what makes an idea stick. By focusing through the lens of human scale, Velcro Theory, and creating curiosity gaps, they give us brilliant real-world examples that will surely transform the way you communicate. Creating a sticky message/idea comes from the same six traits, curious to find out what they are? Purchase the book below.

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Strategy & Management 

Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value

A brilliant book that lays the foundations of great product management. In order to stay competitive in today´s market an organization must be customer-centered, and by aligning their practices and success with their customers they can both solve their customers problems and achieve business goals & metrics. You will take away key principles that can be applied to an organization of any size.

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Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

A guidebook from the best leaders in the technology sector, filled with years worth of experiences as anecdotes, and insights into creating products that customers love. It all starts with the team you build, and you will see this throughout the book in a multitude of examples, covering topics from 

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Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction while Embracing Uncertainty

A practical guide to creating an effective roadmap. What makes the roadmap such an important and influential document? It is essentially the strategy that the organization can continuously develop, update and publish. This book will teach you how to create, demonstrate and use your roadmap to align the vision of stakeholders and create priorities for innovation. You will learn how to best communicate your products and create a successful organization that truly satisfies its customers.

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101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization

A scientific approach to creating new products, services, and experiences. This book will provide you with a very practical set of tools to plan and define the success of your organization. For the leader looking to bring innovation, overcome challenges, for designers and strategists alike, and even for planning as a manager. This book has you covered. 

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Well Designed – Jon Kolko

A clear-cut map of how to ideate, and conceive a successful business, that rolls out lovable products over and over.  This book really touches on the importance of empathy, deeply understanding the consumer, what drives them: their feelings and motivations. Kolto demonstrated how leading design companies use storytelling and iteration that touches on positive emotions, creates emotional engagement, and changes behaviors.

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Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience

As a designer, you might be able to show your ideas beautifully, but do you know how to  justify your designs, in an effective manner? This book is a practical guide to the methods, tactics, and principles you can employ to better communicate with stakeholders, developers, marketers, essentially anyone on your team and around you in order to win them over & create great user experience.

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Copy & Content 

Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience

Why is writing so important in the app world? Well, for starters, without it an app would be just amix of icons on a screen, not to mention without words chatbots and voice interfaces cannot even ome to exist. So what are the words that create great human-centered software? Find out in this book the best ways to use language to give your users clear direction and communication. When you’re done I promise you will understand why they say “writing is designing”.

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Microcopy: Discover How Tiny Bits of Text Make Tasty Apps and Websites

Microcopy, just as the word itself suggests, we are talking about those small pieces of text that are everywhere throughout an app of a website. Think headings, hint texts, placeholders, instructions, calls to action, really anything that an app is telling you to do, it is carefully crafted through microcopy. Sometimes we overlook these small details, but not placing enough focus and attention to their craft can result in detrimental effects to your app or website. Learn how to create well-crafted, concise text to boost your usability. 

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Strategic Writing for UX: Drive Engagement, Conversion, and Retention with Every Word

How do you choose the right words? Those that will give users clear instructions, and help them navigate your product most efficiently? This book will teach you how to strategically write for UX, using principles and foundations of user interface text; teach you patterns of content, as well as methods to measure the efficiency of your writing. You will be guided through structuring your own voice so that your brand is easily recognizable to the audience – a must-read for those who are looking for the best ways to engage, support, and attract more users. 

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Content Design 

How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody 

A mess is defined as a series of interactions between people and information that is confusing, or causes difficulties. We run into messes made up of information and people every single day of our lives, so can we make a use of them? This book will provide you with a seven step process to organize and make sense of any mess, going chapter by chapter highlighting different lessons, workbook exercises and tools to help you work through your own messes.

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Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond

For designers, product managers, developers, and really anyone involved in design, this book provides you with concepts, methods and techniques to implement in your digital design. Anything your organization wants to share with its users should be easy to navigate and coherent across all of the platforms that it’s presented on – this is good information architecture practice, which will ultimately help users engage with the message you are sending.  

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Interaction of Color

This book is a true masterpiece and masterwork in art education. This book, or handbook more like, was intended to be a teaching aid for artists, students, and instructors, it is a classic and must-read for any designer. Originally published in 1963, this explanation of complex color theory is still very much relevant, even pioneering today, and provides a study of color that remains unparalleled to this day. 

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The Secret Lives of Color

A historical book told from the lens of colors. Each color has its own story of how it came to be and what it represented.  Through politics, fashion, art, and war each color has its own story and you will find yourself immersed in this complex study of the origin of colors as it relates to human civilization; the beautiful interpretation of the stories  told through the story of color. 

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Methods & Processes

This is Service Design Thinking – Mark Stickdorn

Service Design is…the differences that make you choose to be loyal to one coffee chain over the other, when they are next to each other, why you only like to go to one bakery even though there are ten more close by. It is the design of interactions between service providers and the customers, the layout, the smell, the colors, the seating, the details, everything that you perceive while you are receiving the service is taken into account.  

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The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback

Most new products fail, and this is the sad reality. Now, what are the thing you can do to ensure that you don´t waste your time creating something that doesn’t stick? This playbook is a practical step-by-step guide, filled with advice for you to improve your chances of building successful products that your customers will love. For anyone who is passionate about creating great products, this book is an indispensable resource for your everyday life. 

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Sprint (How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days)

A five-day workshop method that will help you answer critical business questions and make fast decisions, developed by Google Ventures. This book is the essential guide to running your own sprint, understanding how it works, and when it is valuable. Organizations of any size, and millions of ideas can be tested and tried through his method- all in one work week. Who wouldn’t want to give this a try?

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Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want

If you find yourself frustrated by decisions made on hunches, ideas that may or may not be fruitful and know how hard it is to get a product on the market: this new approach to creating design based on value propositions may be just the right thing for you. This book will shed light on the patterns followed  by great value propositions, how to get closer to your users, and teach you how to design and test to perfectly match your customers needs.

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Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

Focus on the experience being designed, not the deliverables. This is the basic principle behind lean UX, inspired by lean and agile development theories, this approach is perfect for the web-driven reality we live in – and interaction design for. This book will provide you with lean UX tactics principles and techniques, and equip you to rapidly experiment with design ideas, validate them with your users and continually make adjustments. 

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Innovating for People Handbook of Human-Centered Design Methods

Change, innovation, progress, are the ideas that make us human, they have driven us to create the world we live in, and change begins and ends with people. Innovation is an economic snowball calling for more innovators, more constantly, consistently. This is a handbook that will equip anyone in their line of work to be more innovative, to focus on developing solutions for people. Learn how to understand and create for human needs, with results that exceed expectations.

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The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design

Your field guide to practice human centered design and engineer social innovation. Created by the brilliant minds at IDEO this book is for experienced and novice innovators alike, revealing key mindsets, methods, worksheets and case  studies that teach you about human centered design, and help you apply it in practice. 

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User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product

Context is everything, and designing for a specific context will ensure that you build the right product. User story mapping is the best tool you can use in order to understand, communicate, and empathize with the users you are designing for. From this book you will learn how to use story mapping to enable better conversations and shared understanding of what is being built. By focusing on the users and their needs, not features of a product, your team can better understand the goal of what is being built and the necessities that it must fulfill. 

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Research 

The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick 

The Mom Test boils down to: Don’t ask your mother whether your business is a good idea, because she will lie a bit since she loves you. Well this hold true for everyone: don’t ask others if your idea is a good idea, because you will not get the whole truth, and let´s be honest, what do they know? You are the one responsible for finding out whether your business is viable and this book shows you exactly how: talking to your customers. You will find a book scattered with customer conversation examples with what went wrong, and give you a guide on how you can do better. 

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The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley

Doing more with less. This book will give you a broad range of approaches that have a large impact while taking fewer resources than the average UX deliverable lineup. Giving you the tips on when is the best to use what, this survival guide will help anyone, a seasoned practitioner or a newbie looking to push their organization into a new dimension.

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Talking to Humans: Success starts with understanding your customers

The ultimate guide to running effective interviews, and put your learnings into action. Most businesses tend to focus less on listening and more with creating, but the answers you need can be found right in the mouths of your customers. This book will teach you how to pick the right candidates, conduct effective interviews, and explore the qualitative side of customer development. 

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Just Enough Research by Erika Hall

Design research is hard, and there are many books out there that will claim to teach you how to do it efficiently, but this one is key. Good research is about asking better questions, and critically analyzing the answers, it will teach you how to save time and money by uncovering key strategic information. If you want to learn how to spot your blind spots, create a competitive advantage, and harness the findings of your research this is a must-read. 

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Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions

A reference book of 100 research methods, techniques for analysis and synthesizing findings, research deliverables, and everything relating to human-centered design. A great book for designers, educators, and students to have on their shelves and be able to reference at any time. 

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Typography

Thinking with type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students 

The ultimate guide on how to use typography in visual communication. Providing clear guidance, focused studies on how letter words, paragraphs should be spaces aligned and ordered. Everything you might need to cover the topic of typography can be found between these binds – essential, typefaces, type families, using a grid, tracking, orders, and tons of visual examples demonstrating rules, and new creative forms of using type.

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100 Design Principles for Working with Type

A guide for designers seeking to advance their knowledge, throughout the book you will gain a deep understanding of letterforms, when to effectively use them, and grow to understand that mastering type t is a constant practice of observation and experimentation. This book is a phenomenal resource to organize and compartmentalize complex issues regarding typography, and inspire you to try your own hand at it.

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Type Rules: The Designer’s Guide to Professional Typography

An exercise book that teaches you all the cutting-edge applications, practices, and principles of typography. Packed with tons of exercises to reinforce topics like setting, picking type. It will teach you to avoid mistakes while also comprehensively guide you through the best ways to use InDesign or QuarkXPress. If you are looking for a way to solidify and practice your type this book is the way to go.

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Type Matters!

A book of tips for everyday use. Anyone can benefit from this read, from designers to just a student building their resume. Most of us work on computers, and we want to produce documents, or outputs of our work that are easy to read and nice to look at. The 3 chapters outline the basics in typography, display and headline type, and finally setting text. The book is filled with examples throughout to show what makes really great typography. 

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Psychology and Behavior

Design Is Storytelling

Are you looking to step up your narrative powers? Learn how to tell a story that builds empathy, articulates values and conveys action, taps into emotions, and creates a shared vision. This book will present you with the psychology of visual perception from the framework of a narrative. And provide you with new tools and illustrated concepts to help any designer amplify the storytelling power of their work. 

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The Design of Everyday Things

What is the secret to making good, usable design? By analyzing everyday objects this book shows you what the principles of creating good design are, and what rules to apply to achieve this. You have to learn to guide the user effortlessly towards the right action with your product, and this book will illustrate the concept brilliantly through captivating examples.  

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Hooked – Nir Eyal 

An intense study of what makes some products flop, while others skyrocket to success. Why do some of the products we use become a habit in our everyday, while others we use once and never think about again? In this extremely entertaining read you will find out just what successful companies do to subtly (or not so subtly) encourage consumer behaviour, and keep their users hooked.

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Bottlenecks: Aligning UX Design with User Psychology

A book dedicated to showing you the relationship between cognitive psychology and user experience. The book draws on examples from apps, video games, social media and much more to show you the relationship and crucial role of that behavior. Development, personality, and social psychology impact user experience. By addressing behavioural theory in digital design, you can overcome the bottlenecks caused by human nature and ultimately produce a better product for users and for your business. 

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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Dan Ariely is a groundbreaking observer whose narrative will keep you intrigued to the very end. In this book Ariely focuses on human rationality, and debunking the myth that humans behave in a rational way. By taking common examples from everyday life, as simple as ordering a coffee, as complex as picking a romantic partner, we consistently underestimate, overpay, procrastinate,and ultimately err in our choices. Yet these errors in behaviour are not random,or without pattern, in fact, as humans we are predictably irrational.

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Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

How did behavioral economics come to be? At first, economists thought it was an amusing sideshow, but today the study of how humans “misbehave” and the impact it has on markets is what drives better decisions for our lives, businesses and governments. We are human, we all succumb to biases and most of our decisions will deviate from what is assumed as “rational” because we are driven by our emotion, and this book will show you exactly what impact that has.

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Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness 

How can we improve the choices we make everyday? Drawing on dozens of impacting examples, and eye-opening anecdotes from research in behavioural science, this book will change the way you live your life. You will learn that no choice is ever presented in a neutral way, and what biases we are all susceptible to when we make bad decisions. If you can master understanding how people think, and use a well-structured choice framework you can “nudge” yourself and others toward better decisions.

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Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

An amusing and greatly meaningful read. It is filled with analogies, and brilliantly practical in explanation. This book will guide you through a more efficient method of thinking, and keep you entertained while doing so. Guaranteed to change the way you solve problems, have a more elegant train of thought, and ensure you get a better result in any problem you try to solve. 

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100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Our designs are made in order to get a response, without the interaction the design is useless, but in order to design the best interaction, you must know who it is for. This book breaks down the 100 human behaviours that are a must-know for designers. Understanding what makes people do what they do saves hours of work, crates a more intuitive and engaging design that people will inevitably love using. 

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Thinking, Fast and Slow

A groundbreaking tour of the human mind and the two systems that guide our thought and decisions. Our first system is intuitive, fast, and emotional. While the second is slower, more logical. Each one of the decisions we make can be understood from knowing how the two systems impact our judgement. A book that feels more like a conversation, that will offer you different techniques to avoid decisions that often get us in trouble.

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Here is our previous list of recommended books, in case you still have not found what you are looking for!

Laura Brazay

Laura Brazay

Digital branding specialist with experience in social media strategy, and a background in Business Administration, who sees life in the full spectrum of colours. I spend my free time taking long walks exploring the city with my pup.

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