We asked our team to share their favourite, most inspiring, and most helpful reads from the year so that you can add them to your 2018 reading list.

The following books inspired and motivated us throughout the year, and we hope they will do the same for you.

We expanded our list of design books for 2018 to include a variety of topics because we continue to view design as more than just a tool. Design plays a crucial role in the work we do at Overlap, and that includes everything from growing as a business, to interacting with customers, to keeping up with cultural shifts, to organizing our work.


Design Books For 2018


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1. The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions

By Michael Mainelli

Our CEO Brock Hart is always recommending this book wherever he goes.

The Price of Fish looks at what author Michael Mainelli calls real commerce; the way organizations and people communicate with each other. Mainelli suggests that when we discuss commerce and economics, we too often focus on the buying and selling aspect, which is just a small part of it. Our true focus should be on the relationships we build with our customers.

It’s a great read if you want to understand how systems work, and what it takes to make real change happen.


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2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown

This book is for anyone that finds themselves feeling busy throughout the day while still feeling like they’re not getting enough done.

Essentialism offers a systematic and disciplined way to put your focus on only what is most essential and get rid of what isn’t. What is the design of your workday? Where are you losing time? This book offers an entirely new way of planning out your day, with a focus on what’s most important.

It’s a guide for designing your life to get the most out of each day.


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3. This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence

By Terry O’Reilly

This book follows Overlap’s passion for human-centred design.

By putting your focus back on the customers and the relationships you have with them, you can better understand their needs. CBC radio host Terry O’Reilly organizes a lifetime of marketing know-how into one book designed to help businesses stand out in a sea of fellow marketers. It emphasizes the importance of putting people and customer service at the center of everything you do.


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4. The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth

By Chris Zook and James Allen

“Why is profitable growth so hard to achieve and sustain?”

This book shows the ways that human-centred design can help businesses continue to grow and not get stagnant even after success.

While many companies put their focus on fixing external problems, studies show it is actually internal problems that have more of an effect on a company’s stunted growth.

Condensing ten years of research, authors Zook and Allen have found the three core principles that make an exceptional founder and leader. They share how each of us can apply these principles to companies, big or small.


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5. We Should All Be Feminists

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We recommend this book for the emphasis it puts on women in the workplace in the 21st century. With this essay based on her TEDx talk, Adichie offers a new definition of feminism—an inclusive one that illustrates how the gender divide in our country negatively affects both women and men.

Not only does she focus on the more overtly gender-based discrimination women face every day, she also targets the institutionalized forms of sexism that can often go unnoticed.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Also by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Also written by Adichie, this work takes the form of a letter to a friend. A few years before publication, a friend of Adichie’s wrote the author a letter asking her advice on how to raise her daughter to be a feminist.

Adichie tackles the question head-on in fifteen suggestions which encourage young Ijeawele to play with whatever toys she desires regardless of gender stigma, and to challenge the pseudo-biological myth that a woman belongs in the kitchen more than a man.

It’s a witty and insightful look at how the role of women is slowly changing in the 21st century and what needs to be done to continue this crucial cultural shift.


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6. Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order from Atoms to Economics

By César Hidalgo

Instead of just looking at social sciences to answer the question of why certain economies prosper while others do not, Hidalgo, a professor at MIT, also incorporates natural science and physics into his research.

He argues that we need to understand the growth of physical order before we can understand the growth of economics. He speaks about how information grows, and how we embed knowledge and know how into the objects that we use.

It’s an excellent example of interdisciplinary research that shares unique insights into the design of various economies around the world.


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7. Station Eleven

By Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a fictional account of an acting troupe in a post-apocalyptic southwestern Ontario made up of survivors of a global epidemic. The world-building is incredible and is tied together with a rich personal narrative. It has stuck with us through all the foresight work we’ve done and sets the bar very high in terms of thoughtful and creative imagining (and strategizing for) potential futures.

Learn more about our Foresight Work and how we can best plan for the future.

The Globe and Mail praised Station Eleven for its science fiction and suspense.


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8. The Found and the Lost:

The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin 

The Found and the Lost is a diverse and thought-provoking collection of novellas from one of Science Fiction’s most notable women writers. The collection made the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2018 Award Shortlist, and was praised by Library Journal and Publisher Weekly.

The stories explore divergent new worlds with characters who discover they can extend themselves into acts of compassion. Our designers are always on the hunt for creative, well-told stories that push our imaginations to new limits.


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9. The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World

By Peter Schwartz

The Overlap design team has been referencing this book a lot over the past year as we develop more of our own foresight practice.

We spend a lot of time worrying about the things we can measure and the things we can know, like last quarter’s revenue or next year’s forecast. But it’s often the unexpected and intangible things that matter most to our future. How can we plan for a future that is unknown?

We can’t predict what will happen, but by imagining different possibilities, we can be better prepared. In this book, Peter Schwartz outlines the ‘scenaric’ approach, giving you the tools for developing a strategic vision within your business.”


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10. Amusing Ourselves to Death

By Neil Postman

Neil Postman asks: “What happens to journalism, education, and religion when they too become forms of show business?”

First published in 1985, this book looks at how electronic media changes the fundamental foundations of our culture. It’s an illuminating read in the age of President Trump and his Twitter account.

Written at a time when cell phones were roughly the size of a shoe box, this prophetic work has never been more relevant to our society, and for that reason, it’s seen a recent resurgence.


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11. The Agility Shift: Creating Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams, and Organizations

By Pamela Meyer

Agility Shift claims “planning” can be the worst thing a company can do because any number of things can go wrong or change for an organization. Consider all of the aspects that are out of your control: exchange rates, competitors, political environments, natural disasters.

With this book, you’ll gain actionable strategies for putting Agile methods into practice immediately and learn how to achieve continuous results in complex, ever-changing environments.

Continue learning with our list of resources to help non-tech industries learn agile methodology.


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12. The End Of Average: How We Succeed In A World That Values Sameness

By Todd Rose

This is a great read that emphasizes both human-centred and inclusive design.

It’s a very accessible non-fiction book about the myth of using statistical averages to understand and design for humans (because we’re extremely diverse in countless ways).

It also provides an alternative vision for how we might evaluate if we didn’t use averages, including measurement in schools and performance management in work.


Looking for more design books?

📚 Read 2017’s list of recommended design books.

📚 Read our list of resources for learning agile methodology.

💡 75 Design Thinking Tools and Resources Explained