David Kelley

Academic; Writer; Executive / Product Design / United States / IDEO; d.school, Stanford University

David Kelley’s Book List

When I look over this list as a whole, I realize these were the books that trained my mind for design thinking. Through them, I found my design heroes, and they inspired me to retool my brain to be a more perceptive organ. Each one, in its own way, taught me how to approach the world with more empathy and an intrepid spirit of play. My life and work would have taken a very different path had I not read them.

5 books
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince had a big impact in my life when I was young and impressionable. It offered my earliest lessons in prototyping, iterating, and stretching your imagination:

He said, “Draw me a sheep.” So then I made a drawing.

He looked at it carefully, then he said: “No. This sheep is already very sickly.

Make me another.” So I made another drawing.

My friend smiled gently and indulgently. “You see yourself,” he said, “that this is not a sheep. This is a ram. It has horns.”

So then I did my drawing over once more. But it was rejected too, just like the others. “This one is too old. I want a sheep that will live a long time.”

By this time my patience was exhausted[...] So I tossed off this drawing. And I threw out an explanation with it. “This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.”

I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge: “This is exactly the way I wanted it!”

— Excerpt from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Don Koberg
Jim Bagnall

Published in way back in 1971, this book was the blueprint for design thinking years before IDEO practiced it, and is still the best design methodology book I know of. 

Nathan H. Shapira
Renzo Zorzi

This book opened my mind to great European design. Olivetti, who designed my favorite typewriter, the Olivetti Valentine, by Ettore Sottsass, was a bigger deal in the early 20th century than Apple is today.

James L. Adams

Unlike any other book, this gave me the permission to think differently and to be different. It breaks down the mechanics of creative thought and offers games and exercises that help you tackle challenges.

Robert H. McKim

This book is the beating heart of the Stanford design project methodology. We use it liberally to help students improve their power of perception.

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