Ok this is probably a common sight in the homes of most UX Designers. Well, not the Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis or the Bill Murray… I’m talking about the books.
Stacks of great books.
Personally, I love books, and can’t seem to help myself when someone recommends something, especially if it’s something that I could integrate into my process. The amazing thing about books is that someone has taken maybe 20 years of experience and knowledge of a particular area, and condensed it into something you or I can read in just a few days.
The problem is that they pile up around my sitting room or home office*, and while I love reading them, I retain very little of the information. We all want to become better designers, and often the best way to learn outside of projects is to read books about all aspects of design. Fans of Game Of Thrones might recognise this quote from Tyrion Lannister.
Successful people have libraries. The rest have big screen TVs – Jim Rohn
Well put, Jim.
I just also would like to add that 42% of college graduates never read another nonfiction book after college. [ref]
You read a novel, you want to finish it because you want to know what happens to Frodo at the end. You read a book about design, there’s no plot, so it’s not about getting to the end.
You’re reading it with the specific intention of learning something new, or applying a new strategy. Below, I’ve outlined a few ways you can get the most out of your time spent reading.
The Differences Between Passive and Active Reading
There are 2 different types of reading : passive and active. Passive is more leisurely, taking your time and enjoying the narrative aspects of the material. Active reading is when you’re questioning the text’s assumptions
You Know What To Expect
Ideally, you’ll have a reason for purchasing a particular book, so you have a purpose for reading it. You most likely have prior knowledge of the topic, and are able to ask yourself “what do I want to learn?”.
When You’re Reading, Take Notes.
Just like in school or college, going through a chapter of a textbook, you would’ve taken notes. Get a good notebook, one that won’t fall apart any time soon, and use it to write down the main points from each chapter, or any interesting insights you find, in your own words. Not only will you have a reference to go back to at any time, but the physical act of writing something down had been proven to make it easier to recall later.
Ask yourself “How Could I Apply This?”
So if you’re trying to come up with ways to solve a particular design problem at work, use the book as a way to discover a new strategy or technique you haven’t tried yet. Try to discover the relationship between what you’re reading, and a situation in your own area. Keep asking yourself “how can I apply this?” to stay engaged with the material.
Summarise Major Concepts
I recently heard of a blogger who started writing reviews for books simply to help him remember what the main concepts were. Rewriting the main ideas of a into your own words is a great way to condense all of the information into a paragraph you can read through in a few minutes. Don’t let the frustration of not being able to remember key points of a book dampen your enthusiasm to learn more and become a better designer.
Ok, that’s it. Start a notebook and keep writing down the important pieces of information. Every now and again, read through your notes. You’d be amazed how much you can remember.
*ok, just realising now that most of ya little whippersnappers out there have Kindles and don’t buy the rainforest killer version.