Share Your Design Book Disappointments

Most of the book reviews on the DRB so far have been very positive. The simple reason is that it’s more pleasant to seek out and review books that I think I’m going to like than to wade through a pile of stinkers.

But, once in a while, you hear about a book and buy it ‘blind’ – or even buy it on impulse in a bookshop – and it turns out to be a real disappointment. Scanning my bookshelf, the one that stuck out for me is Experience Design by Nathan Shedroff.


I feel pretty bad about this because some of the text of the book itself is great and Shedroff was an early evangeliser of experience design.

Many will consider my two stars for this sacrilege, but overall the book suffers from shallowness in its descriptions and, most of all, is an eye-bleeding reading experience from one page to the next. I’m happy to see experimental design and typography, but for a book on experience design this just backfired.


As far as I can tell from the credits, Shedroff himself is responsible for the design of the book (you can see more spreads here). His website is equally eye-watering, but full of good resources if you can find them. Personally, I’d love a background-image stripped version of the book, because I hardly ever refer to it anymore, which is a shame.

What book disappointments have you had?

So, now it’s over to you. What book disappointments or buyer’s remorse have you had? Let us know in the comments so that we can all either avoid them too or rabidly disagree.

[xrr rating=2/5]

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Andy Polaine

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  • I was disappointed with Sketching User Experiences (Bill Buxton, 2007).

    The main message of the book (Getting the Design Right and the Right Design) is SO important for designers, and I’m a total convert but I just felt that the strength of the message was a bit abstract in this book.

    As for the format, I’m all for beautiful typography and layouts, but to me this just felt like a bit of a mess and personally I’ve found this book difficult to read, and whenever I return to this book I feel a bit lost.

    Bill is an amazing designer, and a great public speaker, who I truly respect, and maybe it was with these high expectations that the book disappointed me.

  • Mathew, thanks for that. Interesting to know because it’s a book I’m planning to get my hands on at some point. I like what Bill has to say usually and many on the IxDA listed it as a must have for interaction designers. I haven’t seen the inside of it though – what is the layout like?

    Anyone else who has it and feels the same?

  • On the contrary, I enjoyed “Sketching User Interfaces” a lot. However, I do agree that it can be a bit of a hard read (I’ve only read the first part so far), it does drive the message of user experience design pretty hard. After all it’s important. I wouldn’t pass up this book as it gives interesting and pratical expamples of why spending time on usability research and product development is vital.

    Daniele Rossi’s last blog post..WordPress theme building from scratch: phase 4 continued

  • Daniel – Sorry, I just discovered your comment in Akismet’s spam bin. Rescued it now. Funnily enough another friend of mine was saying how much she was disappointed by Area 2.

  • If you approach Buxton’s book as if you were having a conversation with the man, you’ll do better in appreciating that book. Too many designers want to approach each and every book as if it were a syllabus or textbook.

    I’m afraid to trash my own design book disappointments for fear of meeting the authors later. I know: coward.

  • LeMel – I think almost every book has at least one decent idea in it, so you don’t have to trash it completely.

    On the other hand, all sorts of things can let a book down. The hype on the cover not matching the content, the design of the book itself obscuring the content (as in the case of Experience Design – like I said, the words are not too bad at all, it’s just hard to read them).

    Lastly, I admire anyone who has gone through the endurance test of writing, editing, revising and publishing a book, even if it turns out to be pretty rubbish. But putting your ‘stuff’ out there in the world means facing the slings and arrows as well as the compliments. Besides, any authors can come here an defend themselves if they like – that would be superb.