Recommended Books from LA Design Leaders

Earlier this year, Designer Fund and Fika Ventures co-hosted a dinner with LA design leaders from companies like Snap, Headspace, Bird, and Airbnb to share perspectives across different company stages and explore ways to support the broader LA design community. We asked each leader to recommend a book that was recently useful to them and hope that this wisdom can help inspire growth in your career.

The 5 AM Club

Recommended by Marie Boney, Senior Art Director at FIGS


The 5 AM Club shows how embracing a revolutionary morning routine can deliver epic results. It explains how you can use the first hour of your day to drive personal growth and get the most out of life.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success

Recommended by Evie Alexander, Designer Manager at Airbnb Adventures


The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership teaches you how to become a conscious leader – a leader who inspires positive change, creates a great work atmosphere and builds close relationships in their personal life. Because leading is about a lot more than just giving orders.

Creativity, Inc.

Recommended by Jack Brody, Director of Product at Snap


Creativity, Inc. explores the peaks and troughs in the history of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios along with Ed Catmull’s personal journey towards becoming the successful manager he is today. In doing so, he explains the management beliefs he has acquired along the way, and offers actionable advice on how to turn your team members into creative superstars.


Recommended by Jay Yu, Senior Director of Product Design at CornerStoneOnDemand


Factfulness offers readers a wealth of statistics and cold, hard facts that reveal the world to be a far better place than it was just a couple generations ago. Hans Rosling also offers readers a way to revise their thinking and fight against our instinct to focus on the bad and lose sight of the good.

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Recommended by Michelle Villacorta, Senior Product Designer at Next Trucking


Indistractable addresses one of modern life’s most common problems – distraction, often blamed on technology. Nir Eyal, however, claims that while smartphones and apps might get in the way of more meaningful work, they are not the root cause of the issue. Eyal provides an actionable four-part framework that breaks down how distraction really works and what you can do to overcome it.

Information Architecture: for the Web and Beyond

Recommended by Ben Hickman, Director of Product Design at Pluto TV


Information Architecture provides essential concepts, methods, and techniques for digital design that have withstood the test of time. UX designers, product managers, developers, and anyone involved in digital design will learn how to create semantic structures that will help people engage with their message.

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work

Recommended by Jane Chung, Global Creative Director at Lime


It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is an antidote to dysfunctional work culture. Drawing on real-world examples from the authors’ successful software company, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson shine a light on how to say goodbye to habitual workplace stress and become calm, focused and efficient.

The Lean Startup

Recommended by Angela Dong, UX/UI Designer at Elementary Robotics


The Lean Startup helps start-ups and tech companies develop sustainable business models. It advocates continuous rapid prototyping and focusing on customer-feedback data. The method is based on the concepts of lean manufacturing and agile development, and its efficacy is backed up by case studies from the last few decades.

The Making of a Manager

Recommended by Heather Weiss, Lead Product Designer at Fair and Ken Seeno, Lead Product Designer at Headspace


The Making of a Manager explores what new managers can do in their first three months and beyond to ensure their team gets excellent results. From meetings to recruitment and managing a growing team, Julie Zhuo examines the opportunities and pitfalls that all new managers face, and demonstrates that great managers are made, not born.

On Art and Mindfulness

Recommended by Sean Dillingham, Product Design Director at Signal Sciences


In On Art and Mindfulness, world-renowned artist and celebrated teacher Enrique Martínez Celaya shares his views and advice on the art-making process, the development of a practice, the management of obstacles, and the day-to-day choices we must make in order to remain creative and honest.

LA Design Leaders Dinner. Photos courtesy of the Noun Project. Organize all of your visual assets in one place with their new app, Lingo.

Principles: Life and Work

Recommended by EZ Blaine, Executive Creative Director at ChowNow


Principles shares the insights that Ray Dalio gained from his experience as one of the most successful businessmen on the planet. His advice shows how core principles can make decision-making an easy process, no matter what situation you’re in.


Recommended by James Richman, Creative Director at Floqast


Bernays became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts

Recommended by Maris Bodell, Senior Director of Product Design at Tinder


Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Susan Cain questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. She draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the differences between extroverts and introverts.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

Recommended by Jess Brown, Head of Design at Clutter


Echoing Samin’s own journey from culinary novice to award-winning chef, Salt, Fat Acid, Heat bridges the gap between home and professional kitchens. With charming narrative, illustrated walkthroughs, and a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking.

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin

Recommended by Edward Boatman, CEO at Lingo


Seeing is Forgetting traces the life and career of the California artist, who currently works with pure light and the subtle modulation of empty space.

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

Recommended by Tara Ting, Director of Design at Audit Board


In studying the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way, and it's the complete opposite of what everyone else does. This idea provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be lead, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with why.

This: Becoming Free

Recommended by Joel Beukelman, Senior Interaction Designer at Google


Through personal story, parable, philosophy, physics, and absurdity, Gungor shows us that who we think we are is an illusion, a constriction of reality that creates suffering in our lives. This: Becoming Free is a letter of love, reminding you of who you truly are under the stories you create.

Value Proposition Design

Smith, Osterwalder, Bernarda, Pigneur

Recommended by Ernest Li, Lead Product Designer at Tala


Value Proposition Design is a comprehensive guide to designing compelling products and services. Real value comes from empathizing with customers to find out what everyday jobs and tasks they need help with. Practical exercises, process illustrations, and workshop suggestions help apply the tools in the book to daily work.

A Work in Progress: Notes on Food, Cooking, and Creativity

Recommended by Cameron Worboys, Associate Design Direction, Product at Elephant


A Work in Progress is a set of three books: a cookbook with 100 new recipes from Noma; a personal journal written by Redzepi in which he explores creativity, innovation, and the meaning of success; and a pocket book of candid, Instagram-style snapshots featuring the chef and his team.

Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands

Recommended by Midori Sakano, Creative Director at Skylar Body


Marty Neumeier argues that in an extremely cluttered marketplace, traditional differentiation is no longer enough. Today, companies need "radical differentiation" to create lasting value for their shareholders and customers.