Must-Read Books for Instructional Designers

posted in: Recommendations | 2

Instructional design knowledge is just the start of being a good instructional designer – there are lots of other essential skills like usability, visual design, and more. It’s one of the things I love about this field, there’s always more to learn!

This list begins with a broad text focusing on design in general – it was a game-changer for me! It continues on with instructional design, online interfaces, visual design, and more.

See all of my recommendations at!

Think Like a Designer

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

The Design of Everyday Things
This book seriously changed how I view the world! I HIGHLY recommend reading it. It’s not about instructional design, but instead about what makes good design in general. How People Learn

How People Learn


Design for How People Learn
This book is well illustrated and breaks down the basics of how the brain works! It’s such a wonderful and fun introduction to the psychology of learning. I recommend the chapters: Who are your learners?, What’s the goal?, and How do we remember? in particular.

How People Navigate Online Spaces

Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter)

Don’t Make Me Think
This book focuses on web usability. It’s a practical and surprisingly fun guide to usable web design. If you do any teaching online, this is a must-read!

Effective Visual Design


Non-Designer’s Design Book.
Just like the title says, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to create effective visual design! This book breaks down the basics of graphic design so that you can create amazing layouts. GCF LearnFree has an online set of videos and articles on similar concepts.

Instructional Design

accidental instructional designer book

The Accidental Instructional Designer.
It’s so common for people to fall into the field of instructional design! That makes Cammy Bean’s Accidental Instructional Designer such a handy text – it’s not only for people that woke up and found themselves assigned instructional designer work, it’s for anyone that’s new to the field and needs to get up to speed quickly.

Bonus Reading

Moonwalking With Einstein Book

Moonwalking With Einstein.
A journalist sets out to cover the World Memory Championships. He’s so impressed by the competitors’ talents that he learns their secrets – and returns to win the Championships the very next year! This book is a testament to the adaptability of the human brain.

Peak: Secrets from the new science of expertise

Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise.
Read this one after Moonwalking With Einstein! This is an amazing book by a psychologist that spent an entire career studying the human memory and what makes talented people so exceptional (spoiler: they weren’t born with it!). It’s co-written with a science writer for maximum readability.

What Are You Reading?

Did I miss something? Post it in the comments below!


2 Responses

  1. Eboni Gatson

    Thank you for the list. I have most of the books, and I am currently reading “The Accidental Instructional Designer.”

  2. Steve

    The only one I’ve read out of this list is Julie Dirksen’s book so got plenty of work to do. ‘Instructional Story Design: Develop Stories That Train’ by Rance Green is a good one, as is ‘The Learner’s Journey’ by Bastian Kuntzel. Both story-based books for learning design.