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Jessica Murray

Jessica Murray

Akendi Alumnus

A Designer’s Book Shelf

I recently moved into a new apartment and while organizing my collection of picture books I naturally found a way to procrastinate and cracked open some of these inspirational books. Books from all over the place, everything and anything cartoons, children’s books, design books and the list goes on. I’ve always been most intrigued by books with very little writing and lots of visuals.

Some of these books I’ve acquired as gifts, some are from my travels, and some were purchased for design reference. But all of them have one thing in common: they are visually stunning.

Why would a designer connect with these books if they aren’t visual design or user experience books? Opening up to other types of design, architecture, exhibit design, product design, print design etc. helps us create new ideas and leave what we know behind.

Exploration beyond our professional work helps with the creation of new ideas and designs; subconsciously cataloging new ideas or even writing them down in a note book for later.

It’s also really interesting and inspiring to see people from different creative backgrounds take their talent and use it differently from their corporate work. Most of the books below are projects by other professional designers/photographers.


The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

This book I picked up at the 2015 Design Thinkers Conference. After sitting in on a talk by the author, I had to buy this children’s book. Coralie Bickford Smith is so inspirational and the Fox and the Star is a project she illustrated and wrote for Penguin books after many years of re-designing the covers of classic novels like Crime and Punishment and Oliver Twist (if you haven’t seen this collection you should find one because they are beautiful!). I bought this book because of the beautiful tactile qualities of the cloth binding and the high quality printing, the illustrations within, the use of colour and I was extremely impressed with Coralie’s portfolio and wanted to have one of her books in my own personal collection.


Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

I bought this book while on vacation in New York City. If you’ve ever been to NYC, and you get a copy of this book, you’ll feel like you are still there every time you open it. Each page beautifully showcases photographs and quotes from people from all walks of life. There is a loose connection to user experience for me when I look at this book; imagining the sample of people who were involved in this project you could learn a lot from a study with this many participants. However there is no targeted goal for this book other than to celebrate the people of New York City. In an industry where we are always trying to understand our users and their needs, this book is perfect for those of us who are curious by nature. It’s a little glimpse into the world of an individual.


Sea By Mark Laita

A beautiful coffee table book given to me as a Christmas gift from my little brother. This book is pure eye candy;  the one thing I love the most about it is the use of negative space. The photographer is playing in the negative space so brilliantly, every spread is black with one sea creature on it making the colours of these strange creatures pop. This book is great inspiration when looking for unusual cropping,  powerful use of colour and white space or should I say black space since each page is printed in rich black.


The Unknown Portraits – A Collection of Imagined Personae By Kozyndan

I found this book at a Magic Pony pop up gallery in Toronto. This one is possibly one of the strangest books I’ve ever seen, so naturally I bought it. If features a series of unusual portraits drawn on paper with graphite. This book has an unusual backstory which seems fitting for the drawings and overall vibe. The author found an unknown photo album full of portraits and gave them new life. Each portrait is a little creepy, sometimes for subtle reasons and some not so subtle. The activity of creating quirky stories for people we don’t know is something we’ve all done. A natural curiosity to know other people and their experiences.

Jessica Murray

Jessica Murray

Akendi Alumnus


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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.