The Best Books: Recommended Reading List

The page is a reading list sharing the best books to read in various categories based on many hours of reading and research. You’ll find more than 100 good books to read, organized by category.

This is a reading list for people who don’t have time for unimportant books — which should be everyone. I only list the best books I've read, excluding the rest, in each category. You can be sure that each will be worth your time.

Start Here: The Best Books of All-Time

Looking for the best books, speeches, talks, and letters of all-time? I've spent the last decade collecting the best writing from history so that you can browse it here.

The Best Books by Category

These are the best books to read, listed by category.

Book Summaries

For the best books that I read, I go through the painstaking effort to put together and publish my personal notes including highlights, excerpts, and takeaways. You can read all of these notes on my book summaries page.

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Daniel Scrivner

Designed by Apple in California

Book Summary

This is my book summary of Designed by Apple in California by Jony Ive. My notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.


Overview

In 2016, Apple published a limited edition anthology, chronicling the last 20 years of Apple's designs simply titled Designed by Apple in California. The book is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs.

“The idea of genuinely trying to make something great for humanity was Steve’s motivation from the beginning, and it remains both our ideal and our goal as Apple looks to the future,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “This archive is intended to be a gentle gathering of many of the products the team has designed over the years. We hope it brings some understanding to how and why they exist, while serving as a resource for students of all design disciplines.”

The book was written and curated over an eight-year period by Jony Ive and features photos by award-winning photographer Andrew Zuckerman. All of the photos were shot in a deliberately spare style that has become a hallmark of Apple's design aesthetic. The books 450 images illustrates Apple’s design process as well as its finished products.


The Book in Three Sentences

In 2016, Apple published a limited edition anthology, chronicling the last 20 years of Apple's designs simply titled Designed by Apple in California. The book was written and curated over an eight-year period by Jony Ive and features photos by award-winning photographer Andrew Zuckerman. All of the photos were shot in a deliberately spare style that has become a hallmark of Apple's design aesthetic. The books 450 images illustrates Apple’s design process as well as its finished products.


Introduction by Jony Ive

Below is an excerpt from the introduction by Jony Ive. I've bolded and emphasized the ideas I find striking.

This is a book with very few words.

It is about our products, their physical nature, and how they were made.

While this is a design book, it is not about the design team, the creative process, or product development. It is an objective representation of our work that, ironically, describes who we are. It describes how we work, our values, our preoccupations, and our goals. We have always hoped to be defined by what we do rather than by what we say.

The actual products are, of course, incontrovertible. We have attempted to develop an approach to representing them that is equally impartial. The photography is analytical and spare, free from personal voice and its consequent subjectivity.

We begin this archive with the translucent iMac of 1998, and we conclude with the Apple Pencil of 2015. We have no included all our work in the interim, only those products that seem significant, that demonstrate learning, or for which we simply have affection.

The decision to stop somewhere, to not include our current work, and to not reveal the design of future products was fantastically hard. Many of us have worked with one another for more than 20 years, and we have learned a lot together. The products in this book are the result of a profoundly close collaboration between many different groups. We behave as one team with a singular goal; how we work enables what we make.

Designing and making are inseparable. Seeing something made, you appreciate its nature. Understanding the remarkable transformation of anonymous materials into recognizable products, you begin to understand that we don't arbitrarily create form. Fundamental ideas and shapes are derived directly from our knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes: bending a single piece of aluminum to make a stand or cutting a hole to create a handle rather than adding multiple parts.

We attempt to develop forms that achieve an integrity between external surfaces and internal components. Look at the first iMac. So much of the form was developed to be coherent and harmonious with the primary internal component, the cathode ray tube. You can see how forms and materials have evolved, driven by display technologies and components, as we have transitioned from spherical cathode ray tubes to flat-panel liquid crystal displays.

We strive, with varying degrees of success, to define objects that appear effortless. Objects that appear so simple, coherent, and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative.

Although we have been doing this for many years, creating something simple never seems to get any easier. Simplicity is not the absence of complexity. Just remove the clutter would results in an uncomplicated but meaningless product. I think a product that is truly simple somehow communicates, with striking clarity, what it is and what it can do.

Above all, I have come to feel sure that human beings sense care in the same way we sense carelessness. I do think we respond, maybe not consciously, to something much bigger than the object. We sense the group of people behind the products, people who do more than make something work, people who sincerely care about the smallest unseen details, as well as the big idea and primary function.

For us, these products and projects have come to mark the passage of time. We cannot look at this archive without remembering the people and stories so essential to each product's creation. I cannot look at it without thinking of Steve Jobs.

This book is dedicated to him.

This is a body of work that would not exist without Steve. The many thousands of people who worked together would never have worked together. These products would never have been designed, never have been made, never have been used.

The idea of genuinely trying to make something great for humanity, to make a contribution to culture and to our community, has not been a sentimental afterthought. It has been our fundamental motivation, ideal, and goal.

We hope that this archive is seen as intended: a gentle gathering of some of the products we have designed over the last few years. We hope it brings some understanding to how and why they exist.

For more, I highly encourage you to order Designed by Apple in California and read the entire book yourself.

Recommended Reading

If you enjoyed Designed by Apple in California, you might also like:

Related Collections

You can find other books like Designed by Apple in California in these collections:


About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer turned founder and investor. He's led design work at Apple and Square. He is an early investor in Notion, Public.com, and Good Eggs. He's also the founder of Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Sep 16, 2023

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