The Design Thinker’s Holiday Media List

Justin Daab Customer Experience Design

Give yourself the gift of insight.

It’s that time of year again. As the previous year’s plans and schemes come drifting slowly to completion, we exhale quietly before January’s deep inhale and sprints launch next year’s strategic victories. Or, as some might call this time, the holidays.

There’s no better time to use some of those temporarily idled mental resources and delve into new ideas, recharge your curiosity and elevate your perspective. So, if you’re looking for some great intellectual fodder, here are a few of our recent favorite media selections.

  1. “Sapiens” and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari
    As design thinkers, marketers or creatives, we should all appreciate the value of immersing ourselves more deeply into the human condition. No one has more thoroughly embraced this undertaking than Yuval Harari. These two books offer an interesting perspective.
    Sapiens is an amazing journey through the cognitive and cultural history of humanity, from hunting and gathering, to the agricultural revolution through the foundations and formations of our religions, political movements and world views.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century presents the other side of the coin, so to speak. This book turns to the present to make sense of today’s most pressing issues in light of all we know about where we came from and how we think.

  1. The Mother of All Demos (1968) presented by Douglas Englebart
    In this historic 1968 presentation at Stanford University’s Computer Research Lab, Englebart presented his concept for the oNLine System (NLS) computer. Wrapped up in this 50-year-old demo are actual working prototypes of the mouse, graphical user interfaces, WYSIWYG editing, hypertext, word processing, collaborative screen sharing and editing, and video conferencing. It’s an amazingly prescient moment in history and well worth the time. If you want the Cliff’s notes version, skip the full playlist and watch the “highlight reel”.

  1. The TrendWatching quarterly newsletter (ongoing free subscription)
    TrendWatching is a global consulting firm that…wait for it…watches trends. Hundreds of them actually. It’s like an ethnographic/statistical/consumerist window to the world. If you are involved in innovation strategy or product ideation, you’d be well served to let them into your inbox on a regular basis.
  1. The Skeptics Guide to the Universe (How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake.) (2018)
    The first book from Dr. Steven Novella (with his fellow hosts of the podcast of the same name, “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe” lays bare the ways in which we generally can’t, and shouldn’t, trust our brains to deliver a faithful representation of the world around us, and how we can use critical thinking, reason, and science to rise above our own biases and personal narratives to get ever closer to what’s real.

  1. Between the folds (2008) a documentary, directed by Vanessa Gould
    If you have any interest in either art, math or simply witnessing human obsessions manifest in unexpected and beautiful forms, this is for you. Consider this entry the dessert. We are not talking about simple low-polygon folded cranes here. Think, a jaw-droppingly intricate and kinetic interactive sculpture formed from a single sheet of paper. Further, the film touches on the influence origami has on product design, manufacturing, space exploration and the pharmaceutical industry.

Cogito ergo consumet.

I think, therefore I consume. In our individual attempts to remain engaged and curious, I think we all can relate to Johnny Five from the fairly dated and basically terrible film, Short Circuit, “Input! I need Input.”  So, may this holiday season deliver an unlimited buffet of inspiration and ideas, starting with these.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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