The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

Top five design books

– January 25th, 2005 –

{title}After my trip to London, and the Design Museum, over the weekend I thought i’d share a purchase of mine.

I was led to believe the Design Museum had a great bookshop, which turned out to be almost the case. Yes there were some good books, but they were the usual coffee table type (you know - big, pretty pictures, the latest hip designers from the planets hip studios). All a bit dull really. That was until I noticed a stack of blue books in the corner, covered with a thin layer of dust…

There, nestled next to the “A 1000 signs” and “Multimedia design” was a book which grabbed my attention.

Universal Principles of Design by Jill Butler, Kritina Holden, Will Lidwell looks like a boring school textbook. The book looks pretty uninspiring, blue and white with thin Helvetica adorning it’s cover. But this was just the thing I was looking for.

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p> The synopsis is as follows (from Amazon)

Whether a marketing campaign or a museum exhibit, a video game or a complex control system, the design we see is the culmination of many concepts and practices brought together from a variety of disciplines. Because no one can be an expert on everything, designers have always had to scramble to find the information and know-how required to make a design work - until now.

This comprehensive, cross-disciplinary encyclopaedia of design pairs clear explanations of every design concept with visual examples of the concepts applied in practice. From the “80/20” rule to chunking, from baby-face bias to Occam’s razor and from self-similarity to storytelling, every major design concept is defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge.

A rather long-winded way of saying that this book lists many design theories used throughout the design industry as whole - from product design, to fashion design.

It easily explains the Golden Mean, the Rule of Thirds and many other important theories we, as designers, can all learn from. Actually, many of these theories are not taught anymore in design school, which is a crime. Students are graduating purely operating on instinct where their designs are concerned, no theoretical decision making has entered the process. Although saying that how many designers have you worked with who exhibit working knowledge of these theories? I haven’t worked with many.

Anyway, back to the point.

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p> This book is very interesting and well worth getting hold of. It did get me thinking of my top five design books. So here they are (in no particular order):

  1. Universal Principles of Design
  2. The Elements of Typographic Style
  3. Grid Systems in Graphic Design
  4. Typograpie: A Manual of Design
  5. Designing books (out of print now)

If you’re serious about extending your knowledge of design theory, especially typographic design theory, then these are the books to read in my opinion.

So, in true “top 5” tradition. What are yours?

Filed in: design.

Further reading