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December 22, 2008


Michael Eury

My recommendation, from what I have used, is The Designer's Desktop Manual. It is a good starting point for anyone who has limited experience with desktop design processes and common design software. Many helpful hints in a clear and easy to follow format.

Pierre Morsa

I like Design Basics Index, by Jim Krause. It's a very good book covering all important concepts of graphic design.

The format of the book makes it easy to carry in a luggage.

Olivia Mitchell

Slide:ology covers the basics for non-designers who just want to know enough to put together a decent-looking Powerpoint slide.

Tammy Lenski

Thanks for this recommendation, Garr. I've just ordered it from my local independent bookseller and look forward to it gracing my resource shelf. I like the idea that it's written specifically for people like me who care a lot about design but don't have that background.

Ed Brenegar

I see you also recommend Edward Tufte's books. What I'd like to know is what you think of his one day seminar? For several years, I've thought of attending when it is offered close to where I live, but then I wonder if this is just one of those intellectual luxuries that is fascinating without a lot of application. Are the books better after the seminar than without it?

The Leadership Factor

I'd second slide:ology, it really is surprisingly comprehensive in its treatment of design fundamentals.

I also have a soft spot for Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style...but perhaps a bit print-oriented for this site?


I have three of the four books you mention and many others but if I had to pick one book, my absolute favourite is Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual by Timothy Samara (Rockport).

The Elements of Graphic Design would be my second favourite but it's nowhere near as complete as Design Elements not does it contain as much actionable information.


There's two terribly written paragraphs. Sorry for the typos. Not=nor.



If you have read Tufte's books, you have attended his seminar. I went last year (only because work paid for it) and found the seminar interesting but providing nothing I couldn't get out of his books. The seminar felt like more of a demonstration of the concepts in his book. There was a lot of "go to this page and read." After you read the selection, he would discuss the concept in more detail.

The books are very good and the seminar is a good presentation of his work, but it is not necessary to go to the seminar to really grasp Tufte's ideas.


I think the "Design of Everyday Things" by Donald Norman is a great book. It is not about slides or layout or web pages. It is about designing everyday things (and everything) for easy and obvious use. I think this book is a must read for anyone interested in making things (software, web sites or otherwise) that people need to interact with.

Jan Schultink

Not really a contribution to this list, but something worth mentioning.

Following a discussion with my architect about our apartment refurbishment, he handed me a worn out copy of "The Modulor 1&2" by Le Corbusier. (Standard reading for architecture students).

The text of the book is impossible to get through (for the architecture layman): dense, sometimes unfocused, in short (* excuse me *) slightly boring.

However, the sketches and drawings are an inspiration. This obsession of trying to find/apply the perfect proportion, the perfect balance, the golden ratio, in everything (really everything) you design.

I am unlikely to become as obsessed with 1:0.618 ratios, but pay attention now when I can to play around more with pleasing proportions (and reducing symmetrical compositions as much as possible)

Tim Maly

Good call on Robin William's book. As soon as I read the headline I was clicking through to suggest the title but you already caught it. I have recommended it so many times to so many people. Timeless, simple, easy to remember. It gives you the first 80% of being any good at layout and design. I wish that everyone read this book.


Thanks everyone. All of the suggestions are excellent!

About Tufte, yes, I recommend his seminar if he is in your town. And yes, some people have said it was very interesting but in the end not so practical. But to be fair, this could be said of most 1-day seminars. In the end it is up to us to change.

Thanks again! -g

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