-See a list of our lectures


-Design theory
-Communication writing
-Information design
-Information architecture
-Wayfinding / signage
-Human factors
-Perception & psychology


-See a list of our definitions


If you have a book to share, we'd love to hear it. Please contact us.

Design theory books

book imageUnderstanding Design
by Kees Dorst, Amsterdam: Bis Publishers, 2003.
A collection of 150 one-page essays on various issues of design. This is one of those musing design books that is best when broken into a series of end-of-day short reads. Thought provoking and mature.


book imageCreating Breakthrough Products
by Jonathan Cagan and Craig Vogel, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.
An excellent book covering the process of product design and development, from inception to delivery. Noteworthy description of a methodology for product market analysis. What makes this book so great is the number of practical examples it includes to demonstrate the concepts it puts forth. No pie-in-the-sky theory, it's well grounded, easy to read and enjoyable.


book imageThe Design of Things to Come
by Craig Vogel, Jonathan Cagan and Peter Boatwright, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 2005
A book that discusses how innovation is a product of studio culture. Vogel et al. describe several examples of environments that have resulted in innovation, from small studio to major automotive corporation.


book imageComputers as Theatre
by Brenda Laurel, New York: Addison-Wesley, 1993
Computers as Theatre demonstrates the often overlooked fact that looking outside one's own discipline for insight can be a valuable experience. Here Brenda Laurel takes the time-honored principles of theatre and Aristotle's Poetics and applies it to computer software design. What is most significant is that she speaks of designing experiences (Freytag's triangle is a visualization of this) and explains how the rise and fall pattern is critical to intellectual pleasure in any medium. The point she makes with this book is that the computer need not be perceived as a tool, but a connection point for greater personal meaning well beyond the interface and task involved.


book imageCradle to Cradle
by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, New York: North Point Press, 2002
Collaboratively written by an architect and a chemist, this book provides a deep and provocative look into green/ LEED compliant design and the concept of design for efficiency and reuse. It argues that recycling alone is not the answer, but that whole product systems need to be designed with the goals of saving energy, reducing harmful emissions and reusing resources in a manner that does not waste their energy. Includes interesting case studies and printed on a special plastic that demonstrates the principles it advocates. This book is a hot topic among architects at the moment.


book imageDesign for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (2nd ed.)
by Victor Papanek, Chicago: Academy of Chicago Publishers, 1985
Papanek's book details the problem with design in social and biological terms and "How it could be." While some of his examples and suggestions are of questionable practicality, the spirit and intent they demonstate argues that socially responsible design is possible and something that is important for the designer to consider in his/her work.


book imagePaper or Plastic
by Daniel Imhoff, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2005
A compelling look into the impact of paper and plastic consumption, along with global material culture encourages waste. Includes tips on how to design for environmental sensitivity.


book imageFilm Design
by Peter von Arx, Bern; Stuttgart: Haupt, 1983
An unusual book investigating the problem of designing with time and motion. It approaches this through studying the perceptual mechanics that produce the illusion of movement. Visual rhythm is a key focus and the book pays particular attention to how this affects a design's communicative properties.


book imageThe Idea of Design A Design Issues Reader
by Victor Margolin and Richard Buchanan. Editors., Cambridge, MIT Press, 1998
Useful book that details a way to evaluate products and experiences from a strategic, if not almost philosophical point of view. A good rainy-day read.


book imageThe Inmates are Running the Asylum
by Alan Cooper, Indiana: Sams Publishing, 1999
This book details the inherent problems of technology and software design where too often the lack of design planning and ensuing feature creep results in products that hinder rather than help the user. Too often software products are made without a real understanding of the needs they must fulfill. Advocates good design through user research.


book imageFlatland
by Edwin A. Abbott 1884, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1884, 1992
What do you get when an English clergyman writes to explain what it feels like to see the world in zero, one and three dimensions? This books is a strange, but entertaining tale that teaches the value of visual perspective through the discoveries of the character. THis is one of those books that keeps popping up as a reference in popular culture.


book imageThe Sciences of the Artificial
by Herbert A. Simon, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1996
An interesting book that turns design on its head by discussing how designed systems are the product of the environment that they exist in. As titled, the book touches on the nature of artificial things, particularly complex artifacts such as computers, and how they relate to memory, social planning and the science of design.