MA Web Design + Content Planning

Applied art for the web


Essential books

Designing with web standards by Jeffrey Zeldman

If you were going to only read one single book on webdesign ~ this would be the one. Considered the ground breaker and core guide to web standards, this is the book on web standards, responsible for getting a huge number of webdesigners onto the right track.

Though it does not purely focus on the design aspect – the principles involved are a huge part of creating good design for the web, inside and out. And Jeffrey Zeldman simply has a way with words and his arguments for the drive towards standards are sure to convince you.

The ZEN of CSS Design by Dave Shea and Molly Holzschlag

This book is a celebration of the CSS Zen Garden project, initiated and curated by Dave Shea (Bright Creative) in May 2003. In the early days of CSS, this project aimed to highlight the power and flexibility of separating content from style and the implementation of the now widely used cascading style sheets. By using a single source file of HTML designers created an immense collection of different design, adding only the images and CSS to the given HTML file.The book celebrates the success of this project and explains the CSS techniques used on the example of the 36 main designs.

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst


Considered by many as the bible for any type lover – this book is an example itself of beautifully set type. Robert Bringhurst tells the story of type from the historic to the modern in a writing style which is an absolute delight. Reading will be a challenge as well as joy and will result in learning about the nuances of typographic rules and type setting.


A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web by Mark Boulton

This beautifully designed book teaches anyone working in web design how to apply the principles of graphic design to the web. Covering important design aspects such as typography, working with grids, applying the golden section to layout and colour theory –Mark Boulton (Mark Boulton Design) outlines many aspects of working on web projects. His insights are immensely useful for beginners and pros alike and his book as been praised as a great guide for anyone working in web design, even those who might not have a background in design.

Adaptive Web Design by Aaron Gustafson

In six chapters, this book covers the importance and implementation of progressive enhancement in depth. Aaron Gustafson (easy designs) explains the reasons for working with adaptive layouts and dedicates a chapter each to markup, CSS, JavaScript and accessibility, closing with a practical checklist.Looking at practical examples – the book will benefit any web designer/developer, giving insight into the application of the principles of progressive enhancement, ensure backward and forward compatibility. Written in a friendly and easy to read style, this is a book that will change the way you work on your web projects.

Ordering Disorder – Grid Principles for Web Design by Khoi Vinh

This book is a primer for working with the rules of grid design for the web. Discussing the concept and history of grids before delving into the practical working methods, Khoi Vinh takes his reader through the development of a grid system for the production of a website.

Design Basics Index by Jim Krause

Starting with the core building block of of design this book covers various topics, such as colour, typography and layout. It introduces techniques for brainstorming and idea generation as well as offering an insight into the industry.

Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual by Timothy Samara

Considered a handbook for graphic design this book presents the fundamental principles of design with chapters on graphic design, basic rules of good design, form and space, typography and imagery. It aims to educate designers on the underlying principles of delivering a clear message and how to break the rules.

Basics Photography: Composition by David Prakel

This book is aimed at photographers as well as designers. It serves as a reference on different approaches to composition, discussing on given examples the principles of organising space and time and their application.

Distinctive Design by Alexander Dawson

Exploring the connection between code, content and design, this book aims to give practical advice for the novice and experienced webdesigner alike. Discussing the underlying principles of designing websites which are not only visually engaging but also user-friendly and accessible, this book highlights the importance of design decisions in regards to colour, contrast and typography in order to achieve good user interface design and page layout.

Further Reading

The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero

This book was realised by a campaign on Kickstarter and is written by the inspiring designer Frank Chimero. It is not a book which will teach you how to become a better designer but a book which will inspire you to take a deeper look at design itself, to ask questions, to explore and tell your story. It is aimed at both non-designer and designers alike, aiming to inspire your thinking.

This book’s hardcopies have now sold out. You can however download a digital copy for free or read it online: shapeofdesignbook.com. Thank you, Frank :)

The Icon Handbook by Jon Hicks

A long anticipated and awaited book on icon design by one of the finest icon designers, Jon Hicks. Starting with a brief history of icons, this book takes you through the basics all the way through to creating a full iconography. Beautifully written and illustrated with plenty of examples, you’re sure to learn plenty about the art and craft of creating unique and professional icons.

This book is accompanied by a website which gives further references and includes a blog:iconhandbook.co.uk.

Information is Beautiful by David McCandless

A collection of infographics, knowledge maps and various data visualisations this book is not a manual or reference but rather a study of information. Initially collected on the website ~ this book is not meant to be read from beginning to end but rather be a resource of inspiration and food for thought, a coffee table book to be enjoyed and studied whenever.

MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer by Hillman Curtis

“Making the invisible visible”
This book is a guide to becoming a successful new media designer. In a very sincere and friendly tone David Hillman Curtis discusses the creative process, the exploration of ideas and the craft of producing the final design product.This book was originally published in 2002 and though by now the discussion about the use of Flash has changed in certain aspects – the principles discussed still apply. It is a journey into design, how to approach new projects, where to find inspiration and how to realise creative ideas successfully.

Hardboiled Web Design by Andy Clarke

It seems as if Andy took Jeffrey Zeldman’s famous article “To Hell With Bad Browsers” and applied it to today’s practices. The argument presented is reversing the approach of working from the lowest browser up and makes the points of pushing the new possibilities of HTML5 and CSS3 further. Andy Clarke (Stuff And Nonsense) argues that designs should be presented in the browser and speaks up against the common attitude of ‘wait and see’. The book illustrates why web designers and developers should embrace the future of the web today.

This book has been updated for its 5th anniversary – with new examples and more. Well worth your time! Again :)

Sexy Web Design: Creating Interfaces That Work by Elliot Jay Stocks

With this practical guide on designing for the web Elliot Jay Stocks focuses on practical techniques involved in the design process. Starting with research and discussing site structure, page layout, colour use, grid systems, web fonts and technical considerations ~ the book is perfect for anyone new to web design. It offers good advice for novices, presenting the stages of the design process clearly and demonstrating the methods used on an example website.

Online reading