MA Web Design + Content Planning

Major project


Essential Text Books

Essential Text Books

The books in this section form a core of texts that cover many of the topics addressed during the Major Project. Many of them are available from the library but some of them, the Smashing books for example, are only available from the publisher.

Articulating Design Decisions by Tom Greever

“Great designers are great copmmunicators”, that’s the key message of Tom Greever’s excellent book. Over 13 chapters and 250 pages, Tom takes us on a journey through a typical design project, helping us to understand our responsibilities and identify stakeholders at each stage and explaining how best to communicate our ideas.

Of course some of this is common sense but there’s plenty of really useful insight here to and it’s clear from the confidence with which it’s written that the author has a great deal of experience managing design projects.

This is a really good book for all students of design who have to present their work in front of their tutors, peers and external clients and who need to know how to do this clearly and effectively.

Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter

Aarron Walter’s excellent book for A Book Apart explains how best to design websites for people, examining the psychology of design. Like many books in the same series, this is a brief read but manages to condense what could be a complex subject into a digestible 100 pages.

This book will help you understand how to give personality to your designs and how to surprise and delight your site visitors.

Above the Fold by Brian Miller

Above the Fold is an ideal book for the web design newbie. Although it doesn’t cover any particular topic in any great depth, it gives a great overview of the visual web design process and covers everything from the history of the web to the use of analytics via web page anatomy, typography, site planning, marketing and SEO. This book won’t teach you how to code but it makes the perfect companion to your favourite book on HTML and CSS. It’s printed in full colour with lots of really informative illustrations and lots of examples of websites that clearly illustrate the points made in the text. The book is a quick and easy read but there’s enough here to make it a great reference too.

From the introduction: “The phrase ‘above the fold’ reminds us that there are both close similarities and vast differences between print and Web design. The principles of space usage, typography, and other elements of effective hierarchical communication are essential to both print and Web design, but the methods of achieving these principles involve different skill sets and consideration for the end user. That’s what this book is about – the fundamentals of graphic design and the specific considerations a designer makes for effective web communication. And it’s the reason Above the Fold is a fitting title.”

If I have one small criticism, it is that the book shows a bias towards the author’s particular area of expertise (typography) but for those who need a visual design primer for the web that takes in other considerations like standard IAB banner sizes, this book is perfect.

Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler

Universal Principles of Design, subtitled “100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design” is essentially a directory of all those design terms and “buzz phrases” that you know you ought to know the meaning of. The authors have chosen 100 design ideas and concepts and devote a double-page spread to each. Concepts such as Ockhams Razor, Fibonacci Sequence, Iteration and Legibility (the basics that all designers must understand) are beautifully described and illustrated with excellent examples to illustrate each point.

This is a general design reference although website examples are used where appropriate. All students of design should read this book and all designers should at least consider it a check list for their own knowledge and understanding.

The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

A wonderful book. Every designer should own a copy. This book is a golden treasury of design ideas, anecdotes, interesting facts and fantastic images. This is a book to reach for when you’re short on inspiration. A few minutes (or hours – it’s difficult to put down) later, you will feel refreshed and ready for any design challenge.

The book is best described by its author: “This book attempts to open windows to glimpse views rather than dissect the pictures on the wall. To look at things from unlikely angles. References to sources are occasionally provided to keep you going. The book has no thesis, is neither a whodunnit nor a how-to-do-it, has no beginning, middle or end. It’s a journey without a destination.”

The Art of SEO (3rd Ed.) by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin, and Jessie C Stricchiola

The Art of SEO is comprehensive. It’s not a short amusing guidebook to the As and Bs of SEO, it’s a thorough explanation of the A to Z of SEO. The world of SEO is complex and confusing with many conflicting views but this book takes us calmly through the whole thing, giving excellent and well considered advice along the way. From the preface:

“We were inspired to create it (the book) because we have not previously seen a comprehensive work on the topic of SEO, and we believe that it is very much needed in our industry.”

Quite right, and this book is set to become the standard text on the subject. In almost 600 pages and 13 chapters, it covers all the bases and the fact that it’s written by 4 authors means you’re getting the best advice from 4 experts. Some will want to read this book, cover-to-cover, others will dip into it and use it as a reference – the book lends itself to either method. If you only buy one book on SEO, this should be the one.

Smashing Book #4 (New Perspectives on Web Design) by Various authors

Over the years, Smashing Magazine has produced some great books that have kept us all up-to-date with contemporary ideas and concepts in web design. Smashing Book #4 is no exception but this volume elevates the series from ‘good to know’ to ‘essential reading’ for all web designers. I could have singled out any one of the 13 essays in this book but for me, Harry Roberts’ chapter,Modern CSS Architecture and Front-End Development is a seminal work. In it, Harry challenges some of the most strongly held beliefs (e.g. CSS class names should be semantic) and paves a new way forward for front-end developers. This is a book that demonstrates the maturing of web design as an intellectual endeavour and it really is essential reading for anyone who needs to understand web design today.

Smashing Book #5 (Real-Life Responsive Web Design) by Various authors

Smashing Book #5 is another weighty tome from the makers of Smashing Magazine and just like the previous publications, its 600 pages are crammed full of the best advice from leading thinkers in contemporary web design.

This volume takes the theme of responsive web design and contains chapters on workflow, design patterns, web font performance, responsive images, SVG and flexbox. It ends with a chapter by Andy Clarke, reminding us not to lose sight of the fact that we should be designing creatively. All-in-all, this is a must-read book for all web designers.