Over at the Daily Nerd there is a lengthy discussion about which articles a budding web designer should definitely read. Here’s my contribution:
I’ve been thinking about this too, there’s is my list which is essentially:
- The Dao of web design –> understand the web for what it is, a new medium, in which things are adaptable.
- Web design is 95% typography: focus on typography because people actually read stuff online. Main point: make your paragraph type 16px+ please.
- The $300 million dollar button: I put this in because it relates to UX: web design is actually a form of interface design, and the right order of things, copywriting etc. (interface flow) really matters.
I chose these articles because they have been very important in my “formation” as a web designer (now more of a user interface designer).
The topics are adaptability, typography and usability.
However, there are many more topics. Sometimes they are not directly related to web design but they come back to it.
For example, Joel Spolsky’s writing (e.g. figuring out what your company is all about) has been very important. His writing is about software and more specifically the business of software. A lot of web design projects are secretly software projects with builds and versioning and deciding what to rewrite when – what should be modular etc. – this is [a lightweight form of] software engineering.
Related to this is Rands which is mostly about working together, the office environment, managers vs. employees, leading teams, transitions to management etc. Does this have to do with web design? Not directly but any webdesigner who ever worked in an agency can relate to this and maybe they help to become a better designer. Because part of design is all about communicating your ideas.
There are psychology concepts like gestalt (related – Fitt’s law) which are super important to understand.
Some of what you need to know is just graphic design. There are the basics like color and contrast and how to use them. In this aspects “The Non Designer’s Design Book” (don’t judge a book by it’s cover) is a good introduction if you know nothing.
Then there is the “advanced level” of graphic design, for example understanding grid systems – there is a great book by Joseph Muller Brockmann about this. However, for a web worker it might make more sense to read Mark Boulton’s take on grid systems (on his blog and he has a book about web design too).
And if you get that part you can go on to read about data design. There are the Tufte books like “Envisioning information” and “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”. Like the Brockman book about grids this is all a bit hardcore.
You can maybe get more out of the A Practical Guide to Designing with Data book. And when you like that, go read Tufte and Stephen Few :]
I started talking about books but almost all of these books have articles online with about the same content. You just have to go out of your way to look for them.
So to recap, the first three subjects were adaptability, typography and usability. But the next topics are the business of software, working together, psychology, graphic design, data visualisation.
Now I could go on about front-end, abstraction levels in coding, understanding computers (web performance), photography, illustration, iconography, … the list of topics is endless. I can only conclude that a good webdesigner is — as Jelle puts it — T-shaped.
Also see my previous post on this topic.