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Universal Principles of Design

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Whether a marketing campaign or a museum exhibit, a video game or a complex control system, the design we see is the culmination of many concepts and practices brought together from a variety of disciplines. Because no one can be an expert on everything, designers have always had to scramble to find the information and know-how required to make a design work - until now. Universal Principles of Design is the first cross-disciplinary reference of design. Richly illustrated and easy to navigate, this book pairs clear explanations of the design concepts featured with visual examples of those concepts applied in practice. From the 80/20 rule to chunking, from baby-face bias to Ockham's razor, and from self-similarity to storytelling, 100 design concepts are defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge. This landmark reference will become the standard for designers, engineers, architects, and students who seek to broaden and improve their design expertise.

216 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2003

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William Lidwell

19 books19 followers

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5 stars
2,549 (44%)
4 stars
1,893 (33%)
3 stars
897 (15%)
2 stars
241 (4%)
1 star
98 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 174 reviews
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews715 followers
April 26, 2017
Boring and redundant, all this information is easily accessible online and most of it is so obvious and intuitive to begin with. It didn't even need to be a whole book most of the principals build on top of one another, easily could be reduced down to like five pages maybe.

Profile Image for John.
211 reviews44 followers
April 20, 2012
I learned *so* much from this book. It gave names to things I had "felt" before about design, taught me a bunch of new things, and reinforced the little I already knew about design.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ryan Price.
67 reviews23 followers
December 17, 2014
Only the most useful book I have ever read. Lots of things you may have heard of, applied to modern examples from the world of design - not graphic design, not architecture, not web design or product design, but just plain old design.

The Rule of Thirds, the 80/20 Rule, the Golden Ratio, Okkham's Razor and so many more great articles, and the "links" at the bottom of every page really inspired me to want to include related information everywhere I present text.
Profile Image for Anthoney.
88 reviews4 followers
November 7, 2016
I feel Designing is a more an applied branch of Psychology then just being about aesthetic, and this book has convinced me all the more. The book by itself so wonderfully realizes all the concepts of designing and to design, in its own format, structure and presentation, that the book's presentation itself can serve as one of the example on a great design. Each design principles are elaborated so clearly, lucidly, concisely with the relevant examples, and then summarised, all of these in just one page each with related illustrations and figures in the adjoining pages. While the principles can be applied in so many professional trades and businesses not forgetting art-serving as a text book , some forms, ideas and mediums of expressions, I felt could be applied generally and socially too, almost like some of those books on 'how to influence' or 'effective communication' but more better then them presumably. My only small grouse would be that some themes were repeated but then again it's nuances and distinction were spelt out clearly enough to merit the repetition. Super. I am glad I got hard cover edition cos I am going to be savouring it for a long, long time
Profile Image for Adam Norwood.
14 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2009
The alphabetic, single-page-per-topic presentation kept the content simple enough for a wide audience to understand, but it also felt like a hindrance (and perhaps the magic number of '100' was also a contrivance, but maybe that's just coincidence). Some of the entries felt like duplicates, using the same clip art as examples or the same phrasing between topics. Overall it felt like the book needed an editor to enforce better consistency -- after reading the various entries I could pick out the writing style of the three different authors. Not bad, especially as a general overview of some common design issues for new designers, but to me it felt like it lacked depth on most of the topics. Bonus points for the sidebar bibliography that came with most entries, though.
Profile Image for Ted.
187 reviews86 followers
January 24, 2008
This is a great resource for any kind of designer, especially of the interaction, interface or industrial sorts. It consists of 100 fundamental concepts common to all matters of design, such as the 80/20 rule, Hick's law, Ockham's razor, mapping, etc.. Nicely typeset and layed out, with simple, effective diagrams for pretty much every concept. Highly recommended for people who like to make things both look and work really, really well.
Profile Image for Mara.
400 reviews280 followers
June 3, 2012
I go back to this book again and again whenever I feel stalled out.

It's easy for design to get overwhelming- or maybe that's just me, but, in any event, this book is a fantastic resource to page through when you have what I think of as the opposite of designer's block. With so many innovations in programming, UX, design and information architecture coming out all of the time it's easy to lose a sense of how to make things just "feel right." This book is a great way to get back to the basics of semiotics and rediscover what intuitive, and usable really mean.

I agree that alphabetical may not be the best way to organize this kind of information-- if that's a deal-breaker for you check out 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People; but, given the illustrations and the physical structure of the book it's easy enough to breeze through and find those things you didn't even realize you were looking for. This makes a great short-hand companion to many of the principles described more extensively in The Design of Everyday Things, and, in my opinion, could even be a great coffee-table read...
Profile Image for Emilia.
264 reviews
January 12, 2021
A good book for people that want to learn more about design. If you are a beginner this one could be helpful.

Universal principles of design includes different concepts and backs up the information with statistic and examples.

There are things that could be described as “common knowledge” (like baby faced bias or the preference for symmetry in design), but for me it was still useful to read how can I apply this to a project.

It took me a while to finish this one because I was taking notes of almost everything. It was a useful book for me.
Profile Image for Diego Petrucci.
79 reviews78 followers
March 24, 2013
A classic. If you are interested in design, but not in any particular area, you should really read this book. Goes trough every major topic, explaining the basics of design and, ad the title says, its principles. Must-read.

(Come da titolo) spiega i principali concetti che stanno dietro alla teoria del design. Di lettura semplice ma efficace, consigliato a chiunque sia interessato di design (senza necessariamente avere in mente una disciplina specifica).
Profile Image for Put.
21 reviews
April 30, 2018
Finally finish this book after abandoning it for so long!

Filled with many principles of design, it is just what i am looking for in such a book. However, some of the explanation of these principles are hard to understand for me. I found myself doze off on the explanation at the end of the explanation, and had to re-read the explanation a few times. Maybe because i am not a native english speakers, eh?

I count the first read of the book as an action to familiarize myself with these principles. Will surely need to revisit the book to remember the principles.
Profile Image for Dave.
71 reviews
June 16, 2007
I think this could actually benefit anyone who works with or presents information, but it should make a solid impact for software designers. They should have this in every bathroom in every software company on the planet -- great for just perusing. Any page of this book contains at least one really good idea for improving something you work with. The layout and graphics are (as expected) stellar.
Profile Image for Mohammad Shaker.
Author 1 book47 followers
October 14, 2017
A less joyful review compared to 2 years ago. The book is a very good intro to the crossway between design, behaviour and psychology.

"cracking book! I can read 1000 more pages of this one. Absolute joy while reading it. Surely a reference book that I'll get back to again and again."
Profile Image for Scott.
75 reviews61 followers
January 22, 2016
Fantastic reference for all designers to keep on their desk. I especially like the question-based reference guide (located just after the table of contents) - this helps guide your study of the principles taught in the book.
Profile Image for Kerri Grier.
2 reviews
March 1, 2020
Incredibly informative reference material on design principles. I really liked how each principle was laid out. The table of contents were also laid out in multiple ways depending on how you wanted to use the book which was a thoughtful touch. Some of the images were pretty dated though - it'd be nice if they came out with a revised/updated edition!
Profile Image for Roxanna López.
Author 1 book50 followers
August 1, 2020
4.5 stars.

This book is full of fascinating and useful information. I only found one example that was not well explained and one huge misinterpretation of evolutionary theory which detracted from the quality of the book. Otherwise, I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Minh Ngoc Pham.
121 reviews4 followers
April 15, 2021
A good reference if you are interested in the intersection of design, psychology, theory of evolution, human bias, why things look certain way.
I love that it points me to the seminal work on each topic for deeper immersion. Also the writing indicates that the authors were having fun writing this, not like trying to complete a dictionary, which I always appreciate.
Profile Image for Graham Herrli.
96 reviews67 followers
July 16, 2013
I've been meaning to review this book for quite a while, because its about design, but I didn't really start reviewing books until after I had read it. The nice thing about reviewing after the span of a couple of years it that I now remember only the book's most salient aspects.

The book is a great resource for anyone (especially any visual learner) hoping to gain a sense of the field of design. Each pair of facing large pages presents a summary of an important design principle. The left-hand page provides a text summary with references to the seminal and other significant academic works in the margins, while the right provides a concrete visual example of some application of the principle.

The book's two pages on visuospatial resonance inspired me to make my own webpage that allows you interactively to explore visuospatial resonance and provides summaries of the five papers on that topic referenced by this book.
Profile Image for Ben Haley.
58 reviews13 followers
September 16, 2010
UPD is a short read and if you are doing creative work, it will inspire you.

UPD is a sort of design dictionary, devoting 2 pages to over 100 major design concepts covering a breadth of subjects including psychological traits like cognitive dissonance, design techniques like prototyping, and user interface principals like the signal-to-noise ratio.

Each definition includes a description of the principle, guidelines on how it is applied, and picture based examples of the principle in action. I found the book provocative while working on a interface for teacher registration and I am sure the registration was improved for the book's influence.

That said, the book didn't so much teach me as remind me of a number of important ideas. So I wouldn't have enjoyed reading UPD if I had not had a project to apply its thoughts to.
Profile Image for Scuppers.
39 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2010
Universal Principles of Design reminds me of a book I had when I was younger that had different letters of the alphabet and big, glossy pictures of things starting with that letter.

As with the alphabet book, I'm not sure how comprehensive or useful "Universal Principles" would be as a reference to everything you might expect to ever see, (it's not an encyclopedia or even a dictionary), but the pictures are cool, and the content's interesting.
14 reviews6 followers
July 4, 2009
I love the density and efficiency of this book. On-page discussions of design ideas that are relevant to all aspects of design... graphic design, industrial design, systems, curriculum planning. It has cross-references to related topics within the book. I pick it up just to charge my brain sometimes
Profile Image for Praveen Sinha.
54 reviews31 followers
February 9, 2018
It was a collection of principles from various subjects of economics, architecture , psychology. In essence design does include those principles. However, giving a list of tools in the hands of a person does not help in utilising them in a meaningful manner in the process of creating a solution. It is not much of a help in the era of always on internet connectivity.
Profile Image for Jb.
273 reviews3 followers
February 8, 2019
Good overview, and great pointers. Examples are good too, although sometimes a bit hard to get.
Some concepts overlap.
No recap of multiple principles on some examples. Could have been useful.
Marked ~40 principles that are essential to my j0b as product manager. However, no big discoveries or true guidelines. Simply confirming what I observed already.
Profile Image for Savina.
37 reviews3 followers
July 13, 2012
Such a good book! One of the only textbooks to ever hold my attention so tightly that I almost missed my trainstop reading it. A great blend of useful tips and the psychology/design principles behind them. I will be keeping this on my shelf for a long time to come.
100 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2021
Solid content but tedious to read

I struggled through this book. Not because the content was bad, I just found it pretty boring which is probably due to the format. A lot of the principles do not apply solely to design (e.g. 80/20 rule), but there are some interesting tidbits in there.
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 21 books102 followers
February 8, 2010
An elegant, useful compendium of principles of design and thinking.
Profile Image for Maria Cerase.
78 reviews5 followers
August 30, 2018
Simple and clear. A breeze to read and also full of relevant real life examples of applied design principles.
Profile Image for Jacob.
407 reviews115 followers
October 2, 2015
Finally finished this one. Packed full of good stuff. A great read for any designer.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
52 reviews
December 6, 2014
What to expect from a book with such a title.

I only read about 30 principles, including a few ones that might be helpful.
Disliked this book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 174 reviews

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