Universal Principles of Design, by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler, has become one of my favorite design resources. The book is effective as a reference, but it’s also an enjoyable read straight through. It’s a book that practices what it preaches.

The edition I have (2003) covers 100 design principles; there’s an updated edition that covers 125. Not only is the book visually appealing, but its organization and layout make it easy to find information. There are two tables of contents: one which lists the principles alphabetically, and the other which lists them by category. Each principle gets a two-page spread, with an explanation on the left and examples on the right. The explanation is readable and the examples engaging and thought-worthy.

A key strength of the book is its cross-disciplinary approach. Examples come from areas as diverse as technology, psychology, and economics, showing how design impacts virtually every profession and every aspect of life. As a result, the book encourages thoughtful application of these principles to a wide variety of situations.

I find that I come back to this book time and again, for a refresher as well as new learning. If I had one suggestion, it would be for the authors to create an interactive online version, with all the benefits of hypertext and digital media. The basic principles won’t change, though, and that’s what makes this book a worthwhile resource for any designer.