You might be scratching your head right now, wondering why an education enhancement company is recommending books on design. It’s simple really. When the information being imparted is easier to access and read, the chances for retention increase dramatically. With that in mind, we thought you might like to see some of our design handbook favorites.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information, by Edward Tufte
Both these books are classics that present a minimalist view of graphic design. Their own brilliant design justifies their hefty price tag: about $40 a piece. Tufte illustrates his points with an abundance of examples, many of which are loaded with quantitative information.
Color Harmony, by Hideaki Chijiwa
Offering easy-to-use formulas, this title is an indispensable tool for matching hues to moods and audiences. Another wonderful resource is the book series Color, particularly Color 1 and Color 4.
Any general guide to desktop publishing
A must have! Bookstores stock shelves and shelves of books on desktop publishing and page layout. Your best bet is to visit your favorite bookstore and choose a title that matches your style and budget. Check out the Computer section under Desktop Publishing or the Art section under Graphic Design.
Education and Design
Since there isn’t one definitive resource on designing active educational systems, we’ve put together a list of the premier titles on the subject. We should warn you though: These books tend to be a bit dry and tough to wade through. However, reading many different books on the subject is the only way to truly understand this field–and well worth the effort!
The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander
Our favorite design book! Though it’s about architecture, it provides an excellent metaphor for designing anything.
The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
This classic offers numerous examples to illustrate the principles of designing user-friendly systems. While most of the book discusses industrial design, the content also applies to information design. An interesting read!
Things That Make Us Smart, by Don Norman
This book is probably the most readable of the group. It deals with the use of technology in education, and several sections cover active learning environments.
Mindstorms, by Seymour Papert
Another classic in the field! The book discusses the use of LOGO–a computer programming language for children–as a tool for active learning. Papert also reviews and offers solutions for some of the problems with modern education. Besides being a quick read, this book has its entertaining moments. To truly appreciate this book, it helps to know LOGO.
The Unschooled Mind, by Howard Gardner
Though an excellent resource on a cognitive approach to education, this book tends to be somewhat dry and heavy. The materials focuses on how children learn, but it’s just as relevant to adult learning.
Engines for Education, by Roger Schank
This is one of the few books offering an instructional design model for creating systems that empower learners. This invaluable resource is also available on the web.
Any book by or about John Dewey or Maria Montessori
The educational theories put forth by these two early 20th century philosophers are just as relevant and important today.
Theories of Development, by Crain
This book gives a methodical breakdown of the child development theories put forth by some of the most significant theorists of our time.
Frames of Mind, by Howard Gardner
This extremely important book introduces the notion of multiple intelligence. Basically, Gardner asserts that intelligence consists of seven parts, and that we all have different strengths and weaknesses among our seven parts. Vastly detailed, this resource can make for tough reading.
The Mind’s New Science, by Howard Gardner
This book reviews the history of the cognitive science movement and describes the many disciplines comprising it. Readers will gain an appreciation for the variety of cognitive science and its power. Tough to read and understand, this title is not for the faint-of-heart.
Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman
This outstanding book discusses the role emotions play in our lives. Skilled at making scientific data quite readable, Goleman demonstrates that paying attention to the development of emotions is at least as important as paying attention to the development of intellect. He pinpoints some of the “next steps” in brain and educational research that could follow the cognitive science movement. And most importantly, Goleman suggests that emotional intelligence can and should be taught!
Human Brain and Human Learning, by Leslie A. Hart
This book explores the relationship between how the brain works and how we learn best. It is slightly more technical than Making Connections, discussed below. Hart also offers an excellent overview of the evolution of the public educational system.
Making Connections, by R. Caine, and G. Caine
This fantastic book discusses the relationship between the way the brain works and the way people like to learn. It suggests that how the brain works does matter and provides a holistic view of learning.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi
This brilliant work explains how to enter a state in which we become so engrossed in an activity that we lose all sense of time. Csikszenthmihalyi examines what it takes to enter this state, and what happens once we are in it.
A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, by Roger Von Oech
These two classics are must-haves for every bookshelf. Not only are they very informative, but they are also quite entertaining. Each book breaks the creative process into smaller steps and provides plenty of fun examples. The difference between the two books lies in how they divide the creative process. Read both and decide which one you like the best.
Lateral Thinking, by Edward De Bono
One more must-have title on creativity. It’s a bit more serious than Von Oech’s books, but it has more content. Plus, it offers many examples and wonderful insights into the creative process.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
This is another creativity classic! Get through this book and you will not only have heightened your creative abilities significantly, but you will also have learned how to draw. Great fun, but you must be committed to the drawing exercises. Edwards proves that everyone can learn to draw and be creative.
Pumping Ions: Games and Exercises to Flex Your Mind
This fun book presents techniques for strengthening the brain muscle. It covers the various aspects of the creative process and provides many entertaining puzzles.
Lateral Thinking Puzzlers, by Paul Sloane
This enjoyable book of word puzzles offers some great mental warm-ups you can do before sitting down to tackle a tough a problem.
The Creative Spirit, Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray
Very readable and fun! This companion volume to the PBS miniseries on creativity presents examples and analyses of creative acts. Watch for the re-broadcast of the TV series.
Designing the User Interface, by Ben Schneiderman
This classic is the most popular academic book on the topic. In a nutshell, it provides an excellent overview to the entire field.
User Interface Design, by Harold Thimbleby
This is another academic book on the topic. It discusses interface design from a cognitive science perspective, and though it’s interesting, it’s not easy reading. This technical resource is only for the very committed.
User Interface Design (ACM Press frontier series)
Tog on Interface, by Bruce Tognazzini
This very readable, amusing, and practical book offers advice on a variety of interface topics.
The Human Factor, by Richard Rubenstein and Harry Hersh
This book thoroughly covers task analysis. Great heuristics!
Usability Engineering, by Jakob Nielsen
A must-have for any interface designer! This classic provides an excellent overview on usability and an outstanding plan for assuring a program works. Good mix of theory and heuristics!
The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design, edited by Brenda Laurel
This must-have book serves up a variety of articles on designing interactive environments. Many of the writers are experts, and many of the articles are excellent.
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