Book Review: Universal Principles of Design

A few months back, my friend Trev recommended this book to me. I’ve been digesting it one topic at a time, on my lunch breaks.

It is profound and fascinating reading.

This is not another software pattern book. In fact, it is not really software-centric at all. It describes truths about the way human beings perceive, reason, generalize, and communicate. Many of them have obvious application to UX, UI design, and to software in general. On the scale of profundity, it gets a 9 out of 10; I suspect that I’ll be blogging about insights from the book for months to come.

I think it’s important to look at familiar problems from new angles; many profound breakthroughs in science are attributable to cross-disciplinary insight. Though time spent in this book won’t directly hone your coding skills, it will help you see recurring problems and solutions with new eyes, and it will suggest tried-and-true criteria for evaluating design alternatives.

As a teaser, some of my favorite design principles in the book include: Interference Effects, Contour Bias, Horror Vacui, Uncanny Valley, Recognition Over Recall, Wabi Sabi, Satisficing, and Propositional Density.

For now, I’ll omit any definition of what these intriguing terms mean, and leave discovery as an exercise for the reader. :-)

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Universal Principles of Design

  1. Daniel, thank you for the mention. This really is a great book. Although I have several others that have very similar content, none of the others really convey it in as simple, concise manner as this book.

    I’ve found a number of uses for the concepts beyond your basic graphic design. It’s really about how we as humans “load” and “process” information.

    • I agree that the book is really an insightful description of the way human beings think and understand. That’s a subject of inquiry sure to pay off for software folks, but also for many other disciplines. Kind of ties in to epistomology, which ought to be included in the foundation of any serious education.

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