When writing Designing the Invisible I tried to read as much as I could around the broad topics covered in the book. There’s a lot out there about semiotics and colour in particular but a few books stood out for me and offered new perspectives, refreshers, examples and inspiration for writing my own book. From all those books that I read, here’s my recommended reading list. Read ‘em and weep, with joy.
I’m slightly obsessed with this book. It’s a must read for anyone in the design industry and is such an easy read. Each page has an image and a question and on the reverse is the answer. It really challenges how we see things and interpret the world around us. Where it lacks in heavy theory (which is a good thing) it offers plenty of visual stimulation, food for thought and will get you deconstructing media texts and seeing things differently, which can only be a good thing.
Understanding Comics – The Invisible Art
Sure this book is about comics but there are so many crossovers with other platforms and much of what McCloud applies to the art of comic books can also be applied to web design. Colour theory, narrative and symbolism are amongst the topics covered and best of all it is presented as a comic book so again it is easy to read, a great reference tool and an essential addition to any web professionals book shelf.
Just My Type – A book about fonts
I’m no typography expert but I do know how different typefaces can communicate different values, often invisibly. The best way to sum up why this book is on this list is to share the synopsis from the cover with you
Just My Type is a book of stories. About how Helvetica and Comic Sans took over the world. About why Barack Obama opted for Gotham, while Amy Winehouse found her soul in 30s Art Deco. Just My Type reveals what may be the very best and worst fonts in the world, and what your choice of font says about you.
It also includes the Periodic Table of Typefaces which also makes an appearance in Designing the Invisible.
Symbols – Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms
Carl G. Liungman
This book is very niche so may not appeal to many but for those who do get to see a copy you’ll notice how indepth this book is. The book contains approximately 2500 western signs and in 1600 articles their histories, uses and meanings are discussed. They are classified in a way that’s unique to the book and there are some great insights into the meanings of symbols, some of which have been lost over time or have different significance now as the signs are used in new contexts.
This may seem like a strange book on a list like this but other than being a beautiful book full of stunning imagery it also discusses storytelling but not in a way that’s been committed to paper countless times before. As Wall-E is a film without dialogue this posed new storytelling challenges for those behind it. The introduction of this book is called Visual Storytelling and it’s a fascinating insight into how they created a film that has the ability to make audiences laugh and cry with no dialogue present. We can all learn something from this when crafting stories on the web.
Everyone loves Innocent and many others have since tried to adopt their informal and fun approach to copywriting, with varying degress of success. I wrote a case study on Innocent in my book because they are the pioneers of ‘the Innocent way of writing’ and this book offers a detailed look at their story. There are similar books about other brands that I also read including ones on Starbucks and Absolut. Brand and the web are often talked about in isolation but that needs to change. For those interested in the brand stories of others you can’t go wrong with starting with Innocent.
This is a screenwriting book first and foremost but there is so much in here about story that it is hard to ignore. It’s a book that must be read by anyone who has a story to tell regardless of the platform or method that you use to tell that story. At the very least everyone should read Part 1: The writer and the art of story. As McKee tells us in the introduction, story is about mastering the art, not second guessing the marketplace. Story is about respect, not disdain, for the audience. Story is about originality, not duplication.
There you have it. If you have read or do read any of the above I’d love to know what you think. I’d also love to hear from you if you’ve read Designing the Invisible, whether you think it’s good, bad or average, let’s chat on Twitter @RobertMills or in the comments below.