Useful resources for the designer

Design Pet Peeve #6: The Incubation Principal: In small as well as large arenas of life, there is lag time between the beginning of an action or cause and an inevitable reaction or effect: in other words, an incubation period.  Have you ever placed a glass of water with ice in it on a table, and rotated the glass slowly around?  Did you notice how long it takes for the ice to start rotating as long as it doesn’t touch the glass?  Or, for that matter, how long it takes the ice to stop after you have stopped rotating the glass?  Molecules of water have to move by friction from the glass inward until they reach the ice: that’s a form of incubation common in the physical world.  On a cosmic scale, the coldest days of winter always come after the shortest day, as do the hottest days of summer follow the longest.  The same principal applies in immunology.  Several communicable diseases, such as measles and chicken pox, are at their most contagious just prior to their symptoms manifesting themselves externally.  Some say this is what is happening to the Earth right now; that we have passed a tipping point with our profligate misuse and cavalier “disposal” of the Earth’s resources, incubating our own destruction for centuries, and from now on, no matter what we do, our climate, air, water, and soil will continue to degrade until eventually the Earth will correct the situation by curing the disease: humans.  This sounds defeatist and dire for our species, and may indeed be true, but what does design have to do with all this, you ask?  Ideally, everything.

All human endeavors should be undertaken weighing all sides of the task from the perspective of what the impact will be on the future as well as the present.  Inspired by the laws of the Iroquois, the phrase “seventh generation” refers to the practice of considering the impact on an action for (at least) seven generations into the future.  Humans have not done this very often or well throughout our history.  Lack of consideration for what effect our actions had on our planet had relatively little impact for millennia until the Industrial Revolution.  But since its beginnings in the Eighteenth Century, through to the present, our increase in population and subsequent explosion in production and use of ever-more sophisticated materials (read: toxic), we have deteriorated our own niche on Gaia markedly.


What’s my point: With movements such as universal design, sustainability, human-centered design, pubic-interest design, biomimicry, evidence-based design, green design, upcycling, The Sustainability Consortium, involving designers from the beginnings of any business endeavors, and just plain common sense, it is starting to dawn on us that thinking long-range, and acting like stewards instead of usurpers on our own world can benefit everyone and everything.  So, engaged and conscientious thinking from the very inceptions of projects incubates into less arrogant long-term outcomes with more meaning in the content. Corporate consciousness, alas, has a long way to go.


Design Resources. The following are some suggestions for finding more information about various aspects of design, or, for that matter, generating ideas and putting them into action.


There are numerous design related groups around the world that have as their primary purpose promoting or promulgating their members and/or disciplines.  Here are a few.  As with most other resources, they have publications and/or web sites associated with them.

ADC. The Art Directors Club.AIA. American Institute of Architects. AIGA. American Institute of Graphic Arts. AMI. Association of Medical Illustrators. ASD. Association of Sound Designers. ASFD. American Society of Furniture Designers. ASLA. American Society of Landscape Architects. AWDP. Association of Web Design Professionals. BEDA. Bureau of European Design Associations. CFDA. Council of Fashion Designers of America. DFC. Design Futures Council. GAG. The Graphic Artists Guild. GNSI. The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. HWG. HTML Writers Guild. ICOGRADA. International Council of Graphic Design Associations. IDSA. Industrial Designers Society of America. IFDA.  International Furnishings and Design Association. IIDA. International Interior Design Association. ISA. International Sign Association. IxDA. Interaction Design Association. SDA. Surface Design Association. SEGD. Society for Environmental Graphic Design. Society of Illustrators. ULI. Urban Land Institute. WDDA. Web Design and Developers Association. WSDA. Whole Systems Design Association.



Obviously dozens of books have been written on design.  Here are just a few.  The older titles are included because of their iconic status in their respective fields.

Adams, Sean.  Masters of Design: Logos & Identity.  (Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishing, 2008).

Alexander, Christopher, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein.  A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction.   (New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 1977)

Arnheim, Rudolph.  Art and Visual Perception.  (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1954).

Benyus, Janine M.  Biomimicry.  (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1998, 2002).

Berger, Warren. Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life, and Maybe Even The World Featuring the Ideas and Wisdom of Design Visionary Bruce Mau.  (New York, NY: The Penguin Press, 2009).

Bostic, Mary Burzlaff.  2012 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market.  (Cincinnati, OH: North Light Books, 2011).  Updated every year.

Devlin, Ann Sloan.  Mind and Maze: Spatial Cognition and Environmental Behavior.  (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing, 2001).

Dreyfuss, Henry.  Symbol Sourcebook.  (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1972).

Dutton, Denis.  The Art Instinct: beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution.  (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press, 2009).

Edwards, Betty.  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  (Los Angeles, CA: J. P. Tarcher, Inc, 1979).

Ellard, Colin.  You Are Here: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall.  (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2009).

Faud-Luke, Alastair.  Ecodesign: The Sourcebook, 3rd Ed.  (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2010).

Fishel, Catherine.  Inside the Business of Graphic Design.  (New York, NY: Allworthy Press, 2003).

Gombrich, E. H.  The Uses of Images: Studies in the Social Function of Art and Visual Communication.  (London, England: Phaidon Press, 1999).

Grudin, Robert.  Design and Truth.  (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.)

Guild, Graphic Artists.  Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, 13th Ed.  (New York, NY: Graphic Artists Guild, 2010).

Hamilton, D. Kirk, and David H. Watkins.  Evidence-Based Design for Multiple Building Types. (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Heller, Steven.  Pop: How Graphic Design Shapes Popular Culture.  (New York, NY: Allworth Press, 2010).

Hoffman, Donald D.  Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See.  (New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1998).

Hoke, John Ray, Jr.  Ramsey/Sleeper, Architectural Graphic Standards.  (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2000).

Huelat, Barbara J.  Healing Environments, 2nd Ed.  (Alexandria, VA: Medezyn, 2003).

Kepes, Gyorgy.  Language of Vision.  (Chicago, IL: Paul Theobald, 1944).

Kraus, Jim.  Design Basics Index.  (Cincinnati, OH: HOW Books, 2004).

Krygiel, Essy, and Bradley Nies.  Green BIM: Successful Sustainable Design with Building Information Modeling.  (Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing, 2008).

Lidwell, William, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler. Universal Principles of Design. (Gloucester, MA: Rockport Publishing, 2003).

Lynch, Kevin.  The Image of the City.  (Cambridge, MA: The M. I. T. Press, 1960).

Mau, Bruce and the Institute Without Boundaries.  Massive Change.  (London: Phaidon Press, 2004)

McDonough, William and Michael Braungart.  Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. (New York, NY: North Point Press, 2002).

Meggs, Philip B.  A History of Graphic Design, 2nd Ed.  (New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992).

Norman, Donald A.  The Design of Everyday Things. (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1988).

________________  The Design of Future Things.  (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2007).

________________  Emotional Design.  (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004).

O’Brien, Dennis. Wayfinding and signage. In M. J. Bates, & M. N. Maack (Eds.), Encyclopedia of library and information services. (NY: Routledge, 2009).

Pink, Daniel H.  A Whole New Mind.  (New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2006).

Rubeling, Albert W.  How to Start and Operate Your Own Design Firm.  (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1994).

Sherin, Aaris.  SustainAble.  (Beverly, Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers, 2008).

Smith, Rick and Bruce Lourie.  Slow Death by Rubber Duck.  (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2009).

Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD). The Americans with Disabilities Act White  Paper: SEGD's Clarification and Interpretation of  the ADA Signage Requirements. 2nd ed.  Cambridge, MA: SEGD, (1993).  CD format

Sykes, Jane.  Designing Against Vandalism.  (London, England: The Design Council, 1979).

Tufte, Edward R. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd Ed. (Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 2001).

Visocky O’Grady, Jen + Ken.  The Information Design Handbook. (Cincinnati, Ohio, HOW Books, 2008).

Wheeler, Alina.  Designing Brand Identity, 2nd Ed.  (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006).

Williams, Robert.  The Non-Designer’s Design Book, 3rd Ed.  (Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press, 2008).

Wurman, Richard Saul and Peter Bradford, editor.  Information Architects.  (Zurich, Switzerland: Graphis Press, 1996).


This is a list of magazines that have -- at least as one of their goals -- the presentation of new ideas and innovative approaches, and ways of bringing them to fruition.  Some are out and out design magazines.  Some specialize in science, politics, or even gardening.  But all strive to present the best and brightest thinking in their respective fields.  Almost all periodic publications these days have a digital presence, be it a web site, facebook, twitter, blog, or the like.

Architectural Digest. AD is a monthly magazine catering to presenting interior design and other building ideas to an up-scale readership. CMYK. Published quarterly by Aroune-Freigen Publishing Co. in as environmentally responsible a format as possible, CMYK showcases student and professional portfolios in art direction, copywriting, design, illustration, and photography. Communication Arts. The best-known international magazine in the visual arts, CA publishes six issues per year covering the latest cutting-edge creations in advertising, graphic design, illustration, interactive media, and photography. Computer Arts. “The world’s leading digital art magazine,” CA publishes thirteen issues per year, featuring articles on designers, design studios, marketing, business, and “how to” articles on various software and multi-media approaches to projects. Consumer Reports. Published monthly, CR reviews and compares the relative merits of consumer products based on its own laboratory test results.  It accepts no advertising. DigitalArts. DA is published in the UK by IDG, featuring tutorials and “how to” help in   animation, digital painting, graphic and interactive design, illustration, and vector art. It also contains the latest trends in the visual world, and reviews of visual media products and software. Discover. A monthly magazine publishing information in all areas of science for a general audience. Dwell. Explores the interiors and the exteriors of modern home design, with a focus on modernistic approaches to home design that offers creativity, harmony, and identity. The Economist. A weekly newspaper, published in magazine format, that has as its stated aim "to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress." Fast Company. Releasing ten issues per year, FC specializes in such business topics as change management, design, digital media, innovation, leadership, social responsibility, and technology. Garden Design. Published six times per year, GD specializes in cutting-edge gardening and landscaping design ideas for knowledgeable enthusiasts and professionals. How. Published monthly, H specializes in behind-the-scenes information for designers in areas such as business, creativity, design, processes, and technology. Illustration. A quarterly publication dedicated to biographical articles on (mostly) American illustrators from the golden age of illustration (1860-1950). Inc. A monthly magazine exploring the workings of the fastest growing companies. Interior Design. Published fifteen times per year, ID features exceptional projects, new products, and industry news for interior design professionals. Landscape Architecture. LA is the magazine of the American Society of Landscape Architects, published in print and digital forms twelve issues per year. MacLife. Formerly MacAddict, a monthly magazine focusing on macintosh computers and related products. Macworld. The oldest monthly magazine dedicated to users of Macintosh computers and its related products with the largest monthly circulation. Make. A quarterly magazine subtitled “technology on your time,” focusing on computer, electronic, robotic, metalwork , and woodwork do-it-yourself projects. Maximum PC. Formerly known as Boot, MPC focuses on PC hardware, product reviews, tutorials, technical briefs, and other hardware such as phones and cameras. Mental Floss. MF is a humorous bi-monthly American magazine specializing in facts, trivia, and news articles. Mother Earth News. MEN is a bi-monthly American magazine approaching renewable energy, recycling, and sustainable practices from a “how-to” standpoint. Mother Jones. MJ is a liberal American magazine reporting on the environment, human rights, and politics, and the most widely read magazine of its type.  Its mission is “to produce revelatory journalism that in its power and reach informs and inspires a more just and democratic world.” The New Yorker. TNY is an American magazine published 47 times a year specializing in cartoons, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, reportage, and poetry. Ode. Appearing ten times per year in both English and Dutch, Ode publishes positive news about the people and ideas that are bettering the world.  Now The Intelligent Optimist.
PC World. PCW is a monthly magazine with global reach reporting on all subjects pertaining to PC computers, related subjects, the internet, and other products and services. Popular Mechanics. PM is an American magazine publishing the latest information on automotive, home, outdoors, science, and technology subjects since 1902. Popular Science. PS is an American monthly magazine specializing in science and technology topics for the general reader since 1872. Print. Once a quarterly journal of the graphic arts begun in 1940, it is now a bi-monthly publication dealing with art, design, and visual culture. Science Illustrated. A popular publication on all scientific, technology, and medicine subjects now published in fourteen languages, published at various intervals depending on the language. Scientific American. The oldest continuously published monthly magazine in America, SA is dedicated to bringing science of all kinds and ideas for the future to an educated general public with clear text and graphics. Science News. A bi-weekly publication of the Society for Science & the Public, specializing in news of all the sciences for popular readers. Sign Builder Illustrated. SBI is a bi-monthly “how-to” publication targeting sign manufacturing professionals with trends, industry news, and the latest products. Sign & Digital Graphics. A monthly publication featuring the news, business, artistry, technology, classified, and buyer’s guide for the sign and visual arts industries. Technology Review. TR is a bi-monthly publication of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bringing the latest trends, inventions, and innovations to the popular reader. Urban Farm. UF is a bi-monthly publication with the latest on sustainable city and suburban living, conservation, and self-sufficient gardening. Utne Reader. UR is an American bi-monthly magazine reprinting articles from multiple other alternative sources on politics, economics, culture, and environmental subjects. Vegetarian Times. VT is published nine times per year catering to vegetarian and “flexitarian” issues of health, recipes, and eco-friendly lifestyles. Website Magazine. WM is published monthly on all web design, development, and business issues. Wired. W is a monthly magazine reporting on how new technologies effect various aspects of the world’s cultures. Z. Z is a radical monthly publication “dedicated to resisting injustice, eliminating repression, and creating liberty. It addresses international relations, ecology, economics, gender, race, culture, and politics.”



Here are a few well-respected American colleges specializing in design, illustration, and/or some form of communication or media.  Remember that many of the larger state and private universities world-wide have excellent departments as well.  These are just a few of the 322 accredited schools you can look up at:

National Association of Schools of Art and Design (; Directory Lists; Accredited Institutional Members.

Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA. California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.  (School of Art):  (School of Design): Cleveland Institute of Art.  Cleveland, OH. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, NY. Corcoran College of Art and Design, Washington, DC. Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY. Florida International University, Miami, FL. Hartford Art School (Univ. of Hartford), Hartford, CT. Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM. Kendall College of Art and Design (Ferris State University), Grand Rapids, MI. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, NY. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, FL. Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA. of Visual Arts, New York, NY. of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, MA. Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. Tyler School of Art (Temple University), Philadelphia, PA. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA.


Web Sites

There are literally hundreds of sites a person can access in order to get information and advise on different aspects of design, especially when all the sites of individuals are taken into account.  Here are just a handful. Links for web, logo, font design and more. “35 stunning Web Design Studios and Portfolio Websites” . . . and more web   design and development resources. “The Culture of Design:” innovators, trends, the future (Australian). Bi-monthly report of the Design Futures Council.  Environmental Paper Network providing information on preferable options. Forest Stewardship Council. Helps professional communities implement sustainability. Green Seal. As part of the regular How Magazine site, this page reviews the best of the best sites for designers each month. Bringing human-centered design and pubic-interest design to “communities  around the world that are wrestling with poverty.” “Long live illustration.” Social media for the business world, often posts reviews of outstanding design firms as well as trends and publications in the industry.  Membership in specialty groups is Model of Architecture Serving Society.  Improving peoples’ lives through design. MatWeb, searchable database of materials properties. Rainforest Alliance a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, bringing together people from the worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design. U. S. Green Building Council. Makes information available on all aspects of waterless printing. Clearing house for innovative e-commerce website design. Webpage Design for Designers.


For next time: Observations on Design and Illustration #7: Definition of Illustration.

Comments, anyone? To find out about my background and experience or send comments, go to

Dennis O’Brien