Time Travel by Book

A twitter conversation prompted me to look up a booklist I kept in 2001. Kinda awesome.


Via the Wayback machine!

Information Architecture and User Centered Design Reading List

This list has grown long and unwieldy, but until I have a chance to trim, I’ve rebuilt it so that it loads successively and I’ve added some anchors so you can slide down to your favorite section.

information design | intro to IA | advanced IA | general thinking | architecture | usability | visual design | brand | software development | miscellaneous

Information Architecture

The Forefathers
cover Information Architects Pretty much before there was a web, before Jakob was going to war with design, before all that hoo-haw…
There was Richard Saul Wurman saying that someone should design information in a way people could use it, and he called this person an Information Architect. Today we might call them information designers, but still.
cover Envisioning Information Well duh. In the arena of Information Design you cannot forget the Tufte trio (though reading the first might be enough unless you are an ID). The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Visual Explanations : Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative
The Basics
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web This was the first book on information architecture as a discipline on the web, where it has come to fruition. Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville helped defined the job of IA as it exists in many organizations today. This is a must-read.
cover Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience This is a wonderful book on how people move through websites, how they use them, read them, interact with them… and how we can design a better experience for them.
cover About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design Alan Cooper explains the basics of user interaction design. It was written for software, but the core is completely applicable.
 cover Practical Information Architecture Tim Salam wrote me “I find Eric’s style of writing to be semi-casual, low on the hardcore academic spin, and with emphasis on his candid assessment on IA concepts. You know what? That’s EXACTLY what I want to hear – professionals giving me straight-talk on what they think of this and that concept. That’s the stuff I can run into the field with and attack a problem head on.” and all I could say is that I’m embarrassed it isn’t on the list already.
 cover Mapping Websites: Digital Media Design is porn for IA’s. What we have here is a book of incredibly lovely well articulated information designs of maps of websites, from the planning documents IA’s struggle with to site maps. There is a chance that you will never be able to make deadline again, just trying to make deliverables as lovely as these, but it is worth it– why should designers get all the pretty books?
Serious Reading
cover User and Task Analysis for Interface Design An important book for interaction designers. Task analysis provides a way to think attentively about all the tiny considerations it takes to complete a task, and design to assure user success at that task.
cover Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things : What Categories Reveal About the Mind An important work for content architects in particular. His Metaphors We Live by is also a key work for IA’s.
covercover The Social Life of Information Okay, I haven’t read it, but it’s a to-do. Decide for yourself.Nicholas Paredes writes ” I had recently read Abstracting Craft and think it goes really well with “the social life of information” and “interface culture.” Many of the topics are very similar to the social life of information, yet from a perspective which is more psycho than social in the psycho social spectrum. What is craft? how does it apply to computers as tools? how are the senses used? how can interfaces facilitate craft? …
cover Contextual Design : A Customer-Centered Approach to Systems Designs All the cool kids are reading it.
The Humane Interface By learning from cognitive science, we can gain a better understanding of how humans think, and build interfaces for them rather than for machines. Many common assumptions are challenged in this terrific and highly accessible book.
covercover Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication and Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Text for Readers have been recommended to me by students in a class called “Communication Design for the WWW” at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Their professor, Bill Hart-Davidson, writes of the dynamics book “…also serious reading, but well worth it. I’ve heard it called the “Tufte of Document Design,” which isn’t far off.”
cover Designing Visual Interfaces Michael B. Moore writes “A thin but very good primer on what makes good interfaces work. Even though they come from the Sun/X/Motif world their advice is platform neutral.”

General Thinking

cover The Design of Everyday Things This is the first book for many that opens their eyes to the idea that the user dictates the design. Norman looks at everyday objects that frustrate us: have you ever pushed a door when youwere supposed to pull? No longer will you mutter “I’m an idiot” after readingDOET. Instead you’ll grumble “pooraffordances.” Which is the real joy of the book: Norman gently guides the reader from simple-to-grasp concepts to complex designprincipals.It’s also a fun read.
cover The Art & Science of Web Design Great primer on design on the web: perfect for anyone new to the medium. Jeff Veen covers aspects of web design from tech requirements through architecture to advertising online. Should be the text book for any class on web design, and provides the generalist knowledge needed for good web IA.
cover The Inmates Are Running the Asylum : Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How To Restore The Sanity An introduction to why software makes us batty and the fine technique of personas. Follow with a chaser of About Face
cover Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate I should have something insightful to say, but I don’t. Buy it, read it, stay up late thinking about it.

Related fields

covercover A Pattern Language : Towns, Buildings, Construction and How Buildings Learn :What Happens After They’re Built are the two books on “real” architecture that Information Architects tend to read.”How Buildings Learn” it is is truly amazing. Each page connects form with use, use over time, and the dangers of overspecialized shapes. Lots of relevancy to webdesign, as well as product design and anything humans have to use.
cover Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability This is how it works: If you know nothing about Usability,buy Steve Krug’s book. If you know a little about usability,buy JakobNeilsen’s book on design, andbuy Krug’s book for your boss. If you know a fair amount about usability,buyNeilsen’s book on Usability Engineering,buy Krug’s book for your boss and buyNeilsen’s design book for the designer sitting near you (if nothing else, it’ll inspire some interesting conversations.Oh, and if you need to explain usability to anyone, you still need Steve Krug’s book. His book is sensible, funny and insightful– even if you already know everything he’s saying it’s still a pleasurable read.
cover Designing Web Usability Should probably be required reading for anyone who does web design. Yes Jakob is didactic, extreme and occasionally outdated. He’s also insightful, inspiring and holds us all to a higher standard. Anyone working in web design today should read him, if only to decide how you relate to him.
cover Usability Engineering Jakob Nielsen’s earlier and more scholarly (AKA harder to read) book on the art and practice of usability. A must-read if you plan to do usability testing, well worth skimming if you work with usability folks.
Handbook of Usability Testing You have to run your own usability testing? Buy this book. This is the single most useful resource for writing screeners and test scripts, conducting testing to get good results and analyzing the results.
Visual Design
coverelements of typographic style Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works a great and visually lush explanation of the importance of type. If you’ve ever felt that times andarial are enough as font choices, read this.If you hunger for more knowledge on type, The Elements of Typographic Style will be next on your list.
cover Designing Business Clement Mok’s seminal piece that brought forward the importance of design and information architecture to a business’s success.
Tibor is changed the way I think about design. Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist is beautiful, playful and revolutionary. From his work with Talking Heads to his magazine “colors” his designs were insightful and relentlessly original…. If you are on a budget consider Design and Undesign, a thinner and cheaper Tibor for those seeking a “lite” survey of his work. Salon Article on his life and SFMOMA Exhibit
More recommendations at biggerhand.com (opens a new window)
cover Building Strong Brands Brand, Like IA is a hard to define field and absolutely essential to a web-businesses success (to any business’s success) This book explains brand in a language that anyone can understand without talking down to anyone. Truly a book for novices and experts, and that’s a rare distinction. Don’t trust me, have a taste.
no picture available Corporate Identity : Making Business Strategy Visible Through Design I asked the best brand strategist I’ve ever met which book to read and she pointed me to this one. Lots of amazing illustrations, lots of great insights on brand beyond business. Definitely a great introductory text.
no picture available Logos : The Development of Visual Symbols Through the story of one very smart designer creating a logo for one very particular client, the author manages to cover how to handle client relations, how to keep creative juices flowing, how to move through a structured design process, and what a logo needs to do to be successful– all without losing the narrative flow of the core story.
Software Development
cover Design Patterns Ed Q. Briges writes: “although it’s probably more technical than most info-architects may be interested in, the “Gang of Four” book is tremendously influential in current software architecture and design circles. In turn influenced by Christopher Alexander’s notions about architecture and designing habitable spaces. After all, coders “live” in the code they’re — more often than not — maintaining. and, the experience of dealing with poorly written software (both for a coder and a user), is not unlike trying to make sense out of a badly designed building or public space. The book itself is very usefully designed, being a highly structured catalog of patterns.”
cover Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Models and Methods of UsageCentered Design (ACM Press) This is another ‘everyone tells me to read it’ but I haven’t. So you try it. Anyone who has… send me your thoughts.

Unrelated, yet IA’s tend to read this stuff

cover Understanding Comics I know few IA’s who haven’t read and dug this book… unsurprising once you realize this is an intriguing meditation on the visual presentation of information… er… stories. Tasty. The companion volume Reinventing Comicsis a good exploration on taking comics to the next level –online– while keeping their core nature intact.Visit his site and read his chess piece.
cover Zen Flesh, Zen Bones : A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings (Shambhala Pocket Classics) Okay, ignoring the issue of “are IA’s interested in Zen” I’d like to point out this small book is a model of great design for use. It expresses Zen in four ways: through stories, though pictures, through koans and through exercises… talk about tailoring an interface to different kinds of learning! Plus this edition is small enough for all pockets.
Designing Disney’s Theme Parks : The Architecture of Reassurance From peterme.com “Karal Ann Marling. A worthwhile peek into the processes of brilliant ‘experience designers.'”
If on a winter's night a travellercover If on a Winters Night a Traveler and The Mezzanine are both works of fiction in which the format and structure of the book is as important to the story as the compelling and wonderfully crafted fiction inside. Both a compelling read and an education on reinventing form.


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  1. 2

    The bulk of it, honestly. Tufte, Lakoff, the new About Face is even better than the old, Inmates & DOET, Stop Stealing Sheep, Tibor, all the Unrelated and architecture, less changes than we think.

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