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Simon Collison | Colly | Journal | My recommended reading
This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

My recommended reading

21st September 2011

During my talks and subsequent conversation, I often mention numerous books that have influenced my thinking. As a result, I’m getting an increasing number of emails and tweets asking for a full list. So, to deal with that, I’ve pulled together the following list.

This is by no means comprehensive, but the titles listed here are the ones that have really shaped my brain, helped me be a better designer, a more coherent coder, and assisted me in working out what I do and why I do it.

I apologise for the lack of descriptions, but at least I’ve linked to each on Amazon (UK) or the relevant publisher. At the very least, every human should read The Design of Everyday Things, Understanding Comics, and Ways of Seeing. Every designer ought to read Visual Grammar and Visible Signs, and own copies of The Art of Looking Sideways and The Elements of Typographic Style. We can all learn from Managing Oneself, and can improve our delivery with Communicating Design.

Then again, that’s just my view, although it’s a good one. Anyway, here’s the list.

Design in general
Older web primers

No doubt I’ve forgotten something vital (I’ve done this without being in my office), so I may add to this list as I go. Also, if you think I’ve missed something, drop a comment.


Alex Leeson-Brown

# Alex Leeson-Brown responded on 21st September 2011 with...

Appreciate the list, Simon. Very useful indeed.

Liam O'Leary

# Liam O'Leary responded on 21st September 2011 with...

What! That’s 10 life times of books at my reading speed.

Will try to get through as many as possible, thanks Colly!

Looking forward to NAConf ‘12 :-D

Jason Neel

# Jason Neel responded on 21st September 2011 with...

What about Steve Krug’s books? Those seem to be essential reading, especially Don’t Make Me Think. Just a thought.

Looking at this list though (and, well, looking at my poor design skills), it seems as though I need to get caught up on that list of design books, I think.  I’ve read just about everything in the last three categories, but hardly anything in the first two.

Thanks for helping to replenish my Amazon wishlist!

Andy Pimlett

# Andy Pimlett responded on 21st September 2011 with...

And if you could only choose one from each category? :)

Richard Eskins

# Richard Eskins responded on 21st September 2011 with...

Great list Simon. Can I recommend your friends and mine, the Web Standardista’s book, HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions: A Web Standardistas’ Approach. In my humble opinion the most excellent starter for any designer, coder, programmer, whatever, for your Web-specific section.

Simon Collison

# Simon Collison responded on 21st September 2011 with...

Richard Eskins: Ah yes. I agree about the Standardistas book. I have a copy, have read it, and like it. So, I’ve added it to the list.

Simon Collison

# Simon Collison responded on 21st September 2011 with...

Jason Neel: Sure, Don’t Make Me Think had an impact on me earlier in my career. Maybe I should add it, but I think I’ll read it again first. Oh, and good luck with the wish list.

Andy McMillan

# Andy McMillan responded on 21st September 2011 with...

Excellent list Colly—and thanks for including The Manual!

Richard Eskins

# Richard Eskins responded on 21st September 2011 with...

Don’t Make Me Think is a great suggestion. The perfect companion to the Standardistas book for those starting out.

Alex Sexton

# Alex Sexton responded on 21st September 2011 with...

Great list. I have about half of them on my wish list and the other half stacked on my desk. May I suggest Handcrafted CSS by Dan Cederholm - an excellent read.


# iDGS responded on 21st September 2011 with...

I’d nominate Edward Tufte’s classic, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

Jeremy Swinnen

# Jeremy Swinnen responded on 22nd September 2011 with...

This can’t be good for my wallet…

Jason Stone

# Jason Stone responded on 22nd September 2011 with...

Awesome. Thanks Simon!

Have a few of these books already, but plenty more to get reading, thanks again!!

Kyle Keeling

# Kyle Keeling responded on 22nd September 2011 with...

Thanks for the list, looking forward to checking out some of those titles.


# David responded on 22nd September 2011 with...

Colly, I already own a copy of The Elements of Typographic Style and Letter Fountain, would you say The Typographic Desk Reference is still worth a look? Even at the £40-£50 it’s listed at on Amazon at the moment? Thanks for the great list.


# Terry responded on 25th September 2011 with...

“HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions: A Web Standardistas’ Approach” is a great book, but a bit outdated (2008) with its focus on XHTML. Let’s be frank: it’s time for a new edition of this little classic… At the moment if you need an updated intro book to web design I would suggest “Build Your Own Web Site The Right Way Using HTML & CSS” (3rd edition 2011) or “InterACT with Web Standards: A Holistic Approach to Web Design” (1st edition 2010).

David Ashkanasy

# David Ashkanasy responded on 29th September 2011 with...

Argh just when I thought I had a great list of design-related books to take me through to the end of the year, I come across this! I’ve noticed though that this list appears to be more focused closer to the more creative elements of design, rather than anything user-centric like usability. Or am I wrong?

Matt Carey

# Matt Carey responded on 3rd October 2011 with...

Not directly related, but everytime I try and read something from your RSS feed (in Reeder.app) I get an error. Thought I might mention it, in case it is a common problem :)


# Leon responded on 17th October 2011 with...

I believe you might have missed one…


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