I was asked the other day on twitter if there were any good books about wayfinding. The answer is no, there aren’t any; at least, there is no single, reliable, comprehensive and nuanced account of the subject in one place.
I have had to piece together a body of knowledge and expertise from all over the place. This list is a partial snapshot of my library. These books have all been of real, practical use to me in my day to day work. If a book gives me one idea, I consider it a useful investment and time well spent reading it.
The most important idea in wayfinding is: respect the subtle. Human beings are nuanced, complicated and contradictory. They are subtle, they do things in ways you wouldn’t think, they think things in ways you wouldn’t do. It is hard to know what it is like to be a human because we do most things, very complicated things at that, without conscious reflection. It is hard to introspect in a reliable way. This is important because navigating, carrying out tasks, appreciating aesthetics, all features of wayfinding and design, are all subtle.
The corollary is; people are not dummies, or stupid. If you hear sentences beginning either, “surely people can” or “you would have to be an idiot to”, be immediately on your guard. A crass and incorrect generalisation is about to follow, an over- or underestimation of how people are, usually in order to justify a piece of awful or inadequate design.
I stress this because it is not an idea you will readily find in design literature. You may find partial accounts of it, or caricatures of it, but never really embraced in all its difficulties.
Respect the subtle. People deserve the best.
Green, M; Allen, M; Abrams, B; Weintraub, L. Forensic Vision with Application to Highway Safety. Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company, 2008
Dowding, Geoffrey. Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type. Wace, 1966
Swann, Cal. Language and typography. John Wiley & Sons Incorporated, 1991
Swann, Cal. Techniques of typography. Vol. 2. Lund Humphries, 1969
Spiekermann, Erik. Stop stealing sheep and find out how type works. Pearson Education, 2013
Spencer, Herbert. The Visible Word. Lund Humphries, 1969
Zachrisson, Bror. Studies in the legibility of printed text. Almqvist & Wisell, 1965
Albers, Josef. Interaction of color. Yale University Press, 1975
Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes. A sign systems manual. Praeger, 1970
Müller-Brockmann, Josef. Grid systems in graphic design: a visual communication manual for graphic designers, typographers and three dimensional designers. Niggli, 1981
Vinh, Khoi. Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design. Pearson Education, 2010
Roberts, Lucien E., and Julia Thrift. The designer and the grid. Rockport Publishers, 2002
Psychology, interactions and usability
Norman, Donald A. The design of everyday things. Basic books, 2002
Nielsen, Jakob. Usability engineering. Elsevier, 1994
Wickens, Christopher D., Sallie E. Gordon, and Yili Liu. An introduction to human factors engineering. Pearson, 2000
Hillier, Bill. Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture. 2007
Ching, Francis DK. Architecture: Form, space, and order. Wiley, 2010
Arthur, Paul, and Romedi Passini. Wayfinding: people, signs, and architecture. 1992
Imhoff, E. Cartographic Relief Representation. ESRI Press, 2007
Tufte, Edward R. Visual explanations: images and quantities, evidence and narrative. Graphics Press, 1997
Tufte, Edward R., Envisioning Information. Graphics Press, 1990
Uebele, Andreas. Signage systems & information graphics: a professional sourcebook. Thames & Hudson, 2007
Design in general
Lidwell, William, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler. Universal principles of design, revised and updated: 125 ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, make better design decisions, and teach through design. Rockport, 2010
Macdonald, Nico What is web design?. Rotovision, 2003
Hollis, Richard. Graphic Design: A Concise History. Thames & Hudson, 1994
Sudjic, Deyan. Cult objects: the complete guide to having it all. Paladin, 1985
Gill, Bob. Unspecial effects for graphic designers. Graphis, 2001
Ogilvy, David. Confessions of an advertising man. Atheneum, 1963