As a web developer, I often find myself working with different non-professional self-called designers. In such situations, I often have to explain them the most basic rules and principles about the design in general and web design in particular. It is boring and unpleasant, especially if the self-called designer replies by "I never heard about those rules; prove that you're right".

Is there an authoritative reference (and not a blog of some unknown guy) which lists the basic rules and principles that every designer must learn at the very first year in college?

Remark: I thought about finding a good manual, but the designers I work with are usually unwilling to read books, so it's not a solution. I would rather imagine a website with a list of rules with a short description for every rule and the detailed links for people who want to go further or understand the reasons behind a precise rule. This being said, I'm also interested in books if they are accessible and easy to quote later in mail to illustrate what I've said during the discussion.

Example of rules I'm talking about:

  • In typography, the text cannot be underlined, unless it's an hypertext link on a web page. See 25 Rules of Setting Type (pdf), pt. 9; also Basic tips for more fashionable typography.

  • In design, dark gray text on black background may be difficult to read.

  • In web design, you can't predict the size of the text, pixel by pixel, in browser, since it depends on the installed fonts and browser accessibility settings.

  • 1
    These are less graphic design rules and more web site usability/accessibility rules-of-thumb. I'd vote to migrate this to UX.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 8, 2011 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


I don't know whether this question should be closed or not

we have lots of similar question on this site you can check all of them one by one there are lots of good resources to start with :

Is there an authoritative reference (and not a blog of some unknown guy) which lists the basic rules and principles that every designer must learn at the very first year in college?

i guess if your designers will master in basic they'll surely move to something upgraded, but sadly in this design world we have only basic which automatically turn to advance when we have specific/solid knowledge of basic with time and experience.... this field is endless

Example of rules I'm talking about:

It seems that you just need a kind of set which you can follow always with your work, it is also boring sometime if we work out of track that make us count rather than following a particular set always.

Other use full links/Books:

  1. The Principles of Beautiful Web Design Second Edition from site point
  2. 9 Essential Principles for Good Web Design From PSD TUTS+
  3. Web Design Principles Checklist
  4. 30 Useful Web Design/Programming Books
  5. 20 Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Web Design
  6. 100 do and donts in web design PDF
  7. 12 Design book Just creative
  8. Popular Design books
  9. 30 Delightful Graphic Design Books
  10. 10 Essential Free E-Books for Web Designers

Hope this will help......


I thoroughly recommend reading the book Universal principles of design ( http://www.universalprinciplesofdesign.com/ ). It covers 125 design principles (in the current revision, 100 in the previous one), looking not only at software and web design but covering a wide range of design areas, although all are good to be aware of.

Each topic has a single page of description, and a single page of visual examples. Each item has a little panel that lists seminal works on the principle and gives further reading.

It's easy to dip in and out of and for those perhaps less aware of the existence of these design principles, it's an eye-opener.

The first two of your three examples are covered in this book (under principles of Highlighting and Legibility).


If you need a defined set of rules for your designers to do their job, then the solution is really to find better designers.

It sounds like you are trying to have graphic designers design web sites. If the graphic designers are not web designers, then this will be a problem going forward no matter how many rules-of-thumb you give them. It's an issue of knowing the medium one is working in and a lot of graphic designers aren't familiar with the medium of HTML, CSS and JS as much as they should be.

To answer the specific question, there's no master list of proper usability, interface and accessibility guidelines, though there are plenty of sources out there. Research/Google terms such as:

  • user interface
  • pattern libraries
  • accessibility
  • usability
  • human interface guidelines
  • "It sounds like you are trying to have graphic designers design web sites": it's rather that I'm forced to work with people who are not designers at all, but are convincing their boss that they are. Yes, it sounds strange, but it is a current situation in France. Commented Jul 8, 2011 at 23:18
  • Unfortunately, if that's the situation, a list isn't probably going to fix anything anyways. I do wish you luck!
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 0:28
  • mainma i understand what are you facing, its kind of dealing with unknown bugs, and the thing which you are doing this is the only way to work smoothly set some standard and let them follow at lest by this they will know lots of things,and particularly you can measure there performance with your boss on the basis of certain rule set.....wishing you very good luck
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 6:28
  • Actually, this is beggining to sound like a workplace SE question... "Im forced to work with ignorant fools who additionaly question my authority when i give them good advice"
    – K.L.
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 11:51

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