Academic Reading

Universal Principles of Design

Universal Principles of Design

Strongly recommend this book. It’s just like a godsend and offers me quite a lot of professional guidances. Here’s a few notes taken from this book:

How can I influence the way a design is perceived?


“When elements are not arranged in a row /column format, consider highlighting the alignment paths.”

Closure instance


“Use closure to reduce the complexity and increase the interestingness of designs.”

Color instance


“Generally, desaturated, bright colors are perceived as friendly and professional; desaturated, dark colors are perceived as serious and professional; and saturated colors are perceived as more exciting and dynamic. Exercise caution when combining saturated colors, as they can visually interfere with one another and increase eye fatigue. ”“Verify the meaning of colors and color combinations for a particular target audience prior to use.”

Figure instance

Figure-Ground Relationship

“Elements below a horizon line are more likely to be perceived as figures, whereas elements above a horizon line are more likely to be perceived as ground. Elements in the lower regions of a design are more likely to be perceived as figures, whereas elements in the upper regions are more likely to be perceived as ground.”

Five Hat Racks

“There are five ways to organize information: category, time, location, alphabet, and continuum.”

Gutenberg Diagram

“The Gutenberg diagram divides a display medium into four quadrants: the primary optical area at the top left, the terminal area at the bottom right, the strong fallow area at the top right, and the weak fallow area at the bottom left. Otherwise, use the weight and composition of elements to lead the eye.”

How can I help people learn from a design?

Depth of Processing

“Consider depth of processing in design contexts where recall and retention of information is important. ”“Depth of processing is improved through the use of multiple presentation media and learning activities that engage learners in elaborative rehearsal.”

Caution instance

Garbage In-Garbage Out

“Use affordances and constraints to minimize problems of type. Use previews and confirmations to minimize problems of quality. When input integrity is critical, use validation tests to check integrity prior to input, and consider confirmation steps that require the independent verification of multiple people.”

How can I enhance the usability of a design?


“Identify the critical 20 percent of the functions and make them readily available in toolbars.”

Aesthetic-Usability Effect

“Aesthetic designs are perceived as easier to use than less aesthetic designs.”


“Permit less critical confirmations to be disabled after an initial confirmation.”


“Use aesthetic consistency to establish unique identities that can be easily recognized. Use functional consistency to simplify usability and ease of learning.”

Ad instance


“An activity will be pursued only if its benefits are equal to or greater than costs. Verify cost-benefit perceptions of target populations through careful observations, focus groups, usability tests.”

Entry Point

“The key elements of good entry point design are minimal barriers, points of prospect, and progressive lures.”

Fitts’ Law

“Positioning a button along a screen edge or in a screen corner significantly reduces the homing movements required, resulting in fewer errors and faster acquisitions.”

Progressive Disclosure

“Use progressive disclosure to reduce information complexity, especially when people interacting with the design are novices or infrequent users. Hide infrequently used controls or information, but make them readily available through some simple operations, such as pressing a More button.”

How can I increase the appeal of a design?

Baby-Face Bias

“In marketing and advertising, use mature-faced people when conveying expertise and authority; use baby-faced people when conveying testimonial information and submissiveness.”


“Stress and time pressures amplify these behaviors, a phenomenon frequently exploited in high pressure sales: present a product in a positive frame, present competitors in a negative frame, and time-bound the decision to pressure the buy. To maintain a strong framing effect, make sure that frames are not conflicting.”

Symmetry instance


“Use simple symmetrical forms when recognition and recall are important, and more complex combinations of the different types of symmetries when aesthetics and interestingness are important.”

 How can I make better design decisions?

Development Cycle

“Excellent design is usually accomplished through careful research of existing or analogous solutions, active brainstorming of many diverse participants, ample use of prototyping, and many iterations of trying, testing and tuning concepts.”

“Gather requirements through controlled interactions with target audiences, rather than simple feedback or speculation by team members. Use research, brainstorming, prototyping, and iterative design to achieve optimal designs. Minimize variability in products and processes to improve quality. Test all aspects of the design to the degree possible.”

Expectation Effect

“Keep the expectation effect in mind when introducing or promoting a new design. When trying to persuade, leverage the effect by setting expectations in a credible fashion to guide the target audience to the desired conclusion.”

Ockham’s Razor

“Ockham’s razor asserts that simplicity is preferred to complexity in design.”


Lidwell, W, Holden, K, & Butler, J 2003, Universal Principles Of Design / William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler, n.p.: Gloucester, Mass. : Rockport, [2003], ©2003., University of Edinburgh’s Library Catalogue, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 May 2014.


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