Design Resources for Aspiring Developers

Design Resources for Aspiring Developers

Billy Whited

March 16, 2011

In a web saturated with numerous opinion blogs, gallery showcases, tutorial sites and technical references, where should an aspiring web developer go to seek knowledge about basic web design?

If you are just starting to expand your design awareness—and you don't have the luxury of being plugged into a network of savvy designers—it can really be difficult to determine where to look, what to read, and who to listen to.

In my first two weeks working at 8th Light, several of my developer colleagues have expressed interest in learning more about the wizardry that goes into the front-end: whether they've been perplexed by an unfamiliar piece of software, or impressed by the structure of a well-formatted style sheet.

So, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the resources I've collected over the years—resources that I keep coming back to, again and again, for aesthetic, technical, or ethical guidance. The following list isn't exhaustive, but it will provide a jumping off point for those developers looking to heighten their design IQ:

Books on Design

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

This book provides profound insights into the nature of human computer interaction. By examining overlooked design principles, Norman ensures that you’ll never think about your surroundings in the same way again.

A Practical Guide to Desigining for the Web by Mark Boulton

Designing for the Web by Mark Boulton

A concise and well written introduction to the many components of web design including: research, color, typography, layout, grids, and more. This book will grant you an appreciation for web design.

Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton

Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

Typography is the most essential component of any graphic design (either for web or print). Difficult to master, its often misunderstood by new designers. Read this book and open yourself up to new ways of seeing.

Technical Resources

A List Apart icon

A List Apart

A List Apart is a website stocked full with well-curated and peer-reviewed articles written by some of the most prominent names in web design and development. Topics range from the technical to the ethical.

Opera Web Browser icon

Opera Web Standards Curriculum

I believe that to do good work designers must be able to read, write and and HTML and CSS. The Opera Web Standards Curriculum is free, updated frequently, and filled with great tutorials that will help you do just that.

Lynda Icon

Today's graphics editors are as complicated as space-ships and as difficult to learn. With high-production values and excellent course design, the video tutorials on can bring you up to speed quickly.

Websites for Inspiration

ffffound Icon


It's a good practice to seek inspiration from other creative realms like advertising, photography and visual art. FFFFound! is photographic stream of the stuff. It's a beautiful cornucopia. Go get lost in it!

Dribbble Icon


Dribbble is an innovative sharing space for 400 x 300px screenshots of sketches, illustrations, digital artwork, typography, icons and many other nameless things. Many great designers submit work to this site.

Site Inspire Icon

Site Inspire

The web is saturated with so called "galleries" that purport to exhibit the best work on the web, but that merely follow the latest trends. Site Inspire, on the other hand, exhibits websites that buck familiar design trends.

Applications for Productivity

Ommwriter icon


Writing is a crucial part of interface design, but it's a laborious process. And while no tool can make you a better writer, Ommwriter makes it easier to focus on the task by removing the distractions of traditional word processors.

xScope icon


When I encounter the need to measure an element on-screen, establish an alignment grid, or grab the hexcode for an appealing color, I count on xScope to do the job quickly and easily. It's a major time saver.

Things icon


I have a tendency to forget things. Rather than trying to keep track of everything I need to get done in my head, I rely on Things. It frees up brain power so I can focus on the stuff that matters: like the tasks at hand.

Designers to Watch

Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria

@jasonsantamaria is a master of typography, design articulation and effective layout. He teaches in the MFA Interaction Design program at SVA, New York and consistently produces classic, trend-free site designs.

Jessica Hische

Jessica Hische

@jessicahische is intimidatingly good at what she does. Her portfolio of hand drawn lettering is evidence of the creative heights to which an understanding of type can take you.

Frank Chimero

Frank Chimero

@fchimero is a brilliant illustrator. But more than that, he is an interesting design thinker and a humanist. Recently, he sought funding on Kickstarter for a book he wants to write titled “The Shape of Design.”