Questioning the Edges of Design

Selected Books and Essays [Detail]

Books and Essays

I enjoy writing, it helps sharpen the mind and it reflects my teaching ethos, that, “A good writer is a good thinker.”

In addition to writing books for Five Simple Steps and friends of ED, I’ve also been fortunate to be invited to write for numerous journals, both printed and electronic. I’ve written for 8 Faces, Offscreen, The Manual, 24 Ways and numerous others; in addition to publishing the world’s most compact typography journal, Glyph. I’ve provided a comprehensive list of books and essays below.

I’m always interested in widening my audience, if you’d like me to write something for you, please do drop me a line and say, “Hello.” I’d love to make your acquaintance.


I’m fortunate to have written for publishers both small (Five Simple Steps) and large (friends of ED). I have a few new titles in the pipeline, but – while I work on those – the following might interest you.

The Craft of Words, Part 1 - Macrocopy [Detail]

The Craft of Words, Part 1 - Macrocopy

Five Simple Steps, 2013

Look carefully and you’ll notice that many of the most successful designs are built around words. Apple tantalises us with the ability to hold “1,000 songs in your pocket.” MailChimp has created a wonderfully engaging brand, heavily focused around language. In this, the first of a two part volume for Five Simple Steps, I explore the role that words can play in establishing a clear brand identity.

“Words are an important, but often overlooked, aspect of the design process. The Craft of Words, Part 1 – Macrocopy underlines the importance of putting as much thought into crafting words as you do giving them form. Required reading.” —Haruki Kurosawa, Plankton

Buy the book.

The Craft of Words, Part 2 - Microcopy [Detail]

The Craft of Words, Part 2 - Microcopy

Five Simple Steps, 2013

Almost every interaction you make, through a website or application, involves words. Words can help, words can hinder. They can ease a user on their journey or they can get in the way, causing frustration. Given their power, it’s no surprise to discover that companies like 37signals and MailChimp, to name but two, position words at the heart of their design process.

The Craft of Words, Part 2 – Microcopy is my favourite and most useful pocket guide from Five Simple Steps yet.” —Robert Mills, Author, Designing the Invisible

Buy the book.

The Standardistas - HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions [Detail]

HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions

friends of ED, 2009

Even if you’re an absolute beginner in web design, this book will teach you how to build future-proof web pages the right way, using easy to master tools, which are all available for free. Step-by-step the book covers how to construct well-structured HTML pages and how to apply layout and style to these pages using CSS.

Receiving widespread praise, the book – which is fully supported by an extensive series of standalone files to aid learning – has been adopted by university courses the world over to introduce students to HTML and CSS in a carefully structured manner. Described as, “Invaluable.” by Tim Van Damme (Instagram, Dropbox); Jon Tan (Fictive Kin) stated: “Every design school on the planet should make this a required textbook.”

This is more than just another book: it’s a textbook. This should come as no surprise as the authors are lecturers at the Belfast School of Art.

“More than just another book: it’s a textbook. Each chapter builds appropriately on the previous and each chapter ends with an exercise for the reader. The exercise enforces what has been learned up to that point and sets the stage for the chapter to come.” —Jonathan Snook, Author, SMACSS

Buy the book.


As an academic, anthologies – “published collections of literary works,” as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it – naturally interest me. I’m delighted to have written for a number of well-respected anthologies, including the following.

24 Ways, 2013 [Detail]

Managing a Mind

24 Ways, 2013

Drawing from personal experience – which I reflected upon in A Non-Graceful Shutdown – I was delighted to be invited to contribute to 24 Ways a second time in 2013. Writing on a topic close to my heart, that of Managing a Mind, and ensuring a healthy work-life balance in the face of the often overwhelming pressure we face in our industry.

On Creative Spirit [Detail]

On Creative Spirit

Smashing Book #4, 2013

I recently contributed the closing chapter of Smashing Book #4, ‘On Creative Spirit’, which explores the creation of ‘idea factories’. Identifying a number of common characteristics that bind together creative pioneers – from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs – I define a series of strategies one can use to unlock an endless flow of ideas.

Designing the Mind [Detail]

Designing the Mind

The Manual, 2011

I was honoured to be invited to write for the inaugural edition of The Manual, a publication focused on exploring the whys and wherefores of design as it pertains to the web. ‘Designing the Mind’ poses the question: “How does the designer who is functionally competent grow professionally?” The chapter explores the importance of developing analytical and critical thinking through a three stage process that involves the intertwining of input, synthesis, and output.

24 Ways, 2010 [Detail]

Good Ideas Grow on Paper

24 Ways, 2011

This short treatise for 24 Ways, titled Good Ideas Grow on Paper, encouraged designers to eschew the computer for a change and instead embrace paper. As I put it: “Great designers have one thing in common: their design process is centred on ideas; ideas that are more often than not developed on paper.” It’s advice that still stands and as anyone who’s attended one of my workshops will affirm, delivers great results, every time.


In the wonderful world of academia the humble ‘magazine’ is often referred to as a ‘journal’, a term that lends a certain gravitas towards the written word. I'm delighted to have written for numerous publications, both offline and online. I’ve gathered a selection of these below.

Offscreen Magazine [Detail]

A Non-Graceful Shutdown

Offscreen Magazine, 2014

I’ve always appreciated Offscreen Magazine so when I met Kai Brach, Offscreen’s publisher, at Brooklyn Beta #4 and he invited me to contribute an article to Offscreen, I embraced the opportunity. The piece, titled A Non-Graceful Shutdown, highlights the often undiscussed issue of mental health in our industry, a topic very close to my heart.

Cornel Windlin · F Robotnik [Detail]

A Typographic Laboratory

8 Faces, 2014

Fully immersed in the limitless digital playgrounds we inhabit today, it’s difficult to imagine a time when the computer at the service of typography was a novelty. Rewinding almost a quarter of a century, FUSE, a typographic product of digital culture, leaves a polarising legacy: celebrated by some, cursed by others. This essay, part of a series highlighting our typographic history for 8 Faces, explored FUSE’s legacy.

Net Magazine #248 · Idea Factories [Detail]

Idea Factories

Net Magazine, 2013

We’re living in a world where designers and developers‚ who were previously focused on client and services are increasingly turning to digital product design to develop potential new business streams, but how do you generate those ideas? In this piece on Idea Factories for Net Magazine’s Voices column, I outline a process to open the ideas floodgates.

The New Adventures Newspaper, 2013 · A Shared Future

A Shared Future

The New Adventures Newspaper, 2013

The landscape of interactive design is one characterised by constant flux; it’s changing and evolving at a rate we have never experienced before. Few, if any, industries reinvent themselves yearly, monthly, weekly… In this piece for The New Adventures Newspaper, I argue that we need to rally together to collectively shape our future, working together to shape a shared future.

Additional Essays and Articles

Ed Fella Poster [Detail]

Ed Fella – Exit Level Designer

8 Faces #6, 2013

At Yahoo! Anyone’s a Designer [Detail]

At Yahoo! Anyone's A Designer

Creative Bloq, 2013

Octavo 8 [Detail]

Ovtavo - A Retrospective

8 Faces #5, 2012

Designing Better Branding [Detail]

Branding in the Digital Age

Computer Arts #205, 2012

Typography Sketchbooks [Detail]

Typography Sketchbooks

8 Faces #4, 2012

Browser Tools [Detail]

The Tools of Our Craft

.net Magazine #218, 2011

Codex [Detail]


8 Faces #3, 2011

Establishing a Visual Grammar [Detail]

Establishing a Visual Grammar

The New Adventures Newspaper #1, 2011

The League of Movable Type [Detail]

The League of Movable Type

8 Faces #1, 2010

Crafting Web Design Education [Detail]

Crafting Web Design Education

.net Magazine #208, 2010

Publishers’ Samples

I’m always interested in widening my audience, if you’d like me to write something for you, please do drop me a line and say, “Hello.” I’d love to make your acquaintance. If you're a publisher and you'd like samples of past commissions, I’d be happy to provide you with a PDF to showcase my writing.