The Basic Design titles address foundational art and design studies from

many viewpoints and include a chapter or section that examines color as a design

element. They either support a broad approach to visual studies and studio

production or focus on two- or three-dimensional design. A few basic design

books from related areas, such as theater design, that feature especially clear

explanations of color and light are included. While many of these books are

intended for college-level students, some of the general or classic works by

influential artists and designers will be of more interest to the advanced reader than

to the beginner.

In a separate second section, Introduction to Design and Art Appreciation

(224 - 267), are books that provide an introduction to the language of art and design

and offer various overviews of formal elements and design principles.

Since many of these books are undocumented, we make special note when

documentation or references are included. Some older books are included for their

historic perspective.

These design books offer a broad range of perspectives. Some texts

emphasize studio experience while others prepare for but do not include art

production. Others combine an overview of the history, theory, and meaning of art

and design with related studio experiences that are more or less prescriptive,

ranging from the traditional to the novel. A few current books incorporate video,

film, and electronic media. Some are suitable for a term-long two-dimensional

design course, while a few other texts support a year-long foundations program.

The “color theory” presented in many of these books is remarkably similar.

It usually consists of a hue circle, generally based on traditional painters’ primaries,

a review of basic color harmony based on relationships such as complementary

hues and analogous colors or triads and tetrads; and reference to Munsell’s three

dimensions of color. When there are exceptions or innovations we point them out.

The highly recommended books offer a good introduction to the visual arts

for the general reader as well as for the targeted audience. Because they provide a

broad overview no prior knowledge is required. The best books are clearly written

present a broad range of design and color topics, include a section on the nature of

color and light, color perception, and color theory, are well designed and

generously illustrated, and feature some combination of the following: index,

bibliography, and glossary. The best books for studio courses provide appropriate

exercises for students.