Indeed, their simple and typical design make it easy to just put them together as quickly as possible and move on. The table of contents is more than just a list of the parts of a book or other document in the order that they appear. An opportunity to shock an unsuspecting reader of a report, brochure, book, or other content containing document is missed if you don’t consider the design of the table of contents. You can be innovative and create beautiful table of contents designs that might just leave people thinking twice about the potential of the seemingly boring introduction to what’s within.
In this article, we will attempt to prove just how creative you can get in designing a table of contents by showing you the best examples we’ve found and compiled below.
After viewing them you may begin to rethink your own design for your table of contents.
First, we’ll explain why we think the TOC is so important.
The Importance Of The Table To Contents
The table of contents is like a “vintage UI” with the purpose of helping people navigate through a document. It is one of the first pieces that a person sees when looking through a book or document, as that is the first places they will look to get the lay of the land.
You can either stick to the traditional eye-bore or take advantage of this fact by giving the table of contents a facelift.
Thankfully, many publications have begun to take notice of this neglected section and have begun to spice it up with images, catchy typography, and graphic elements making the table of contents visually appealing.
Okay, so you’re convinced. You might still need some inspiration to create your own table of contents designs.
We hear you.
Below we offer websites with examples ranging from magazine covers and books to annual reports and brochures.
How We Chose Our Ratings
These websites with TOC examples were rated based on creativity, originality, and reviews from other design blogs. We also considered the popularity of the websites as a proof of their authenticity and authority.
We always rate our examples honestly based on our experience and strive for accuracy by verifying the sources we use for the examples that we choose to use.
Top Five Examples Of Table Of Contents Designs
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Used by non-designers and professionals the world over, Canva is a free graphic design tool website that uses an easy drag and drop format. With no technical skills required to use the tool anyone can use boundless features to create content that will engage an audience and share it.
Along with being a graphic design tool Canva is a learning hub. Its blog is packed with a treasure trove of valuable information on graphic design.
In an article written by Maria Jose, they show numerous examples of TOCs while presenting the different approaches the creators of the various TOCs to create an original design.
For example, the grid used on Dale Magazine’s TOC is clean and simple. Since the TOC is printed on black paper and the typography is printed in a bright, light blue, it looks like the TOC was written with electricity. This aesthetic gives the TOC an exciting vibe.
The variety of example, excellent tips on design, and authority of the sight on all topics design, this sight gets the highest score.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Pinterest is one of the top websites in the world. And for good reason. A site driven entirely on visuals and imagery, it asks as a virtual pin board. It is unique why to share your interests and passions and is a modern take on the traditional vision board.
It is extremely accessible running as both a web and mobile application and gives you access to search on the web for the images you want to share.
This is an obvious choice for looking for inspiration as a creative professional looking for ideas to update your TOC designs.
With the click of a button you get access to millions of visuals from which to breath life into your work. The one thing you won’t find on this robust site are tips to creating you TOC. The lack of text content limits it to just visual inspiration. This drawback brings the rating down a bit.
Because of its accessibility and ease in finding hundreds of examples of great TOC designs, Pinterest gets a high ranking on our list.
3. Flipsnack Blog
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Flipsnack Blog is an online hub for learning about design and marketing. Flipsnack hosts tutorials, books, and a design school. These tools are all geared toward teaching their users how to “create, publish, and share digital publications in the form of online flipbooks.”
Ultimately, Flipsnack is a software that allows you to convert PDF files into well-designed flipbooks that you can then share. The flipbooks can also be embedded into your website or blog in the form of your choosing, whether the document is a magazine, book or newspaper.
The Flipsnack Blog offers solid steps on how to create a beautiful TOC with accompanying examples of a variety of TOC designs. The ranking is lowered because it doesn’t offer the number of examples found on the Pinterest.
This resource gets its rating for its commitment to design, a high web ranking, easy-to-follow advice on how to create a rocking TOC, and, of course, for offering stunning examples of TOCs.
4. Design Observer
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Design Observer combines a cultural awareness and activism to its commitment to design and innovation to produce an extraordinary. One of the founding editors, Jessica Helfand, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer. In addition, she is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale and laureate of the Art Director’s Hall of Fame.
With Helfand, along with William Dentrell and Michael Bierut, at its helm, Design Observer has become an authority on design, criticism, urbanism, social innovation, and popular culture.
It’s with this authority that Helfand, Dentrell, and Bierut created a book dedicated to the design of the TOC. The introduction to the ode to the TOC states,
“…the humble TOC is our portal into the world of knowledge. In the realm of the printed word, it heralds what comes next, a verbal proscenium with its own peculiar prose and typographic conventions.”
This unconventional and unusually philosophical take on the TOC earns this online book a place on our list and a high-ranking. The typography in these examples is especially striking against the mostly minimalistic TOC designs.
It offers a range of TOC design examples that will inspire you in a different way than most modern designs will.
But then would we expect anything less from these design masters?
5. Smashing Magazine
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Smashing Magazine is both a website and e-book publisher that offers extensive resources for web programmers and developers. Their blog covers a massive number of topics related to web design. If you google a topic related to web design, you are very likely to find a least one result from the Smashing Magazine website.
Founded in 2006 by Sven Lennartz and Vitaly Friedman as part of the German-based Smashing Media AG, the website has over 4 million users and more than 1 million followers on Twitter alone, according to a case study done by Sara.
On this article on TOC design, Vitaly Friedman builds a case on the importance of being intentional in the creation of an appealing TOC design and offers examples to guide you.
Throughout the visual listing of examples, Friedman educates us on leaders, periods or dots that run across the page on a TOC, presents examples both historical and modern, and draws our attention to more unconventional TOC designs.
Like the ranking proceeding it, this article gets a high ranking due to authority, a high-level of creativity, and commitment to design.
Above we’ve ranked a wide range of websites that have excellent examples of TOC designs and advice on how to create a TOC of your own.
We hope that you were surprised, delighted, inspired, and excited by the information shared above.
Now, that you’ve got an idea of just how much you can do with your TOC, we’ll offer some tips on incorporating different design ideas and techniques into your design.
Tips For Designing Your Table Of Contents
1. Use Icons And Photography
Incorporate images into your TOC. Use photography as the background of your Table of Contents or make a spread on one page while listing the text content on the opposite page with more minimalist typography to create contrast.
A fun approach is to create little icons for each chapter or section of your book or document. Personal illustrations can add a personal touch and give the document a more D.I.Y. feel.
2. Be Unconventional
Try using a tabbing or graphing system. In the tabbing system, the individual tabs list the individual sections or chapters of the book or document. The graphic system can take a bit more thought and creativity, but the result will be eye-catching and will surprise the reader who will be looking for a text-based TOC design.
3. Choose A Unique Organization For The Text
Explore the different ways to organize your TOC. You can take a hierarchical approach, listing the most important contents of the document first or perhaps a relational approach, where sections or chapters are listed grouped together based on similarity of topic.
You could always stick to the tried and true sequential organization, which lists the contents in the order in which they appear.
|Table Of Contents Designs||Details||Ratings|
|Canva||Used by non-designers and professionalsUses an easy drag and drop formatExcellent tips on design||5|
|One of the top websites in the worldModern take on the traditional vision boardYou get access to millions of visuals||5|
|Flipsnack Blog||Online hub for learning about design and marketingAllows you to convert PDF files into well-designed flipbooksEasy-to-follow advice on how to create a rocking TOC||4|
|Design Observer||Typography is especially striking against the mostly minimalistic TOC designsTypography is especially striking against the mostly minimalistic TOC designs||4|
|Smashing Magazine||Both a website and e-book publisherBlog covers a massive number of topics related to web design|
Buyer’s Guide – Tools To Help You Design Your TOC (250)
We have already gushed a ton about this graphic design tool. But let’s talk a bit more on how it can help you design a killer TOC.
Canva is a free resource that can help create a TOC. You can be proud of in just a few minutes. Its editor will allow you to customize your table however your heart desires. You can use illustrations, images, or graphics from its extensive stock or you can upload your own.
Canva offers over 100 unique fonts, colors for text boxes or text itself, and backgrounds.
You see way we can’t stop talking about it?
Then there’s the good old trusty Word.
Though you won’t be able to customize is like you would on another application. You can still design a solid TOC on Word. Play around with the fonts and various features. Creativity and resourcefulness helps a lot here.
After you’re done you can convert your file into a high-resolution PDF file and you’re good today.
We’ve loaded you with tons of information about the TOC. And even got a little philosophical about the innate power of a well-designed TOC.
Maybe it won’t grant you magical powers, but it can act as a brilliant opening act to the contents of whichever document is lucky to be graced by its design.
Now that we’ve got you all excited about table of contents designs, maybe you’ll make your own?
We’re looking forward to seeing it.