Table of Contents: Creative Examples

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Table of contents is often considered to be one of the most unspectacular design elements ever invented. Because of its simple, usual form, table of contents is often not given the attention it may deserve — after all, it is just a list of the parts of a book or document organized in the order in which the parts appear. But why not use exactly that and surprise the reader of a booklet, brochure, annual report or a book with some beautiful and original table of contents? In fact, many creative approaches are possible. And this post attempts to prove exactly that.

This post showcases creative and/or beautiful tables of contents. We have tried to include creative, visually appealing and interesting design solutions. Hopefully, everybody will find something interesting and unusual for herself or himself. Please take a look at the references section in the end of the article — there you may find further examples of interesting and unusual tables of contents.

You may want to take a look at our related posts

Please notice: some photos look not beautiful at all — here the idea matters more than the quality of the screenshot. The showcased tables of contents aren’t necessarily useful in practice as they may be hard to read; they should serve as the inspiration for your future works and show you that even in the design of table of contents some unusual approaches are possible.

Creative and beautiful examples

So how beautiful or creative can a table of contents be?

PRINT Magazine Spread: Table of contents

Table of Contents Showcase

Guide to grammatical errors
“Interesting table-of-contents page in a 1940s grammar guide, found in a thrift store in Roswell.”

Table of Contents Showcase

Table of contents

Table of Contents Showcase

Sonic Travel Guide
Illustrated section heads and selected pages from the Sonic Travel Guide book. Content pages are absent as they contain internal information about the organization. Designed by Jenkin Hammond.

Table of Contents Showcase

Be somebody
Acknowledgements, front matter, and table of contents from Lester’s Be Somebody (2008, Effing Press).

Table of Contents Showcase

Flavors
“Flavors” Mason Williams. Doubleday &Company, 1970 (design: Mason Williams).

Table of Contents Showcase

Table of contents: Содержание

Table of Contents Showcase

Peterson
The inside cover of A Field Guide to the Birds (Peterson 1934).

Table of Contents Showcase

Annual report

Table of Contents Showcase

indice de obras

Table of Contents Showcase

The Pocket Manual of Chinese Medicine

Table of Contents Showcase

Stage door
All of the lettering except or Stage Door act one, is pen and ink.

Table of Contents Showcase

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Showcase

Indice

Table of Contents Showcase

Annual report for SB bank
Designed by Danil Kryvoruchko.

Booklets - Statistical data

Table of progress

Table of Contents Showcase

Restart
Universe/Rizzoli, 2001. Design: Christian Küsters.

Table of Contents Showcase

“Sense, Memory” Table of Contents
“Ink. I want to use symbols to describe each of the pages content. I think I did an adequate job. In order: Introduction, Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, Smell. The epilogue was included after this was made, but I felt it could easily be a back cover.”

Table of Contents Showcase

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

Table of Contents Showcase

Hyperborder: The Contemporary U.S. – Mexico Border and It’s Future by Fernando Romero

Table of Contents Showcase

Creative Time: The Book by Anne Pasternak and Lucy Lippard

Table of Contents Showcase

Examples with leaders

If the page numbers appear after the heading text, they might be preceded by characters called leaders, usually dots or periods, that run from the chapter or section titles on the opposite side of the page, or the page numbers might remain closer to the titles. In some cases, the page number appears before the text.

Book Paul Renner 1948
A classic.

Table of Contents Showcase

Endsheet table of contents
Handwriting in use. Why not?

Table of Contents Showcase

La cuisine au fils des mois by, Suzanne LABOUREUR Table

Table of Contents Showcase

A List Apart 2007 Survey Results
In April 2007, A List Apart and An Event Apart conducted a survey of people who make websites. The results represent the first data ever collected on the business of web design and development as practiced in the U.S. and worldwide.

Table of Contents Showcase

A. W. von Schlegel
A. W. von Schlegel: Indische Bibliothek. Bd. 1 (1823). Inhaltsverzeichnis.

Table of Contents Showcase

The Living World
My great-grandfather’s book, published circa 1890.

Table of Contents Showcase

Atlas Table of Contents
A Finnish atlas from 1958. “Isänmaan ja maailman kartasto” (Atlas of the Homeland and the World).

Table of Contents Showcase

The Telephone Book
“The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech” Avital Ronell University of Nebraska Press, 1989 (design: Richard Eckersley).

Table of Contents Showcase

The Next Page – Cover

Table of Contents Showcase

Buying In by Rob Walker

Table of Contents Showcase

Examples without leaders

The Mechanical Bride
“The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man” Herbert Marshall McLuhan. The Vanguard Press, 1951 (design: Ernst Reichl).

Table of Contents Showcase

Glauber_Johnson 1999
Ray Johnson: Correspondences, 1999. Barbara Glauber, Beverly Joel/Heavy Meta, designer.

Table of Contents Showcase

El Indice
Capitulos Half-Blood Prince

Table of Contents Showcase

Peterson
The table of contents is repeated at the top of every page.

Table of Contents Showcase

Design Noir
“Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects” Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby. August/Birkhauser, 2001 (Design: Alex Rich)

Table of Contents Showcase

The Canadian Hockey Atlas

Table of Contents Showcase

ToC_Morphosys AR 2008

Table of Contents Showcase

Complete book
Each colored bar will repeat on the right hand page of the corresponding story.

Table of Contents Showcase

Yeah, THAT Owen Wilson and THAT Wes Anderson

Table of Contents Showcase

Ideas matter

Macro- and Microaesthetics
Niggli, 1998. Design: Willi Kunz.

Table of Contents Showcase

Sewed table of contents
What about sewing a table of content? This is exactly what Screaming Lulu did. Limited edition.

Table of Contents Showcase

Brunetti’s Anthology Table of Contents
This table of contents uses drawing and cartoons as metaphors for the chapters.

Table of Contents Showcase

Last Click

Type Trumps
“A set of Type Trumps, a play on the game Top Trumps, in which different typefaces are attributed numerical values. These figures are then used to enable the cards to be won or lost using some of the fried and tested ‘Top Trumps’ rules.

Table of Contents Showcase

Shaz Madani’s poster
No, it has nothing to do with tables of contents, but it somehow fits to the context. This is a response designed to promote the M25 motorway. On one side the poster gives exact directions that would have to be taken in order to travel from one side of London to the other illustrating the complexity and confusion involved in taking alternative routs through the centre of the city. The reverse side reads “wipe away the confusion take the M25″.

Table of Contents Showcase

Table of Contents Showcase

Sources and Resources

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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops and loves solving complex problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    First to comment – yowza’r!

    2
  2. 3

    good typography and unique.
    hard to implement in web page

    0
  3. 4

    inspiration is everywhere
    thank you

    2
  4. 5

    The grammatical mistakes directory is the best. Absolutely fantastic. I’ll have to rip that off myself somewhere, somehow.

    0
    • 6

      Hey my name is Barney too. AHA and i thought i was the only Barney in the world well theres my dad to but yea. ha

      -4
  5. 7

    Maneesh Prabhalayam

    July 7, 2008 2:16 am

    Awesome creativity

    1
  6. 8

    many weith poor usability though :(

    1
  7. 9

    Excellent designs; for the most part; and excellent for inspiration.
    But there’s one which I just don’t get. Be Somebody. I can’t understand how the Table of Contents is supposed to be read… (as such it fails for me)

    -3
    • 10

      The book contains interwoven poetic sequences that are identified by sequence number and part number. the positioning reflects the rise and fall of the overall drama, the rise being where the number comes together. In this particular domain of poetry it was meant to be read and interpreted and encountered first as art rather than to just be something usual. In terms of book structure, using the dimension of space between identifier and page number gives an added dimension of structure.

      0
  8. 11

    very creative

    1
  9. 12

    gr8 work with Excellent designs ……. Thanks

    0
  10. 13

    Arturo Filasto

    July 7, 2008 3:18 am

    Awesome, great design, very inspiring.

    0
  11. 14

    I really like the Table of Contents. What’s wrong with it?

    2
  12. 15

    great selection guys!

    0
  13. 16

    These are excellent, particularly like the final poster. I think it’s very interesting to draw inspiration from works like these which cannot be directly transposed into web design (for the most part) and then channel the ideas into making something original, functional and special. Just my thoughts.

    1
  14. 17

    Loving the field guide to birds – truly inspirational!

    0
  15. 18

    Excelent, Thanks.

    1
  16. 19

    The last one (Shaz Madani’s poster) – lovely!

    0
  17. 20

    Loved the symmetry in The Pocket Manual of Chinese Medicine.

    0
  18. 21

    That book, Designing Design by Kenya Hara not only has a killer table of contents, but the whole darn book is pretty amazing. The content, the weight, and that first delicate piece of paper that sits right inside the cover… all inspirational.

    1
  19. 22

    Lots of inspiration here, I would love to see an article dedicated to website maps, they are very often dull and uninspiring.

    1
  20. 23

    Great selection, thanks!

    0
  21. 24

    Many good or creative examples, just too bad we can’t ever have a perfect combination of good and creative when it comes to usability, though. x3~

    1
  22. 25

    That M25 one is spiffy-excellent. Yeah!

    0
  23. 26

    What happened to the monthly “Best of” entries????????

    0
  24. 27

    Some are interesting. Anyway I think this subject is more than niche.

    0
  25. 28

    Some of these are very annoying to read and not usable at all

    1
  26. 29

    Some really nice ones there!
    I also got some on my website:

    Regards

    0
  27. 30

    @ Andrewrew
    Agree with you, but what about the Sonic Travel Guide?
    So adorable!

    0
  28. 31

    The last one certanly made me chuckle!
    Great article!

    0
  29. 32

    hi smashing, these are great collection, that could easly provide inspiration.

    1
  30. 33

    Very interesting. When you think of toc’s you usually think of the same boring layout from every text book ever. Great to see some innovative designs.

    1
  31. 34

    I love that last one, so clever.

    0
  32. 35

    Great article, guys! Consistently amazed by your fantastic writeups.

    -1
  33. 36

    While curious, this article is not as superlative as the others read, consumed and re-devoured here. Usually every link is an excursion; only the London speedway wiper blade coaxed me to click the link and follow. Perhaps very good wanes when all the rest is exceptional….

    0
  34. 37

    Its good, I ill try in my website …………
    thank you

    0
  35. 38

    Its all very good picks i like it very much u just give me a member shep in ur sight

    0
  36. 39

    I love it, make me want to design a magazine.

    0
  37. 40

    you should have used one of these to present the list

    1
  38. 41

    Most of these designs are of the form first, function last, school of design, except the one with the large words “Literature, Money, Power” as the first three items.
    To my mind a table of content’s first (and pretty much only) function is to give the most accurate impression possible of the content at each level of examination. A glance should give you the most important theme, and subsequently closer examinations should give you correspondingly more specific and specialized information.
    Graphic design that does not illuminate the content, but just calls attention to itself is not doing its job.
    Making art out of typography is pretty (and valid), but I don’t think it belongs in the realm of design, in which functionality is the primary focus and pretty is the secondary. A good designer can do the second without compromising the first. Very often creating exceptional functionality creates beauty without even trying.
    There are few ugly tools.
    Sometimes a seemingly indulgent design can help create an atmosphere that enhances the functionality, or content, but that is very rare, in my opinion.

    1
  39. 42

    I think favicon is like a symbol. the creativity shown in this.

    0
  40. 43

    Hinduismnet.com

    July 9, 2008 11:51 pm

    You just need to look around for inspiration… it is all around you.

    0
  41. 44

    Great article.
    Here’s another example of content table from the SCAM (Civilian Society for Multimedia Artists in France) : http://88.191.55.88/Screenshot-20080710-13353.png

    0
  42. 45

    Michael (above) said it all — and so beautifully.

    TOCs are not just to look at. They are to be the menu for what’s inside. They should serve as a home page that make readers “click” for more.

    They surely are no place for self-indulgent designers to design for design sake.

    They should be creative to enhance the content. Grabbing titles should be followed by summary/benefit/confents blurbs.
    The blurbs should say to the reader, “There’s something here for you!” They must be organized clearly so that in-a-hurry readers can catch what they want at a glance.

    0
  43. 46

    Michael (above) said it all — and so beautifully.

    The TOC should be the home page where readers can find what they want and “click” to find more. It should have titles that grab followed by summary/benefit/contents blurbs organized for the in-a-hurry reader to catch at a glance.

    The TOC should not be a page where designers design for design sake. It is not a page just to be looked at. It should be designed creatively to enhance the messages on it, to get readers into the book.

    0
  44. 47

    mmmmm – I Like it. Alot.

    0
  45. 48

    The Peterson Field Guide front piece is not a TOC, it does not take point you to the section of the book where you could read more about the species represented. That would be a good idea though.

    0
  46. 49

    The ToC is meant as a reference point from which one can see the structure of the book. It summarises the contents yet provide ‘bookmarks’ that one can use to ‘explore’ the book. As such, usability is key. However, this is not saying that ToCs must follow a rigid rule. You can certainly experiment, but it CANNOT be designed at the expense of usability. Doing so defeats the purpose.

    Most of these designs, unfortunately, fail miserably at that.

    0
    • 50

      But, one must consider the *content* of the book. The content will always greatly influence the form.

      Why so critical, anyway?

      1
  47. 51

    Outstading collection. It really amazes me.. the color combination, variety in design, typogrqphy… just supreb !!!! kudos :-D

    1
  48. 52

    Some good, so not so good.

    The main purpose of a table of contents (and design in general) is to communicate. Some of these are form WAY over function, making them more art than design.

    1
  49. 53

    Quite cumbersome to read…

    Had to really decipher the contents out of the table…

    :(

    -1
  50. 54

    Nice! Thanks.

    0
  51. 55

    The “Be Somebody” ToC doesn’t seem to say anything about the content at all. I don’t know anything about the book. On the left side the first pair of numbers indicate the indentation on that line and the second pair indicate the “section number” within that indentation level. The numbers on the right side are either page numbers or simply line numbers – it’s unclear which because the numbering starts with 9. So, at first glance, that is a really, really weird ToC – and seemingly completely useless. Looks kind of nice though :)

    0
  52. 56

    cooooooollllllll!!too bad there wasnt the one i wanted

    2
  53. 57

    kldkshfakjfhkjfhsdkjfhasejkfhdasjkfhasdkjfhaeskjfhasd

    this web sucks

    -3
  54. 58

    A good variety and collection of table of contents….good job..

    2
  55. 59
  56. 60

    I do not like any of these damn pictures..they all suck..dont bother

    -1
  57. 61

    i hate this web site it sucks balls
    fuck u all!!!

    0
  58. 62

    hello..i am carmen..

    -3
  59. 63

    Yo foos are gonna get busted

    -3
  60. 64

    haha oh man thats funny

    0
    • 65

      Yes! I’m working on that right now, altaucly. Cross your fingers, because I’m hoping for a December release date. Going the indie route, and getting my ducks in order. Stay tuned!

      0
  61. 66

    Yall don’t know who you messin with

    -1
  62. 67

    Hello my name is carmen..but i hate that name so please call me LIL ROCCO

    -3
  63. 68

    LilRocco I’ll kick yo ass

    1
  64. 69

    hahaha lil rocco thats hilarious

    -2
  65. 70

    ima sorry for the launguage
    kiefer!

    -2
  66. 71

    hahaha nattt!!!!! bring it big faget j u homo

    -3
  67. 72

    You know who you talkin to bitch

    0
  68. 73

    Hello recent posters your computers have been traced and you will be sent fines in your email that NEEDS to be paid or the police will get involved. thank you

    2
  69. 74

    Watch yo ass Albeneze, and this aint Justin

    -3
  70. 75

    this is pure art! love it

    3
  71. 76

    This is great! Thanks!

    1
  72. 77

    Thank you. This was just what I needed to get quickly inspired in the remaining 14 minutes I have away from my children (whilst sitting at the local brooklyn coffee shoppe)

    0
  73. 78

    this is great. thankssss
    boyacı

    0
  74. 79

    Thank you for this! It was exactly what I needed!

    3
  75. 80

    hearthom tampac

    March 10, 2010 6:48 pm

    buang ang naggawa nito no?

    3
  76. 81

    laurenevansroberts

    April 3, 2010 8:51 pm

    love the ideass so creative! ill get to do the calendar like one :)

    2
  77. 82

    Fantastic selection of examples

    1
  78. 83

    Thank u very much, u helped me throgh what i wanted

    2
  79. 84

    hahahaha…nice…..

    0
  80. 85

    Very helpful indeed, a great bit of inspiration, and very timely

    0
  81. 86

    Awesome work, love it :)

    0
  82. 87

    thanx verry good job.u helped me to findding me the best table of content.

    0
  83. 88

    Meilany Lahengko

    March 17, 2014 5:21 am

    very helpful, thank you

    0

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