Review: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick

Book: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School
Author: Matthew Frederick, architect and educator
Year: 2007

Summary: A small coffee-table style illustrated book with short but meaningful lessons on architecture. Written for architects, but nice to have as a level designer.


This is a short book, so I’m giving you a short review.

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School is a small, compact coffee table book. Each “thing” takes up two pages: the first a small illustration of the principle, and on the second a short, concise description of the rule. When I say short I mean that most of these would fit inside a tweet. The author’s intent was to write up a simple set of valuable, universal lessons that all architects should know.


I liked it. There’s lessons in here that definitely apply to level design, and his descriptions of the role of architect are very similar to level designer or creative director in the game industry. Some lessons are more specific to architecture itself and don’t really apply to game designers, but I found these few and far between. Other tips involved specific techniques for giving presentations, hand-lettering, and drawing sketches – for example, the proper way to draw lines – which are definitely helpful to designers who hand-sketch their ideas.


Example lesson from inside the book – two full pages.

It is a good coffee table book or reference book to keep on your shelf at work to leaf through, especially level designers. It acts kind of like Jesse Schell’s Deck of Lenses – something to page through every once and a while during a project to remind, reinforce, or just redirect your thinking a bit.

My real take away from this book was an appetite for much more information. It touches briefly upon concepts like figure-ground theory and negative space and parti (a term I learned for the first time at last GDC) that make me want to know a lot more about the subject. Luckily I have several other pretty meaty architecture texts in my reading list, and I might prefer those over this one. But for dabbling and just a nice read, this would be a good choice.

2 Comments on “Review: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick

  1. I’ve bought about ten copies of this book to date. Every time I lend one to a friend, I never get it back (and that’s not a bad thing).

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