The book Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler is a concise guide into various rules that guide aesthetics and design. Each page references a different principle, some common, such as "highlighting," to more obscure ("The Law of Pragnanz"). Sidebars on each page denote the research involved in backing-up the principles.
As an animator, artist and designer I find this book to a valuable resource in developing my ideas. Some concepts are more relevant than others. For example, a knowing the principles of Baby Face Bias, Attractiveness Bias, Archetypes and Face-ism Ratio, would be of great benefit to character designers, screenwriters, and story development artists. But what I find most intriguing is the amount of scientific research which goes into each principle. By studying the various principles, it becomes obvious, that aesthetics are guided by a combination of science and pyschology.
Here are some of the principles in the book:
Depth of Processing
Form Follows Function
Law of Pragnanz
Most Average Facial Appearance Effect
taken from Universal Principles of Design: A Cross-Disciplinar Reference, by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler