Book Review: Adams et al; Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Design Dos and Don’ts

Design rules

How this book is not an essential read is beyond me. Simply put it is one the best primers for entering the world of Graphic Design I’ve come across and seems to have been written with this course in mind. It certainly helped clear things up for me as an outsider with a keen interest in Graphic Design.

Gathering the collective knowledge and experience of designers Sean Adams, Peter Dawson, John Foster and Tony Seddon the book presents key design topics in short and easy to read sections.

Often with wonderfully chosen examples, the book leads the reader through the world of Type, Layout, Colour, Imagery, Production and Practice. It presents the key elements of Graphic Design in a format that is considered, none threatening and overall wonderful to read.

The best thing about this book is that you can come back to it time and again; I know we’re all guilty of this, myself included, but please keep this book with your studies and work as it may help you out of the odd corner or two.

Invest in a copy, you really won’t regret it.

Resources Accessed

Adams, S, Dawson, P, Foster, J, Seddon T (2012) Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Design Dos and Don’ts, Francis Lincoln Ltd, London

Book Review: Bruno Munari; Design as Art

Bruno Munari

‘Communication must be instant and it must be exact’ – Bruno Munari

I chose to include this book in my reading list as it included not only a section on the important of Graphic Design but a theoretical review of all aspects of design by Munari.

Munari made a great many observations about a whole range of aspects and elements of design. As an aspiring designer, I feel it’s vital to understand as much as I can about what makes good design as opposed to flawed design.

The book itself is a series of essays that discuss design very much from a personal and contemporary view, and that alone is insightful. Whilst some may disagree that as Graphic Designers we should not concern ourselves with wider design choices and ideas, it is imperative that we do so. All design is about communication.

Whether we follow the thoughts and theories of Barthes, Berger, Gombrich or Sontag, as designers and artists we owe it to ourselves to immerse ourselves in the wider design world. This book acts as a great primer, not only into the mind of one the most influential designers of his time. It is also a gateway to wider self discovery and consideration of how design impacts our world and as such I cannot recommend it enough.

Book Review: William Morris; Useful Work vs Useless Toil

Wm Morris

I appreciate that whilst not necessarily focusing on Graphic Design Wm Morris’ seminal work Useful Work vs Useless Toil should none-the-less be included in any book covering Graphic Design. Working with Edward Burne-Jones as the designer of The Kelmscott Chaucer, Morris’ eye created a volume filled with the most wonderful type design and layout.

As one of the founding fathers of the Arts and Crafts Movements Morris’ political views spilt over into his working life, and reflected the ideals of the Protestant Work Ethic, that Ruskin had also promoted during his time at Oxford.

The collection of essays can be viewed at a variety of levels, and in the case of Artisans, they can be viewed as a call-to-arms in returning to the nature of creativity. To produce work of beauty, and not be afraid in doing so; a return to the Raphaelite ideals.

Given Morris’ profession, his works resonate this enthusiasm in capturing the beauty of the world around us, whilst using the many tools available to us (printing presses now exchanged for DTP). He also acknowledges that we must experience the less glamorous roles so that we can appreciate those of a more creative nature.

This series of essay (Useful Work vs Useless Toil, Gothic Architecture, The Lesser Arts, and How I Became a Socialist) are worthy of our attentions well over a century after their first publication for they add to the theoretical element of work. An element we all too often overlook, after all in the dynamic world of Graphic Design the one thing I have learned is that a little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.

‘Does not our subject look important enough now? I say that without these arts, our rest would be vacant and uninteresting, our labour mere endurance, mere wearing away of body and mind.

 ‘As for the last use of these arts, the giving us pleasure in our work, I scarcely know how to speak strongly enough of it; and yet if I did not know the value of repeating a truth again and again, I should have to excuse myself to you for saying any more about this…’

Extracted from the Lesser Arts, 1877.

Resources Accessed

Morris, Wm, (1888). Useful Work vs Useless Toil. London: Penguin Books

Book Review: Type & Typography

Type and Typography

Type and Typography is one of the essential reading books for the Graphic Design1: Core Concepts course. I’ll be honest I’m glad it is.

I’ll be honest I thought I knew what Graphic Design was and meant, and my presumptions and ideas were clearly honed by exposure to the eruption of creative ideas that proliferated in the 80s and 90s, some good, some dreadful.

I also assumed that graphic design was purely a pictorial representation of an idea, with text thrown in for good measure. The role, complexity and impact of text and its design had completely by-passed my awareness.

Thankfully Type & Typography pulled me up by the proverbial bootstraps. As the ideas contained in this book are wholly new to me I took my time reading its contents, and I’m glad I did.

Covering six key areas; Definition, Function, Form, Manufacture & Design, Structure and Conventions. Not only was this absolute eye opener for me, but also laid out the theory and conventions behind type. Something I had no idea about. It’s fair to say the Function aspect had not even knocked on my consciousness and is more than a useful element to helping understand the subject matter from an outsider’s point of view.

The examples collected with the book are beautifully selected and illustrate key points well. The section on Structure is the most important for the new Graphic Designer with some truly wonderful examples and grids.

I’ll be honest I personally found the book a bit of a grind at times, but that’s down to my Brain Fog as opposed to structure and writing style. Despite this I cannot recommend the book highly enough, even for those not on the course, it’s well worth reading and a great introduction to the Laurence King publishing brand.

Resources Accessed

Baines, P and Haslam, A, (2005). Type & Typography. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd