Author: Kim Golombisky & Rebecca Hagen
Publisher: Focal Press, 2010
Aimed at: Beginners at visual communication
Pros: Well thought out, well explained and well illustrated
Cons: Can produce feeling of information overload
Reviewed by: David Conrad
This is a lavishly illustrated and "well finished" book that will repay careful study.
For a book whose title is "white space is not your enemy" there isn't a great deal of it on show. The exception is the Preface, where the wide outer margins are left deliberately clear, giving a reduced line length which does make for comfortable reading. In most of the book, however, these margins teem with quotes from the main text to emphasise key points and with illustrations and their captions. It makes for a varied and attractive layout - more the style of a magazine than a book - but it can sometimes feel a bit too busy, making it difficult to simply read the text. Fair enough this is more than a quick read as it has a lot to impart and its graphics are always informative..
This isn't a book aimed at the developer as you can tell from the following statement that occurs in Chapter 14, i.e. fairly close to the end:
If you are reading this book, you can expect to have to work with a Web site on a professional level" and goes on to reassure the reader that "your interaction isn't likely to involve code". However if you are a programmer who is unafraid of code but not au fait with principles of design and you want your site to look good as well as perform well this could be the book you need to peruse.
The book addresses issues of both print and electronic media and this succeeds because the same fundamental principles of design apply. The three themes that are central to argument are outlined in the preface:
- Effective graphic design does four things: It captures attention, controls eye movement; conveys information and evokes emotion.
- All design uses three building blocks: visuals, type and negative space.
- Beginners need to learn the conventional rules before earning the right to break said rules.
The preface also conveniently provides a preview of all the following chapters. In brief the first four are described as a "book within a book". Chapter 1 answers the question "What is design"; next comes the pre-design stage of research and brainstorming; then the authors present a layout that is claimed to "work every time" and then in a chapter called "Layout Sins" they enumerate 13 errors that amateurs tend to commit.
Chapters 5 to 7 are devoted to "foundational details" - the elements and principles of design; the grid and layout. This is followed up in the next three chapters with more advanced rules for type; color and visuals.
Five of the remaining six chapters are on specific issues. The topics are infographics, i.e. graphs, charts, maps and diagrams that convey information graphically; storyboarding for planning video and film; multimedia components such as video clips, audio, animation and interactive multimedia ; designing for the Web; and the finishing stages of printed products.
After the short concluding chapter you'll find a useful glossary and a comprehensive index, rounding off a book that is both useful and inspiring.