Every field has its jargon. Medicine, mathematics, sciences, and even sailing and horsemanship baffle outsiders with the many unfamiliar words that insiders use to abbreviate meanings unique to their fields. Although problematic to an outsider, when the coversation abounds with mysterious terms, the listener can realize that communication is failing. Communication failure becomes harder to recognize, and all the more baffling, when a field's jargon consists of familiar words assigned new meanings. Then, the unwary listener might feel some level of understanding, when in fact there is little or none, or genuine misunderstanding. McCreight uses this book as a glossary to the designer's senses of words that non-designers already know.
For example, this booklet's definition of artists' "density" never mentions physical mass at all, although it does mention "weight" - which, in turn, has visual meaning far beyound grams and tonnes. The way it defines "structure," as another example, leaves the reader hard-pressed to identify the load-bearing frame of a building as its "structure." When dealing with such shifts of language, McCreight goes beyond dictionary-style definitions for each term. In addition, a brief discussion, a paragraph to a small page, adds connotation to the definitions. Also, a handful of cross-references to other definitions allow the reader to compare related concepts. Finally, a quote from some famous thinker decorates each definition. (Careful - this book identifies "decorative" as 'often used in the pejorative sense.' I didn't mean it that way.)
I find it sadly paradoxical that so much of this design book's layout represents poor design. Text on each page is laid out clearly and consistenly, helping the reader to organize the different parts of the definition at a glance. However, just about every page is decorated (in the negative meaning) with lines or geometric figures that don't relate to the text and that sometimes actively interfere with typographic organization. In the worst cases, orange text on a gray background becomes nearly impossible to read - a problem that good design would never have allowed.
Although McCreight works in metals, often a technically demanding medium, his artistic sense sometime introduces scientific bloopers. For example, in discussing the audio meaning of "volume," he states that it refers to "how many sonic waves are packed into the air around us." More waves would tend to mean less space between waves - i.e. a change in the wavelength and therefor frequency, affecting pitch or timbre. A change in audio volume holds the number of waves constant, but changes the amplitude of the waves.
Despite these glitches, this remains an interesting set of definitions, sure to help beginners encountering the unfamiliar jargon of design for the first time.