on October 28, 2014
I purchased and reviewed this book when a student of mine (who turned out to be a top performer) complained that, "It's a cover and some pictures and nothing in between. It doesn't explain anything."
Sadly, I have to confirm her analysis. As a design instructor, I'll say flatly that this book simply does not contain what you need to know to understand the fundamentals of design.
This book is not a design text at all, but rather a collection of student art exercises (not design exercises, as the book title would imply).
The chapter outline does list a smattering of the fundamental concepts of design. But the book is devoid of any content, visual or verbal, that clearly explains the concepts it does mention.
Further, the book is missing many critical basic concepts, especially those developed in the last couple of decades (which is odd given the title). As such, it was long out of date the moment it was printed.
As such, it does nothing to prepare a student to make informed decisions in the discipline of visual design.
If you just want to look at some pictures of interesting student art projects, this book might be worth the $20. Even then, there are much better books.
But, if you want even a basic primer in the discipline of visual design, you'll need to look elsewhere.
If you were uninformed when you started this book, you'd be uninformed when you finished.
Visual design and its parent discipline, communications design, are in the midst of an explosive and exciting revolution of understanding.
But this book is not a window into that body of rapidly evolving knowledge.
on October 13, 2011
Although I am new to graphic design, I have a long past working in arts, craft, and design - notably glass and photography - and for the most part, I am self taught. As a new comer to university design education, I have been nothing short of shocked by the mindset that is required to properly accomplish project goals and learn a lot of these necessities. Many people can create a compelling piece of visual communication, no matter their skill level, but can you accomplish very specific goals with very limited elements of design? How can you show me a strong static/motion contrast with just lines and/or dots? These foundation exercises have been extremely intriguing as it is such a new way of thinking, but it has also been extremely difficult stepping outside of my normal ways of thinking.
A single teacher is going to have a hard time breaking hardened design theory and practice - or bad habits, one could say - and I found books to be the answer. Since then, I have slowly been hording a huge selection of graphic and design books. Seriously, a LOT of them including a majority of the well known/iconic ones - I have a lot to compare to. Amidst my struggles, I thankfully found Armin Hoffman's "Graphic Design Manual", and it has been integral to my development and learning.
As I have been moving through my second year, Hoffman's book continues to be my number one source for inspiration when having to work with very constricting and basic design elements. However, there is a point where it can't help anymore. Being an introductory book from the 60's, it is most certainly dated. It can give you a mindset, but it does not put you in any contemporary position to move forward with developing concepts. It is a 1960's Swiss graphic design foundation textbook: if you know anything about graphic design, you know what that means, why that is good, and why that is limiting.
This is where this book steps in. In a sense, this is an updated, more in-depth and varied version of Hoffman's book. It presents a lot of the same concepts with slightly more aesthetic-focused examples from present day, not just the minimalistic style loved by the Swiss. The writings are more in-depth and personal, and the information covered is extremely vast and informative. The examples are diverse and inspirational, and the color printing is fantastic - especially for this price. A side note, I always found design books cost way too much money and often are not worth their pricetag. This book is completely reasonable and is worth every penny and more: an admirable and unseen trait amongst textbooks today.
The only thing I could say about this book that would be totally doable for Lupton and Philips in the next edition: try and use some of these more basic examples like those in Hoffman's book! A lot of the examples in this book show much more than what you are trying to use them for, which can be very distracting. That sort of simplicity show in Hoffman's book is the only way to get a fresh brain rooted in a lot of these basic design concepts and theories. That and the organization could be a little better in the way the book progresses - however that is difficult due to the immense amount of information that is presented.
In short: if we made graphic design basics into a film, Hoffman would hold down the black and white, grainy, analog classic, while Lupton and Philips are a modern Technicolor, providing a colored, digital, high definition and artificial post-processed transfer. Both attempt at telling the same story, both have their positives, and both have their shortcomings. Like the Wizard of Oz, you can't get by with just one, so I recommend anyone looking for something like this to purchase both - only then can you best fill in the gaps present in each text.