Design Language Hardcover – Jun 1 2003
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From the Publisher
Design Language was conceived as an alternative to the traditional approach to design texts, which rely on photographs, didactic explanations, and an imposed hierarchy. While each of these factors has merit, they come at the cost of allowing students and readers to discover personal definitions of design. The low cost and open spaces of this book invite readers to add to the text, truly shaping it into a valuable, idiosyncratic language.
From the Author
This book was born from my experience as a college teacher. I find I'm most effective when I sneak up on a student and whisper a brief aside. As they sort out the connection between what they were thinking and an apparently unrelated observation, real learning takes place-light bulbs go off. I hope Design Language captures a little bit of this magic on the printed page.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Each student had their own copy and I asked each of them to pick a word from the book as well as one of the corresponding definitions, and describe it typographically - using type as image to convey the meaning. It proved to be a great exercise to teach students the basic principles of scale, contrast, unity, perspective, etc. and actually have them retain it! Even the weaker students suprised me and themselves with how effective thier solutions were. It motivated most of the students to use the principles in their more complex design projects. Plus it's small, it's durable and it's beggs to be written in - making your own notations along the way.
I'm pleased visual examples were omitted by the author. It allows the reader to make his/her own interpretations of the word. The definition is there to keep us in check.
If it's required for a class, as it was for myself, borrow a friend's who has already taken the class. They don't need it.
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.
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