Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Creating Powerful Pieces Hardcover – Jul 1 2005
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I find the title slightly misleading in that it is not what I would normally consider a workbook. It covers the entire design process step by step, so in that sense its very instructional but when I think of workbooks I imagine sample projects, worksheets, etc. It has more in common with an instructional / reference / design specimen book (a third of the book is a catalog of design projects done by professional designers). As mentioned above its focus is print layouts so there is little direct reference to web or interface design.
Overall, it is a well conceived, well designed book that gives a design student the basics of print design and can replace a variety of other books on your shelf.
Another of my favorite features is that the author not only addresses the topics like "grid" and "space" but they also cover the mental process behind design; there is a section just about intuition and creativity.
Above all the book was enjoyable to read - not just informative.
The book discusses the function of design, the design process, the role of inspiration and intuition in design, the function of grids, the factors that effect composition, typography and the importance of design analysis. The book concludes with a look at several examples of design with some comments on each. There are no exercises or tutorials.
Most designers would agree that the layout of printed materials should enhance the ability of the printed media to communicate its message without calling attention to the layout. I presume that there are some principles to laying out a piece of media to achieve that goal. The authors recognize that there are such principles and even offer some of those in general terms. Thus the authors suggest that using more then one typeface or font in a piece may enhance communication, but also point out that some fonts are unattractive when combined. The logical development of this point would have provided readers with some examples of combinations both compatible and in conflict, and perhaps even a discussion of why fonts fit together or conflict.
The authors offer profuse illustrations that they believe show good design. Unfortunately most of illustrations are so small that they provide little help in understanding the teaching points. The examples in the final chapter are larger. For the latter, the accompanying text often illustrates the design considerations but just as often the text is merely descriptive. I found that most of the examples throughout the book called attention to their design, without showing how the design contributed to the communication.
For me, the chapter on compositional factors seemed like it would be the real meat of layout. The authors listed fifteen factors ranging from space to tension. Several of the factors are then discussed in a few paragraphs. For the space factor, the authors point out that grouping several items together, with space around them, leads the eye to them, and that centering a visual element renders it ineffective. I accepted these principles, but wanted the illustrations to show how and why these principles worked, which they did not. Moreover, only 12 of the fifteen factors were explained.
I was driven by an interest in the layout of images in photographic books. The compositional factors were useful in a general way but I wanted just a little bit of spoon-feeding. I went away hungry.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe layout is such an intuitive and inspirational process that it is impossible to deal in specifics, but I don't believe it. In almost every art and craft field there are principles of general application that good practitioners then press against to create unusual products. Unfortunately this book only shows us the outliers. This book may provide inspiration to experienced designers, but won't be of much help to those with less experience.
Not recommended for intermediate/advanced designers.