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The Design of Books Paperback – 18 Feb 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; Revised edition edition (18 Feb. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081180304X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811803045
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 1.1 x 27.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Wilson is one of a handful of book designers who brought the West Coast to the admiring notice of the world of typography. In 1983 he received a MacArthur Prize. This nice, practical, inexpensive reprint, with a new foreword by Sumner Stone, brings back into print a classic on layout, type, paper, printing, binding. Essential to any collection on t

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By T. J. Underwood on 30 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I haven't read this yet, as it's just arrived, but there is an obvious irony immediately apparent; The card cover, imitating the dust jacket on a hardcover volume has a folded flap.
As soon as I picked up the book, the cover yawned open and out popped the two flaps, like glossy black wings. An easy solution may be a bit of double-sided tape to fix them in place, but it's amusing that this needs to be done on a publication ( reprint or not ) called The Design of Books.
Perhaps I might be further amused to see inside, 'Rule Number One. Don''t include a cover like this one..'
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
What desktop publishing can aspire to become.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Proceed With Caution 4 Dec. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a distinctly mixed bag, so potential buyers should beware. On the one hand, its author is a master book designer whose opinions deserve special consideration. He has filled the book with rich and rewarding guidance that will endure. On the other hand, the book was written long before computers revolutionized the publishing industry, so it has a distinctly archaic - even obsolete - aura. Vast portions of the text are no longer relevant to modern publishing, and readers who rely on them will be very seriously misled. Newcomers should take note: this book cannot tell you how books are made today. There are other problems, too. The book was an incomplete survey even when it was new, and the author has the unfortunate habit of using technical terms that he has not explained. These serious shortcomings will create annoying obstacles for many readers. Still, the book has value for those who recognize its limitations. As one wanders from page to page, one has the sense of visiting some grand but long abandoned building whose former glories still speak through their layer of dust. For instance, the book is an interesting source of information about the history of book making and about the pre-computer state of its technology. And the author has included many useful examples of well-designed books, which repay careful study. The author's general advice about book design also retains much of its value. This is not a book that I would recommend for casual novices. It is much better suited to the respectful appreciation of those who already understand book making and who will recognize this book as a valuable artifact from a former era. Unfortunately, students will find that there is no modern alternative to this book. So although its value has diminished, it can serve as a useful stepping-stone for those who want to know how fine books are made. Proceed at your own risk, and bear in mind that many other books - none of them wholly satisfactory - must also be consulted for supplementary guidance within this sadly under-documented field.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Best Introduction to Design, Layout, and Typography. 9 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is the best introduction (I know of) to the design, layout, and typography of traditional page and book design. This was written in 1967, long before desktop publishing and Web pages, but anyone who works in visual design can learn a huge amount from this classic work on page layout and typography.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Book design - all of it 6 July 2004
By wiredweird - Published on
Format: Paperback
That's a big territory to cover. It starts with selections of font and paper. It then works up to the design of entire families of books like the Penguin series, as of when this book was written.
No one text can possibly cover the whole range of skills in book design, at least not in any detail. This gives a quick introduction to the many concerns of the book designer. Many topics will look familiar, such as harmonious matching of different fonts and selection of layout grids. Other topics are technological, like the strengths and weaknesses of different typesetting processes. Some choices won't be available to all book designers - choice of one volume vs. three or four, or choice of binding and cover material. Yet other concerns have to do with the business of book design, estimating design jobs and working with the authors, illustrators, and others involved in the book. The coverage may be sketchy, but the whole of the design process is laid out.
The biggest problem is that the original edition came out in 1967. It predates effectively all of computer-based design. There are Jetson-like predictions of technology, though, such as the dream of Computer Composition: having typewritten text scanned (!?) automatically for typesetting. WYSIWYG never occurred to Mr. Wilson.
Beyond lack of computers, its technology is archaic in other ways. Hand typesetting is still used in limited, artisan printing, but is obsolete for all commercial books. The tools of the designer have changed, as well. The real weakness, though, is its treatment of color. Again, printing technology has made photorealistic use of color feasible in most contexts. Some of the commentary is completely up to date, though. The garish, cartoony textbooks he criticizes have, if anything, gotten worse.
There are some minor problems as well. The text makes reference to illustration 3-9, for example, which is not included in this edition. The "cover flaps" folded from the paper binding tend to get in the way. When they are the vehicle for a discussion of book design, the irony becomes annoying.
This is an outstanding introduction to the full breadth of book design issues. It has weaknesses, but was never intended to stand alone as a typographic how-to. It still complements other texts very well.
The Dao of Design 1 May 2015
By Vincent Poirier - Published on
Format: Paperback
THE Way of design.

The definite article is appropriate because Adrian Wilson keeps his rules flexible and general. Wilson shows us _the_ way to design books, not merely _a_ way. He never says that one must use this font in that context, instead he explains that one must choose a font appropriate to the context and he illustrates this with an example of a book he designed. Who can argue with that? Failing to choose a font is leaving your design to chance, it is letting others do the designing for you.

Even more generally, he urges book designers to begin with rough pencil scketches of what they want the final book to look like. His point is that a designer needs to get to the big idea of his design. We find this idea in everything people make: writers outline their novel, generals put strategies ahead of tactics, inventors build protypes.

Written in 1967, this book predates computers, word processors, and the internet, but it should not be scorned. Readers will find timeless principles, not of fads, and the principles apply to anything published, be they blogs or books.

Vincent Poirier, Quebec City
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