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Notes on Book Design Hardcover – 4 May 2004

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (4 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300103476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300103472
  • Product Dimensions: 30.4 x 25.4 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 552,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'....a jubilee celebration of the art of fine design by an expert practitioner' -- The Guardian, October 16 2004

'Inspirational and revealing...Birdsall comes across not only as a brilliant craftsman but also a gifted teacher' -- Creative Review

'It covers everything from how a typeface affects the text to positioning pictures on the page' -- The World of Interiors

About the Author

Derek Birdsall was consultant art director of the first Independent Magazine, and has been a consultant designer to Pirelli, Mobil Corporation, HRH The Prince of Wales School of Architecture and The Church of England.


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Top Customer Reviews

By Robin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Nov. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Just lift the cover to this lovely book and the endpaper has a quote from George Orwell's 1946 book 'Politics and the English Language'
What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
Could I have put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
Although he was referring to writing I feel these thoughts could easily apply to publication designers and Derek Birdsall's book is a fine visual example of putting them into practice.

I thought the clever thing about the book was the way it explains design by using examples of Birdsall's work, so you get to see plenty of his spreads and their presentation is the design explanation. The two chapters, 'The process of book design' and 'Book design in practice' covers a whole range of creative solutions. Throughout he offers thoughts and practical observations with the second chapter devoted to many spreads from books and here I found perhaps the most fascinating section, his re-design of 'Common Worship, Services and Prayers for the Church of England'. Surely the ultimate creative (and intellectual) challenge, 860 pages, type only and two colors. As a publication designer I've always maintained that the most rewarding jobs are the simplest in appearance, airline timetables or tax forms for instance, where the creative resources are limited yet the information conveyed needs to be totally unambiguous. Birdsall's design solution to 'Common Worship' looks so right that you are not aware of the design and that is just as it should be. The back of the book has sample text settings (in foreign languages, too) and some very hands-on information about grids for books.

'Notes on book' design is beautifully designed and printed and a first-class review of a leading book designer's work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about designing illustated books and book covers. It is a beautiful book in fairly large format. If you are looking for inspiration this is for you -- lots of examples covering a wide range of book subjects.

If you are looking for a text book on the subject it may not be for you.

The typeface choosen for most of the text looks better than it reads and Birdsall does even comment on it himself. This is no serious drawback as the ammount of text to read through is limited.
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Format: Hardcover
Got this for my daughter's reading list at art school. It's nice, but is really more a coffee table book than a practical guide to book design.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8ab2da50) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a5c4108) out of 5 stars Elegant, interesting, but ultimately not useful 15 Jan. 2006
By REReader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This author is an experienced, expert book designer, who has designed numerous art books and art catalogues (among many others). But somehow he seems to have missed some important points vital to good book design.

For instance, he is undoubtedly really, really good at choosing fonts that accurately reflect the content and tone of the books he is designing. However, he had somehow missed the point that the font chosen for the body of the book has to be both legible and readable. Quite often, the fonts he chooses are not at all readable. That includes the font used for this book (a typewriter font). Now, a typewriter font is undeniably appropriate to a book titled "Notes on..." anything, but the total lack of weight variation in the letters and the small size of the type made it very hard to read. And (just one more example) using Gill Sans for books about modern artists is undeniably appropriate, but reading a book with the body text set in san serif is like trying to read a book length caption--exhausting.

Then there is the placement of artwork across spreads. As the spreads are shown in this book--as they appear on boards or in a page layout program--they look fabulous. But once these books are bound, anything within 3/8" (roughly) of the gutter just disappear into the binding. Open a book. Look at where the paper disappears into the binding. Imagine important parts of a painting printed on the page going down into the binding. Imagine how you'd feel if you had bought a book to look at that art.

On the other hand, he did offer some interesting insight into how to place art in books without losing sight of relative size of the originals. It is a beautiful (if not readable) volume, and the examples are elegantly rendered. I don't think it's worth the price, however.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a5c7630) out of 5 stars Unfortunately Useless 30 July 2006
By mungo181 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As anyone who makes a living designing books can tell you, most books are not $200 art books. But that's what Derek Birdsall seems to concentrate on in his "Notes on Book Design." Really, it's a no-brainer to make the art as large as possible and have the specs in a sans serif font. I don't need endless examples showing me exactly that. I'd like to see what Birdsall does with 30,000 words that the publisher insists page out to 272 pages in a 6 x 9 size, but "not look too horsey or airy." I bet he'd quit.

Addditionally, his choice of a typewriter font for the text make the book useless to the reader. Birdsall insists his publisher could not choose a better font--I doubt that. I got one for ya, Birdsall--Garamond. You should try it some time!

Ultimately, the tome serves neither the page designs shown as illustrations (too small in most cases) nor the reader. Perhaps a design student may get something out of this, but there must be better books out there on the same subject.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a5c7a38) out of 5 stars Simplicity + Clarity = Elegance 17 Nov. 2004
By Robin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Just lift the cover to this lovely book and the endpaper has a quote from George Orwell's 1946 book 'Politics and the English Language'
What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
Could I have put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
Although he was referring to writing I feel these thoughts could easily apply to publication designers and Derek Birdsall's book is a fine visual example of putting them into practice.

I thought the clever thing about the book was the way it explains design by using examples of Birdsall's work, so you get to see plenty of his spreads and their presentation is the design explanation. The two chapters, 'The process of book design' and 'Book design in practice' covers a whole range of creative solutions. Throughout he offers thoughts and practical observations with the second chapter devoted to many spreads from books and here I found perhaps the most fascinating section, his re-design of 'Common Worship, Services and Prayers for the Church of England'. Surely the ultimate creative (and intellectual) challenge, 860 pages, type only and two colors. As a publication designer I've always maintained that the most rewarding jobs are the simplest in appearance, airline timetables or tax forms for instance, where the creative resources are limited yet the information conveyed needs to be totally unambiguous. Birdsall's design solution to 'Common Worship' looks so right that you are not aware of the design and that is just as it should be. The back of the book has sample text settings (in foreign languages, too) and some very hands-on information about grids for books.

'Notes on book' design is beautifully produced and printed and a first-class review of a leading book designer's work. I think it looks so good I've added it to my Listmania, 'My favorite well-designed books' list.

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
HASH(0x8a5c7570) out of 5 stars Very good book on book design 12 July 2015
By Benson Chong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Item arrived as per description.

Very good book on book design, just as enlightening as the Form of the Book.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b435b50) out of 5 stars Excellent! 18 Aug. 2005
By P. Mandel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Very inspiring, specially for those beginning to explore the serious book design world. Good examples.
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