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on 17 May 2001
Robin Williams covers just what you really need to know in this short book. No useless chatter, just important information in a what-to-do and what-not-to-do manner with just the perfect dash of sarcasm and humour to create a relaxed atmosphere for learning.
The book begins with a bit of the history and structure of fonts. Very important information for beginners. But it immediately gets into information which results in an immediate improvement in your work whether you are a typesetter or graphic designer. You would now know what makes for tacky typography and what rules you could break to create a more artistic, daring, and edgy piece of work.
Every topic is accompanied by an illustration of the wrong way and the right way to do things and a list of the fonts used in the illustration (VERY HELPFUL!)
This is definitely a must-have book for anyone in the world of print media.
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on 20 April 2001
Robin Williams is an enjoyable writer. This book, as are her others, is clear and unpatronising in its approach to design. She provides visual examples of each phase in the design process as well careful explanations. Her style allows for personal interpretation rather than giving a definitive solution to all design problems. It is a bit like being back at school with a good teacher explaining, demonstrating and then letting you have a go. If you are a designer looking for ideas, a non designer needing help with designing pages or just interested in the visual world around us then you will enjoy this book.
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on 24 November 2006
This is a handy basic introduction to type design issues. But it is marred by some of the author's eccentric beliefs, stated as facts.

First of all, whatever you think of Helvetica (and I'm not a fan), I don't think it's showing any signs of fading from our public spaces, more's the pity.

Second (and related to the above), her fondness for wacky, eye-catching, "novelty" typefaces is going to lead many people in quite the wrong direction. If you're designing a club flyer or a magazine ad., maybe it's useful advice; but, if taken to heart by a beginner, it would be a disaster for the production of readable, proportioned, pleasing typography in long texts. As for her defence - without cautionary words - of the use of bold italics for emphasis: I'm afraid that just makes me shudder! As a book editor as well as a typesetter myself, I can't tell you how many hours I've had to waste removing such typographical detritus from the texts of authors who should have known better. Now I know where they might have got the idea from...

Finally, a smaller point, which may be to do with a difference between US and British usage, but of which UK users of this book should therefore be aware. To my mind, it is ugly and unwarranted (I'll just come right out and say it: illiterate!) to follow an italicised word or phrase contained within a roman paragraph with italic punctuation (or bold with bold, or whatever - see p. 67). Punctuation outside an emphasised phrase does not belong to that phrase, but forms part of the scaffolding that holds the phrase in place. Like all scaffolding, it shouldn't bend under the influence of what it's supporting, but should damn well stay put! (Don't just take my word for this - see section 6.6 of The Oxford Manual of Style). Lamentably, though, this does seem to be the general advice offered in most US texts on the subject, including one of the ones I recommend below. (And I'm no knee-jerk opponent of US practice: the so-called "Oxford comma" - prevalent not just in Oxford but in the US, though frowned upon by many UK style guides, and by Lynne Truss, I believe - seems to me like a very sensible thing.)

So, all in all, a useful introductory text; but for a proper grounding in typography - and especially if your main interest is in book design - go instead to The Elements of Typographic Style and/or The Complete Manual of Typography: A Guide to Setting Perfect Type.
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This was one of the first, perhaps the first, that I bought about print design or typography. I had first encountered the author's name when I had purchased another book, primarily on Photoshop, but with text layout and design as secondary subjects and only realised its authorship when seeing a photograph.

Robin Williams, not the actor but a female in this instance, is a respected name in the USA as possibly THE expect on this aspect of design on that side of the Atlantic. She has written several books, all primarily on design but in differing contexts. However, as other reviewers have commented, some of her strongly-held beliefs, and there are many that differ from standards, are identified as must-do's. It is sometimes difficult to clearly identify where her views are in conflict and I had not recently re-read the book until needing to check on something. I had actually forgotten that I had bought it and was looking for another of my books on the subject.

As with the spelling of certain words, issues of grammar and terminology, US practice is often in conflict with British norms; print design may be another such area of conflict. There is sometimes the apparently difficult acceptance that the only way to prove a rule is to break it, and that may be the author's concept. However, I suggest that you take the approach of a hospital patient and ask for a second opinion by checking another source if in doubt.

There is much of the book which is unarguable and accepted practice, but reader beware.
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on 1 June 2006
the perfect book for anyone given the task of 'designing' who wouldn't call themselves a designer. also a valuable primer for anyone beginning a graphic design qualifcation (or someone finishing one where they didn't teach the basics of type).

very easy to read, doesn't waffle either, but one word of warning... maybe it's a cultural thing, but to my eyes this book screams 'american', and I do wonder if the yanks understand what tasteful design is.

so follow robin's rules, but just be wary of her choice of fonts. because i don't trust anyone who thinks 'helvetica' is out of date.
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on 23 November 2005
This is a great book describing the many covensions of type and how to use fonts effectively.
It is very pro Mac which is a common theme amonst designers. I am a PC user and would prefer a more even handed approach to operating systems. Robin Williams other book "The Non Designes Design Book" is argueably a better book.
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