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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful reference book for design students, agencies and in-house marketeers, 14 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Problem Solved (Hardcover)
To start, a note for anyone that bought the first edition of the book (Problem Solved: A Primer in Design and Communications), my review won't make any comparisons with the two editions as I have never seen the original.

This second edition of Problem Solved is published by Phaidon, who seem to be the only publishers producing consistently decent books on design/advertising/communications (call it what you will). Books covering this genre traditionally tend to be more about the visuals than the text - they're usually aimed at 'providing a source of inspiration' and offer very little detail about campaigns (the text is usually an obsequious pat on the back for the author's mates). Problem Solved turns this on its head by looking at 19 recurring problems faced in design, branding and communication (i.e. the challenges faced by companies in trying to communicate with their target audience), and then explores how those problems can be (and have been) successfully solved. It's actually a clever piece of marketing as the premise of the book is that 'creative people' are looking to solve problems (be it the crap brief and/or their clients' problems).

Without boring you with the entire list of problems the book looks to solve, it does include: older brands that face possible extinction; creating illusions; when price is the key message; using shock tactics; brand evolution; information rejection; over-designed communications; and appealing to younger generations. I've simplified the chapter titles here - the author uses more witty titles. Each chapter explores one of these problems in some detail with the author using his vast experience to look at the original issue and then using case studies to explore and, more importantly, explain a solution in great detail. The text is easy to read and understand - no pats on the backs for chums and mates every couple of sentences. The author really has done his homework and it's nice to see a mixture of classic as well as modern campaigns being featured. Another plus is that there is a great mix of examples and case studies in the book - usually these books are US-based, but Problem Solved covers, for example, BB2, Channel 4, Tate, Natural History Museum, O2, British Airways and Eddie Stobbart. There are many more UK/European brands covered, and also the usual mix of international mega brands - Coca Cola, Sony etc.

It's a fairly chunky book (not one of those coffee-table size monsters that are impossible to read), but I don't believe the author meant for this to be read from cover to cover. Rather, it's more of a reference book that you dip in and out of if you need help with a specific communication issue.

I've knocked off one star for a few reasons:

1. Layout - who comes up these layouts? There are lots of images dotted on every page and the text interweaves and meanders around them, making it incredibly difficult to read. This is compounded by each page having a different layout.

2. Images/feel - the reproduction of some of the images is pretty awful. The pages are more cream than white, and there's a 1980s school text book feel to Problem Solved.

3. Digital communications - these aren't really covered. Given how important this medium is, and how many communication mistakes are made online, a couple of chapters on digital issues would have been useful.

Overall, a different take on the genre and the book will be a useful reference for budding designers, and those working in branding, marketing, communications (whether in-house or in agencies).
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Problem Solved
Problem Solved by Michael Johnson (Hardcover - 3 Sep 2012)
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