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The big book of clarity and chaos
on 28 September 2007
What a strange publication. Divided into two sections the first explaining grid formatting with actual printed material and the second revealing how to design print without a grid.
There seems a contradiction here because the grid, used intelligently, will allow a whole range of graphic options to be presented with clarity. Some of the print examples reproduced in the first section do show this with perhaps the most useful item a grid thumbnail for each piece, unfortunately I thought it was rather too small on each spread despite being the key to explaining each format. From past experience, designing magazines, I would start work on a grid by concentrating on the text type size because it is the least flexible of all the elements on the page. This point really wasn't made enough of in the book's chapter: Grid Basics.
The reproductions show a reasonable range of design solutions, essentially print though there is an example of corporate signage. Missing are magazines (consumer or trade) timetables and the like. Without a grid this type of printed matter really wouldn't exist.
The book's contradiction, to my mind, start with the second section: 'Grid Deconstructions and Non-Grid-Based Design Projects'. The forty items shown seem to have a couple of common threads: their design is essentially arbitrary which makes them look very messy and frequently their typography (display and text) is used as a design element which makes the words unreadable. Their design is the opposite of grid stimulated creativity, in other words visual chaos.
Some of the examples are quite amazing. On page 180-181 twelve pages of a calendar are shown, totally useless as its impossible to see the days and dates. Pages 188-189 show eight spreads from a design school journal showing irregular shaped blocks of text creating a sort of collage. I doubt anyone made the effort to read any of it. What is interesting about this second section material is that so much of it comes from educational establishments. In the real world all this designer whimsy would be rejected by the client on sight of the first dummy
'Making and Breaking the Grid' is well printed with 175dpi and the layout is adequate and for a book about grids you would have thought its own grid would have been included but it is strangely missing. Overall I felt that because the contents present two opposite design ideals the book's editorial concept is rather flawed.
From my experience there is only one book that really explains it all: Muller-Brockmann's 'Grid Systems in Graphic Design' published in Switzerland and full of good solid, practical, hands-on information. This book's only purpose is creative clarity.