Designing Books: Practice and Theory Paperback – 30 Apr 2003
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Personally, hardcover is better than paperback version. :)
The author does cover Swiss grid design, proportions of text areas and margins, and the differences between asymmetrical and symmetrical design theories. It is perhaps this historical reference of asymmetrical and symmetrical styles that make this book worth having. It presents intelligent comparisons of both theories, the history behind each movement, and the cultural stereotypes attached to each. Case in point, Jan Tschichold's groundbreaking work in asymmetrical design / book layout, before totally reversing course and becoming one of the great symmetrical designers in his later years.
The author intelligently illustrates the positive and negative aspects of both design theories, without leaning towards either as a preference. The author finds beauty and intrigue in both styles.
To clarify however, the "asymmetrical" theories illustrated here are based on 1960s Swiss/German grid layouts using lots of Univers and white space. This is not a collection of cutting-edge typography or radical design work. The illustrated examples are clean, modest and classic.
A good starting point for those who need a clear entry point into this field, but by no means a reference manual for the experienced.
Hochuli has moved past the dogmatic phase, though, and into something better-reasoned. The paper is a warm, humanist tan (where I expected a stark white), the body copy is a serif font, and Hochuli lets esthetic judgement moderate geometric purism. It may seem surprising that setting up a scientific text jolted him out of the "scientific" Bauhaus mindset. After thinking about it for a moment, perhaps only a science text could have done the job. More than any other genre, science books tend to mix illustrations and photos, graphs, charts, equations and in-line math, footnotes, references and cross-references, and all the other factors that complicate typography. Even more, because the science content of the book can be so complex, it calls out for typographic help in organizing the material for visual presentation.
The book is a lovely object. The wide margins give the text a statuesque look. References on each page are set off clearly and legibly. Unfortunately, the text is quite short - only about half the length of the book, and half of that is illustrations. The second half of the book is a brief catalog of Hochuli's work. The material is worthwhile, but it seemed like filler, meant to bring the book up to some mandated minimum length. I also found it a bit too large to read one-handed, the way I do with most papaerbacks. Hochuli seems to have broken his own rule about the size of a book, the way it is read, and the way it is held for reading.
The only place I seriously disagreed with Hochuli's advice had to do with bibliographies. I don't think the italic needs a different 'color', as long as the slant and dynamics of line weight are clear. I think he missed out completely on mixing European and Asian names. Western tradition uses "first-name last-name" order for personal name and family name. Many Asians and some Africans put the family name first and personal name last (as if saying "Jones Chris" instead of "Chris Jones"). Typographic convention can preserve proper order and still distinguish family from personal names.
Nothing is perfect, but this book is a pleasant and informative discussion of typography in the large - the steps above letterforms and paragraph structure. I'll keep it, and keep coming back to it.
This is a pretty book, I just find the errors fairly humorous. Have yet to get into the meat of the matter, though I do agree with the previous reviewer that this serves more as a composite picture book.
If you are looking for pure typographic excellence, look at Robert Bringhurst's _The Elements of Typographic Style_.
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