Robin Williams Design Workshop Paperback – 26 Oct 2000
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If you just stumbled into design, maybe via a hobby that grew into a career, and you want to improve your work without having to enrol in a degree program, this book can bridge some of the gaps in your acumen. Not really a primer on basic facts, Design Workshop is more like a guide to style.
The first chapter quizzes readers on mostly technical, basic details of design (like dpi), all of which can be found in Williams's previous publications (for example, The Non-Designer's Design Book). Readers will be dismayed, or maybe annoyed, that the quiz answers are not provided. Even if not knowing the answers means that you need remedial help, it feels like a bit of a tease.
The next chapters show how to use stock images, or your own images, to increase the visual impact of your piece (basically through an increase in contrast). The best part of this section, and the book as a whole, is the "before and after" approach in the examples; they are like a series of makeovers. The captions effectively describe what was changed in the image and how it improved the design.
The book applies a similar set of makeovers to various types of design projects: logos, forms, newsletters, tables of contents, etc. In the final section, seven designers, including co-author Tollett, break down the process they went through on a job of their own.
Self-taught graphic designers would probably make the best audience for this book, but designers who are of their own "school of thought" may find fault with some of the tenets put forth. Graphic design is by nature a subjective enterprise--at the mercy of "styles". What you get in this book is more of a "desktop publisher style". There is a lack of sophistication in the design of the book as well as in the illustrations of posters, letterheads, advertisements and other applications that are used as examples. On the other hand, this same open, naive look gives the book an inviting appeal, and makes it perhaps a bit less daunting than style guides intended for die-hard professionals, such as Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style. --Angelynn Grant
From the Back Cover
Learn design theory and practical know-how from the award-winning author/design team, Robin Williams and John Tollett
Robin Williams introduced design and typographic principles to legions of readers with her best-selling Non-Designer's book series. Now she and designer/co-author John Tollett take you to the next level of creative design with practical advice and lessons in composition, visual impact, and design challenges.
Presented in Robin and John's signature style―writing that is so crystal clear, it's accessible to absolutely anyone―and illustrated with hundreds of full-color design examples, the ideas in this book tackle design theory, visual puns, and layout and graphics strategies for real-world projects. Developing designers will appreciate the author's imaginative approach and well-chosen examples.
- Discover practical and effective design principles and concept–and how to apply them to virtually any project.
- Learn why some designs are attention-getting and others are not.
- Learn how to choose just the right look―corporate or casual, classic or trendy―for specific types of projects, such as business cards, letterhead and envelopes, newsletters and brochures, logos, advertising, and more.
- Test your design acumen by comparing before-and-after examples.
- Find a wealth of inspiration for your own design projects.
- Gain insight into the design process by studying the works of guest designers, who offer their personal commentary and insights.
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Williams gives us more principles of sound design, which she then shows at work through a series of daily applications--letterhead, web sites, brochures, etc. She uses the principles in example after example, explaining why they are examples of good or blah design. I return to her examples again and again for simple ideas to juice up my non-profit communications and raise my customers' expectations of visual communication.
Snazzy pictures, lots of ideas, and comforting encouragement all make this one an essential part of my reference library.
At first, I was almost going to give up and hand over the project to a professional but after reading the book, I found many helpful ideas and was inspired to give it a try on my own. I produced a flyer, a Flash presentation, a product logo and a report layout and cover based on the lessons from these two books. I will not claim that they are works of art but many friends and clients have complemented on the outcome. Some of my clients even thought that I had had them professionally done.
Although there are others who will say that some of us just has the flair for designing, I don't think I would have been able to do all that without the help of these two books. For those of you who wish to create artwork for print, I would recommend starting with "The Non-Designer's Design Book" and then advancing to this book. Also check out some other books by the same publisher mentioned in the introductory chapter of this book.
On the other hand, the book wasn't `all encompassing', like it seemed to be. Many references to previous books by the author showed that this was a book for most people. I would have added more to the book instead of constantly referring to previous books, if I was the author. Also, in the book, questions are asked to the reader, but there aren't answers printed anywhere in the book, which can be confusing.
Personally, I would rate this book as an 8 on a scale of 1-10. It was a great book to read and it taught me a lot. It could have had more `guts', but it was very well written. I would definitely suggest this book to others, if they were interested in design. It was well worth my time and a good book to `keep on file!'
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