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J P Ribeiro (London)

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Sexy Web Design: Creating Interfaces that Work
Sexy Web Design: Creating Interfaces that Work
by Elliot Jay Stocks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Web Design Creative Process, 29 Jun. 2011
Have you ever wondered if your design process is the right one for your projects? Have you ever thought that maybe there's a step missing or maybe a specific phase that needs more emphasis on? After doing some research on the subject I found out that Elliot Jay Stocks, a very cool designer from the UK, had recently written a book about this called Sexy Web Design published by Sitepoint, a cool Aussie based book publisher and web & design reference website.

Overall idea of the book

In this book, Elliot shows you his process of creating a sexy website, from the initial briefing with the client to the final updates on the mockup. The author explains the purpose of each phase, exemplifies showing successful websites online and applies the proper technique on a demo project that is covered throughout the book.

Although the book covers a lot of content, the book doesn't go very deep on each of them and some topics are left with just a few lines of explanation. Elliot tries to fix this issue by giving external references but sadly they are mostly to Sitepoint links or their books, which sound a little biased. Don't get me wrong, I'm a frequent reader of Sitepoint`s website but it wouldn't hurt to throw a few more references.

The highlights

The chapter which covers inspiration and mood on websites is spot on just like the briefing and initial sketches approach suggested by the author. I like the idea of spending more time away from the computer to get your mind in the right place.

Conclusion

I would really recommend this book to any web designer. Even if you are sure that your design process is good enough for your projects, there's always something interesting that lights a bulb in your head.


Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Usability Mythbuster, 29 Jun. 2011
What comes to your mind when you think about usability in web design? "Less clicks is better"? "Design to the average user"? "Content is king"? "Users leave your website if it doesn't load in X seconds"? If you take any of these as a rule for your websites then you need to read this book: Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug.

The Book

Although usability is becoming more and more popular among web projects these days, it is still an underrated feature. In this book, Steve Krug explains usability in a fun and direct way, using illustrations to mimic real life situations in which we all have been before. The examples and the websites featured in this book are a little outdated - the first edition was released in 2000 - but the problems are still around only with a modern design.

Myths and Tips

Every chapter contains precious gems and "facts of life" (as the author says) that show us how we really use websites. One example is the fact that he explains how we scan pages instead of reading them, and how this makes "content is king" a myth. Speaking about content, Steve Krug advices us to get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what's left. This may sound weird, specially under a SEO point of view, but if you think again, by doing this you will end up having only the essential content (or keywords), the one that matters to your user.

Conclusion

Don't let the fact that the book was originally written the year 2000 put you off. As I said before, we still face the same issues today. In 2005 was released the second version of this book which has three new chapters, including one where he talks about CSS & web usability and another one - one of the best IMHO - where he advices us on how to answer to our bosses when they have bad ideas. If you're still wondering if buying the book is a good idea or not, the fact that it is recommended by Jeffrey Zeldman should be enough for you to buy it!


Making and Breaking the Grid: A Layout Design Workshop
Making and Breaking the Grid: A Layout Design Workshop
by Timothy Samara
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.58

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plain and Simple Grid Design, 29 Jun. 2011
Making and Breaking the Grid, by Timothy Samara, is an analysis of the construction and deconstruction of grid-based designs. Featuring a comprehensive showcase of works in different media and across several decades.

The Book

The book is basically divided into 2 parts. The first one about the creation of the grid-based designs and its usage. The second one explains the deconstruction of the grid, a different approach on design in which the grid doesn't have to obey any rules.
In the first few pages the reader will be immersed into the historical facts surrounding the development of the grid-based design. There is a lot of information here - about 150 years of art & design evolution in only 7 pages - maybe a timeline would be interesting. But then again, this is not a history book.

The next chapter the author slows down the pace and starts a workshop about grid design. The content here is precise, clear enough for beginners and a good read for advanced designers. Concepts and styles are illustrated in a simple yet effective way and the examples are spot on.

Then the showcase begins. Pages and pages of great artwork from different decades and styles. Each of them with its own grid style - column, modular grid, etc. Description and comments explain how it was used and the effect generated by it.

Conclusion

As an introduction to grid-design, Making and Breaking the Grid does its job. It will give the initial hints and ideas of layout structure in a few pages but doesn't go very deep. The highlight of the book, without any doubt, is the showcase of designs. Big illustrations and photographs with detailed information. Definitely a must-have on any designer library.


Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities (Voices That Matter)
Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities (Voices That Matter)
by David Airey
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Logo Design Creative Process, 29 Jun. 2011
If you are into branding and logos then you probably know David Airey. His knowledge in the graphic design field has generated two well known and popular blogs. In the book Logo Design Love, David covers brand indentity and logo design in an exciting and comprehensive way.

The book is divided into 3 main groups: Brand Identity, Process of Design and Tips, Advices and Resources. The text is easy to read and is beautifully illustrated. Throughout the pages we see examples and showcases of logos designed by the author and other designers. All aligned and related to the content.

If you are familiar with the work of David Airey and his style of writing you will feel at home reading this book. Differently from other authors, who usually just say what you should be doing, David goes through the book content by sharing his own experiences, the good and the bad ones and everything in between. Personally, this is the highlight of the book.

On the other side, if you have read most of David's posts and texts, you might find that some of the content is being repeated. Which is understandable - the book is aimed to a beginning / intermediate audience and there are some parts that you just cannot leave behind.

I definitely recommend Logo Design Love, no matter what level you consider yourself being. Knowing the creative process of another designer is always a good thing as it makes you think about your own.


Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students (Design Briefs)
Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students (Design Briefs)
by Ellen Lupton
Edition: Paperback

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Typography in different media and for different audiences, 16 Sept. 2009
I must admit that typography wasn't always my favourite field in design. Until a couple years ago fonts and texts were mere supporting actors of the design movie. My mind changed when I finally realized that typography is as important as the shapes, the colours and the styles used. One of the books that helped me get there was Thinking with Type, by Ellen Lupton.

Overall idea of the book

Always using history as a guide, the author shows how the letters and texts can influence the way we see a piece of design and how we can improve readability by following some rules. Personally, one of these tips that really caught my attention was: When using stacked letters - like the ones on spines of books - we should always use small caps with centred column. Maybe this is common sense to some people, but for me it was something that I had never realized.

The book is also very rich on examples. Fonts familiar to most designers - or anyone in the field - are presented and described throughout the pages. Futura, for example, was designed in the late 20's by Paul Renner who sought on "honest expression of technical processes". But be warned, as the author constantly says, this is not a book about fonts.

"The relationships among letters in a font are more important than the identity of individual characters."

History or Design Book?

If you are not into history and want to get straight to the technical part you might want to skip a few pages, but by doing this you'll miss the best part of the book, like when the author explains the reason of the terms uppercase and lowercase: in the old printshops, they used to store the case of the capital letter in the upper drawer). Historical fact or plain curiosity, at least it helps to make the reader more comfortable with the subject.

Conclusion

From letters to text, grid layout to html, Thinking with Type is a book that explains the use of typography in different media and for different audiences. This may not be your ultimate guide about it, but will surely be on your mind in your next designs.


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