Graphic Design Essentials Inverness

To provide a solid grounding, Macario needs to be less hand-wavy on the key issues. Still, as long as you don't mind putting a paper bag over its head, Graphic Design Essentials is a decent starting point for self-teachers and well structured for class work.

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Graphic Design Essentials

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Is it too predictable to pick up a book about graphic design and moan about the way it's designed? This one does look a bit of a dog's dinner. Surprisingly, the layout is credited to Roger Fawcett-Tang, a man responsible for several excellent books, including his own New Typographic Design. Maybe it was the educational remit on this occasion that provoked a descent into flat colour blocks and clumsy drop shadows, not to mention Univers, a typeface that holds endless fascination for design academics, but in reality is so dull that it makes Arial look like a heart-stopping triumph of baroque fantasy.

When it comes to selling text books, though, many people are easily frightened, and this unprepossessing appearance may be correctly calculated to reassure the target audience of entry-level graphics students and teachers that this is not some airy-fairy coffee-table tome for Sagmeister sniffers. On the contrary, Boston professor Joyce Walsh Macario has put together an admirably straightforward introduction to the field, explaining what graphic design is for, how it works, and roughly how to get from a blank sheet of paper to something your tutor will pass, without tripping over your software. As a basic but unpatronising primer, it would be equally useful to non-students who want to expand from other creative or business skill sets into graphics.

The general principles and advice are interspersed with step-by-step workthroughs based on up-to-date screenshots of Adobe Creative Suite apps in Mac OS X. So, for example, you get a discussion of logo design, with examples of classic and idiosyncratic marks, then you're shown how to put together a logo using basic type and path tools in Illustrator. It's not going to win you any D&AD Pencils, but your £20 will at least have you producing work rather than just dreaming.

Where things go a bit awry is in the specifics. The typography chapter is more descriptive than prescriptive, short on both fundamental principles and everyday do's and don'ts; the practical tips fall straight into meaningless decoration and miss obvious software functions, at one point suggesting that InDesign users achieve hanging punctuation by inserting spaces. A section on colour introduces a painter's red-yellow-blue colour wheel, which it fails to connect with its explanations of RGB and CMYK; and yes, web-safe colours are alive and well in 2009 (just exactly which browsers is it that 'display only 216 colours consistently' - and define 'consistently'?).

Describing ways to acquire images, the author skips straight from Google to rights-managed libraries, and suggests scanning as the best way to acquire a wider range of high-resolution pictures. That's not what most designers use their scanners for, and can we say 'microstock'? The advice that 'clients foot the bill for all images' is at best carelessly expressed. Disappointingly, an explanation of resolution and file formats is spoiled by lapses such as conflating resolution and quality, and failing to distinguish between lossless and lossy compression.

To provide a solid grounding, Macario needs to be less hand-wavy on the key issues. Still, as long as you don't mind putting a paper bag over its head, Graphic Design Essentials is a decent starting point for self-teachers and well structured for class work.

Verdict

A decent introduction to the subject, though technically flawed and aesthetically disappointing.

Author: Adam Banks

Graphic Design Essentials