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A Refresher Course for Graphic Designers

A Refresher Course for Graphic Designers


I recently came across a book that is all about graphic design for “non-designers”. At first I was a little offended. How can there be such a book? Don’t they know that we designers have to go to school for quite a while to learn the basics of design and how to apply these basics to our work? How can a “non-designer” just pick up a book and design a successful project? Well, after forcing myself to open the book, I found a few things that even seasoned professionals may be able to use. Stay tuned, and I may fill you in on the book’s name.

This publication offers “essential knowledge, tips, and tricks” on how to start applying basic design principles right away. There are even 20 step-by-step projects for the design novice. Well, let’s see what’s in here.

There is a two-page spread of design “terminology”. Random terms such as baseline grid, CMYK and RGB, layout, point size, vector, tint, and transparency are basically explained and may be of help if you forget what these basics mean. One good thing about the book is that there is a pretty good explanation of the basics that we all use such as layout and tracing pads, cutting mats, and steel rules. It’s really good to have the hands-on basics in the book, however briefly explained. Also in the basics are some guides on how to buy the right computer – the authors say that a good-quality PC is just as effective in design projects as an Apple product. There is a section on how to buy a good camera to capture your images, including mention of compacts and SLRs. Pretty short and sweet, but it’s a good little section.

After the preliminary sections are covered, the authors get into the “Space and Structure” section. There is talk of using white space with an explanation of form and trapped space. In the “Grouping” section, there are explanations of such design principles as proximity, separation, size, and position of design and design elements. Visual flow and connections – continuity and repetition – are covered and there are some good examples of what they’re talking about. There’s even a good section on grids. We all love grids, right? Choosing the appropriate measurements, drawing, and breaking the grid are really important aspects of design and there are some nice, tight examples in the publication.

The section on color theory is pretty nice. Of course, there is mention of the blasted “color wheel” that we all have studied and hopefully mastered. Do you know what the differences between equidistant and adjacent points are? How about complimentary and monochromatic color? There are some good examples of color harmony as well. Their CMYK values are written in a way that may be confusing, such as 030/010/030/000, but we know these are percentages, I hope.

The back section of the book offers step-by-step solutions to such design problems as basic as memos and business cards to rubber stamps, T-shirts, and event programs. It’s pretty good and the accompanying graphics look nice. It’s good to capture the right color and type combinations to make these and your projects work. Not to be copied, but studied and expanded upon.

So, the book is called “Graphic Design for Non-Designers” and is put out by Chronicle Books in San Francisco. This article is not meant to be a book review or promotion for any publication, just a nice look at what kinds of design books are out there and how much we, as graphic designers, really know. No matter if you’re in school, out of school, or working at a design job that calls for a lot of creativity, it’s always good to see what others are doing and what kinds of projects can be done.

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