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Three design tomes worth unfreezing your credit card for.

In Uncategorized on September 9, 2010 at 11:46 AM

My credit card isn’t exactly in the old frozen ice cream container of water but it IS currently in the naughty corner. Life is a little expensive as a design student even with a full-time job, and the not-large-but-still-significant amount I owe on my card is roughly the same as a return flight plus insurance to Portland, America (Dream destination. Music. America. Design jobssssssss! OMFG!). When I realised this I made a pact with myself. Stop using it, save up, pay it off, go.

BUT. There are some things that are worth investing in during this process and which I like to think are gonna make the end product of no debt and AMERICA – and design job! – even more viable. What? Design books. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh yeah. Like crack cocaine to a 1990s, B-list superstar, we designers can by pretty much subsist on a steady diet of design tomes alone.

So, which books will I be bringing out my credit card for despite the heady allure of American design heaven as soon as possible?

These four for a start;

  1. Rookledge’s Classic International Typefinder by Christopher Perfect, Gordon Rookledge, Phil Baines.
    I just found this the other day and will be ordering asap. It was published in 2004 so the proliferation of types on the net probably means it doesn’t cover half of what is now available but….it does cover the good, solid foundation types plus some and really, that is what you really need. Once you’ve learnt the rules, that’s when you know how you can break them (and all that). Plus, a book is a great way to flip through whole pages of types and compare and contrast (with their ever-constant guides to how so) to your hearts content, learning the differences between the typefaces and how this makes them appropriate for some situations and not for others. Great foundation knowledge which again will probably be a reference book for the duration of my design career.
  2. Book Design by Andrew Haslam.
    This is a greaaaaat book which I have to admit, I’ve already have. Like a visual guide to book design with EVERYTHING you can imagine from layout, grids, type and publication processes to succinct, easy-to-read explanations as to why that strange little ‘P’ shaped doobiewhatsit denotes the start of a paragraph (and why we indent at the start of them too). And it does all this without ever being dry or texty or to boring for us fragile, little, visual types. Shown to me by a design teacher who is now also a friend, she says she’s been referencing it from the very start of her career and I can absolutely tell that I will be too.
  3. A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand.
    The legend, the icon. Inspired by some prescribed reading in the one theory-based unit in my design course (it’s much more focused on the practical skills of design usually), I’m just learning about the legend that was and is Paul Rand. I want an A2 sized poster of his iconic Eye-Bee-M logo design which, if Macs weren’t so awesome, could almost be enough to turn you back into a PC person forever (allllmost). He is all about all art is design and design is art and that simplicity is the key to all beautiful, smart, breathtaking solutions in design, particularly, that will last the test of time and transcend momentary cultural trends. This book is wordy and visual in equal measures but worth the reading, not just for the great visuals but also because who better to learn from than masters like this. (ps. See earlier post here for a short minivid I featured all about Paul Rand and his design philosophy)
  4. A Smile In The Mind by Beryl McAlhone.
    I only got to peak at this book for a short amount of time but think of any ad campaign or product packaging which made you catch your breath and elicit an audible ‘ha!’ because it made you smile with its simple cleverness. This book probably features it. Lots of really great, clever, impressive design solutions which are notable for their humble but confident wit (as opposed to being cool for the sake of it). They say the best wit is not about being funny or intellectually condescending but makes us smile because it appeals to our sense of intellectual challenge in an unpretentious way. It makes us realise that we can be smart along with the best of them. It’s collaborative rather than preachy or ‘teaching’. This book exposes the reader to many great examples of that. When I get my copy I’m going to really hope it rubs off on me!


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