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Book Review: The Elements of Graphic Design

The Elements of Graphic Design

I would give the actual text of Elements of Graphic Design 4 stars, as it is chock-full of useful information and really helps cement basic design principles. However, I’m giving it 3 stars because the structure and design of the content makes gleaning the information at times a challenge.

The content itself is pretty basic graphic design principles, how to think about them, how to use them. Size, color, proportion, white space, grids, typography, etc. While is could have been organized so there was a little less repetition and clarity, most of it was well explained and demonstrated. Much of it was not new to me, but then I have a BFA, worked a good deal in the graphic art side of printmaking, and have spent a good deal of time with typography. I didn’t study design, however, and much of this is framed as a teacher might cover it in a class, therefore quite welcome. I’m especially grateful for the checklist of questions to ask about a design, which is extremely helpful for clarifying potential issues in my design work that I’m not always good at identifying or articulating.

The design of the information, though following the kind of order and internal logic described in the text, is often too busy, overloaded with examples and quotes. All quite helpful indeed, but the lack of white space and inclusion of 3-4 threads of information makes everything difficult to parse. You could argue that the author is drawing attention to these elements by using them in a more heightened way, but then that begs the question of whether it really helps the reader to grasp the actual content. I don’t really mind design that challenges presumptions of good design and pushes the limits, but within the context of just conveying best use principles, this may not be the best approach.

This is certainly a great-looking book, and I’ll be keeping it on my shelf for the general guidelines and checklist, but personally I would prefer something with a more straightforward approach to the content.

Original review posted on GoodReads.