- Title: The Non-Designer’s Design Book
- Author: Robin Williams
- Subject: Graphic Design, Technical Writing
- Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/22/2015
I bought this book for an advanced Technical Writing class, then ironically had to drop the class because I got a full-time job. I just picked up the book again and read it all the way through.
The good points – this is a quick and breezy book with a lot of examples. I felt most of the examples clearly illustrated the points that the author, an experienced graphic designer, was trying to make.
The bad points – the section on website design was extremely out of date. Recent research on how people use the web emphasizes two things: for websites, san serif fonts are easier to read, especially for large blocks of print (the opposite is true for printed books – where serif fonts are easier to read); and second, although customers hate horizontal (or back-and-forth) scrolling on websites, vertical scrolling is OK. In fact, with the phenomenal growth of tablets and smart phones, vertical scrolling is not only OK – it’s expected.
The author repeats the out-of-date, graphic design advice that “everything has to fit on a standard screen size for a webpage”. That simply isn’t true anymore, in part because there is no standard screen size – a flat-screen monitor may be large and square – or thin and rectangular (widescreen). And then there’s screens which are very small and vertical (smartphone), or vertical and larger (tablet), or even medium sized and horizontal (tablet in landscape mode). Since you have no idea what the viewing screen will be – deciding the “optimum” screen size and designing for it isn’t possible. The latest marketing tools talk about “flowable” screens and “design for mobile”. However, that’s really only one chapter of this book – and the basic design principles probably haven’t changed, especially when designing for paper (books, magazines, newsletters, print ads) etc.
My other gripe was the Mac-Centered nature of the book. Yes, I realize that graphic design was one area that has been traditionally dominated by Apple computer products – but I use a Microsoft Windows PC, and when I use Adobe products (Acrobat, InDesign, Photoshop) it’s the Windows-versions of those products that I use. It was annoying for most of the sample typefaces to be Mac-specific fonts, or the Mac version of fonts because that makes it hard to figure out the specifics of some of the lessons. At least a comparative list of Mac vs. Window fonts would have helped.
Still, I enjoyed reading The Non-Designer’s Design Book and I felt I learned something from it. It also wasn’t overwhelming at all, which is perfect for an introductory textbook.
Here are three recent blog posts all declaring that for on-line use san serif fonts are more readable (serif fonts still rule for paper publications).
The concept of designing, without design, that is – to allow a website site to flow correctly on any screen size from an extra-large PC Monitor to a small smart phone is known as Responsive Design.