Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Book reviews — Introducing a new category on the blog

January 1, 2011, 10:27 PM

This post opens the new year with a new category on the blog, Book Reviews. As an incurable book-addict (thanks mum!), I’ve always had problems deciding what to buy first (good design & typography books are rarely cheap, especially for a student). Few websites are of real help, the best being YouWorkForThem (Amazon’s «Look Inside» feature usually being just a nuisance) — others being Jason Santa Maria’s Rec. Reading (very short on details) or Design Observer’s list (short info and far too many). There are dozens of books on typography or grid design, for instance, but few offer a helpful & thorough take on the subject — or bring anything new at all — so we’re usually left asking: which one?

Hopefully, I’ll make things a bit easier. Here are a few points that I’ll try to touch:

  1. show inside photos of the book, as they’re usually the best way to get the feeling & usefulness of the book (plus, let’s face it, we–designers first look at the pictures, no matter how type-obsessed we are);
  2. give a more personal, designer’s review of the book, explaining why it is good (or where it lacks) and what’s to learn from it (rather than just state what it’s about);
  3. compare it to similar books or give further reading recommendations (some are ok for beginners, some require previous readings or knowledge);
  4. keep it short enough — I wouldn’t want to spoil your reading pleasure — “The secret of being boring is to say everything,” according to Voltaire;
  5. quote some of the most memorable parts, the ones that should stay with you for quite some time (also reminders for myself and those that have read the book).
  6. colophon — besides the fact that many times we buy them just for their looks, you can learn a lot not just by reading a book, but also by looking at how it’s made (what typefaces it uses, what kind of grid and so on).

I’ll be reviewing one or two books per month, maybe more, if time permits (images-mostly books are easier, of course, but I try to avoid them, as there’s usually little to learn from them). Unless I buy or get something new that I find extremely interesting, all the books will be from my shelf (if you want one reviewed faster or just a short opinion, feel free to write me). Any comments, ideas or further details are more than welcome, as always.

Thank you for reading, the first review will follow shortly and it’s about one of the greats, Paul Rand — stay tuned.

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