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Robin Williams | The Non-Designer's Design Book
Robin Williams : Book Review The Non-Designer's Design Book

Graphic Design Learning & Instructional Tools

The Non-Designer's Design Book

Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice by Robin Williams

By Chris Dunmire

The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin WilliamsSeveral years ago I recommended the first edition (1994) of Robin Williams' classic graphic design book The Non-Designer's Design Book. Since then the book has been upgraded and re-released as a second edition and again as a third edition in 2008.

I first happened across The Non-Designer's Design Book through a graphic design course on the online Barnes & Noble University Web site. The course was geared towards those with little or no background in design and typography, and it used this book as the basis for its 6-week lessons.

At the time I enrolled in this Web-based learning course because I was also pursuing college-level courses in digital graphic design at a local college. Soon I learned that several of Robin's design books including this one and Design Workshop were used as the textbooks in several graphic arts courses the college offered. This is not surprising, as those familiar with Robin's impact in the design, desktop publishing, and Mac communities know of her great influence and expertise. Her biography on the Peachpit Publisher's Web site notes:

"Robin Williams is the author of dozens of best-selling and award-winning books about the Macintosh, including the groundbreaking The Little Mac Book and Robin Williams Mac OS X Book. She is an icon in the Mac community. Through her writing, teaching, and seminars, Robin has educated and influenced an entire generation of computer users in the areas of design, typography, desktop publishing, the Mac, and the Web."

Since visual elements and principles of design are timeless, my recommendation for The Non-Designer's Design Book in its latest edition stands as it did when I first wrote my review:

"The 144-page book has 13 chapters divided into two sections: Design principles and Designing with type. In the first section Robin covers the four basic principles of design: contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity (and gives an unforgettable acronym — C.R.A.P. — to remember them by).

In the second section you get a lesson in Typography 101, and learn about type families, contrasting elements of type, and how to effectively combine typefaces. In both sections Robin makes sure you get the point of the material through illustrations, examples, exercises, and quizzes.

Two important items about this book impressed me. First, the book itself struck me as a compelling piece of design work and an appropriate application of the principles discussed in the book. And second, after studying classroom design textbooks for a few semesters, I found Robin's clear and concise teaching style easy to follow, the information simple to recall, and her sense of humor refreshing.

The Non-Designer's Design Book is useful to anyone who:

  1. Is new to the field of graphic design or desktop publishing.

  2. Wants to learn basic design and typography principles to make layouts and presentations more professional and compelling.

  3. Is involved with any do-it-yourself design or desktop publishing for personal or professional reasons in school, at work, and at home, and on the Internet.

© 2008 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.

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Updated 12/25/13