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Resources - Book Reviews

The Non-Designer's Design Book

Review by Kim Lewandowski

The Non-Designer's Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice

Author(s): Robin Williams
Publisher and date of publication: Peachpit Press, 1994

Audience: Novice

Recommendation: 10
(on a scale of 1 to 10)


"The Non-Designer's Design Book" is an excellent book for people without a formal design or art background who are interested in visual design, such as creating newsletters, flyers, brochures, and Web sites. As more and more people with little or no design training are getting into these areas, a book such as this is an invaluable help in achieving a more professional look.

The book is in two parts: Principles of Design and Designing with Type. It first introduces the four basic design concepts - proximity, alignment, repetition and contrast - then describes each one more fully, illustrating the concepts with before & after examples. A summary at the end of each section includes the purpose of each concept, how to achieve it, and mistakes to avoid. Moving through the book, previous concepts are reinforced within the text and the examples. Also included are little quizzes to test your growing knowledge of design principles.

Part 2 discusses typographic principles of design, beginning with six basic categories of typefaces and discussing the development and characteristics of each. Then, methods of combining and contrasting type are presented, with numerous examples.

The book concludes with a couple of exercises and more quizzes.


It is remarkably complete, even listing the typefaces included in the examples and adding a bibliography of recommended books and magazines. The examples are effective in illustrating the concepts and the tone is engaging and fun to read.


It would be easy to ask for more examples, since the ones included are so much fun, but the author encourages the reader to collect her own examples and express what you like or dislike about them and which of the design principles are adhered to or broken. This way, you develop your own eye for design.


"The Non-Designer's Design Book" is an effective primer for people without a formal design education who find themselves with design projects, whether for work, home, or community. With the proliferation of computers and design opportunities among the general population, having a book like this for education and reference purposes can only increase the quality of what they produce.

Copyright 2002, Kim Lewandowski, All Rights Reserved

Photo of Kim Lewandowski

Kim Lewandowski is the Web Site Manager for Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. With a background in desktop publishing and network administration, she moved into web site design and management in 1996. She also served as Secretary/Newsletter Editor of a local computer user group for several years, writing a monthly column in the Umbrella newsletter. She is the List Archives Editor for the Wise-Women Web Site.




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