Clarity without clutter

9th December 2005 at 00:00
GRAPHIC DESIGN SCHOOL. By David Dabner. Thames Hudson pound;14.95

It's always good to see a book that exemplifies its own principles.

David Dabner subscribes to the virtues of elegance, clarity and freedom from clutter - at one point he cites the mantra "less is more" - and as you turn its pages his book demonstrates what he means.

It's a self-teaching guide, complete with assignments, exercises and "seminars" from established practitioners, clearly organised into 14 modules. Dabner shows that good designs exists, and then explains how it can be achieved by thought and practice as much as by intuition and inspiration.

He begins by setting out the essential language of design. Double-page spreads treat topics such as layout, proportion, harmony, colour, typography, graphics and spacing.

Not everyone will agree with all his canons, but the benefit to students will be substantial, even if they are driven to prove the opposite.

There are some helpful sections on the use of scrapbooks and "mood boards"

for the exploration of ideas. It is also most encouraging to see how the same illustration and text can be laid out in many varied ways, each of which might be appropriate for a different purpose, and to consider the impact of digital technology on the manipulation of images.

The two remaining sections concern the techniques used once the language has been learned and its application in commercial production. We learn a lot about grids and margins, fonts and folds, pace and contrast, form and content. The entire printing process, including cardinal operations such as the correction of colour proofs, is clarified.

Examples are thoughtfully chosen - there's an informative three-page account of developing a campaign to warn young music fans about hearing damage. Sections on websites are rather less assured and comprehensive, and might need a similar volume all to themselves. But the one we have here is admirable.

Tom Deveson

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