The Non-Designer's Design Book, By Robin Williams, Peachpit Press Pounds 12.95. 1 56609 159 4.Computer Manuals, 50 James Road, Tyseley, Birmingham B11 2BA.
Robin Williams will always be associated with The Little Mac Book which was, and remains, one of the most clearly written, non-technical computer manuals. Having worked and taught in traditional and electronic design for more than 12 years, she now brings an easy familiarity to bear on the graphic aspects of newsletter production.
This book, 142 pages long, is divided into two roughly equal sections; design and typography. Under the acronym CRAP (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity), a memorable - but very inappropriate acronym - the guiding principles of page layout and design are simply and elegantly expressed. There are plenty of before and after examples that demonstrate how, with fine-tuning and a sensitive eye, the printed page can be made more attractive. And she is not afraid to identify the common pitfalls of most beginners' work. Anyone wishing for clear guidance in design matters will welcome this robust approach.
The section on typography includes dozens of typefaces and shows how they can be used to create different effects. Font styles, weights and compatibility are fully explained and a comprehensive index lists all 103 fonts used in the volume.
It's a book, as the author is keen to point out, about empowerment. About ways in which the non-professional can, with a little guidance, produce a worthwhile and eye-catching publication. And about visual awakening; how "you will never again look at a page in the same way."
The success in recent years of "cut-down" graphic and word-processing programs suggests that there is a niche in the market for uncomplicated, cheap desktop packages. With professional desktop publishing software now costing in excess of Pounds 500, the financially straitened school, college or Parent Teacher Association might well consider whether they could create a better and cheaper newsletter with this manual and a basic word-processing application.
Ultimately, it is the layout of the book itself which is the best testament to the author's skills. Produced in B5 letter size, slightly smaller than the more familiar A4 format, it is composed with a flair and confidence that should be an inspiration and benchmark to any aspiring Citizen Kane.