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A Dirty Job
Christopher Moore
The Improvisational Cook
Sally Schneider
London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets
Peter Ackroyd
Design Basics Index - Jim Krause Helpful before and after designs (i.e., how to fix a design). Encourages exploration of different layouts. Provides definitions of all elements of design.

"Effective grouping streamlines the viewer's search for meaning and information [and navigation of the content]. The designer helps the viewer by deciding which (and how) elements should visually relate to each other." (p. 43)

"A lack of clear visual ranking between elements is perhaps the single most common failing of design. When this happens, the piece either fails to attract interest, or loses the interest of a viewer after it has been gained." (p. 61) "Avoid a fainthearted approach when making these decisions. Be decisive." (p. 64) "Visual indecision weakens structure; avoid it!" (p. 81)

"Even an artist of modest ability can consistently create work of impact and effect if they have cultivated a precise and honest sense of evaluation. An inaccurate set of evaluation skills undermine the creative efforts of even the most (otherwise) capable designer." (p. 97)

"Just as a person might feel uncomfortable in a confined space, the eye also feels uneasy when it finds itself presented with no way out. Many viewers, when confronted with trapped visual space [white space - especially in the center of the layout], feel a distinct, though difficult to define, sense of unease." (p. 114) [unless it's done intentionally for effect]

"Typographically speaking, it is generally best to avoid placing flush-left (ragged right) text next to a strong vertical division such as an image or block of color." (p. 115)

Evaluating Composition ("CAP"):
  1. Connection - Can adjustments be made (large or tiny) to create more relevant connections between elements? If so, can changes be made to make fewer and more logically related groups of items within the layout? If this is a multi-page design, are there strong visual and thematic connections between the pages?
  2. Alignment - Have I checked the alignment of each element to make sure nothing has been overlooked? Are there exceptions that could be allowed that would enforce the message?
  3. Priority - Is there a clear and appropriate hierarchy between elements? Is there a good balance of color and value and are both acting to bring attention appropriately to their subject matter or area of a design? Does the eye feel pulled in opposing directions or drawn off the page by the composition? (p. 121)

"The next time you begin to put ideas and thumbnail sketches together for a project, consider this approach: adopt the alter-ego of a brilliant wildman or wildwoman of design and lay siege to your book with a take-no-prisoners creative onslaught. (Go big or go home, as they say.) Save quality-control and finalization until several hard-earned pages of the sketchbook have been filled... Remember: it's far easier to scale back a far-out concept or composition than it is to bolster the personality of a lackluster solution." (p. 153)

"Styles between images should be either identical, or noticeably different." For example: "Contract in style, agreement in theme." (p. 200)

"The art of rationalization, applied to the retionalization of our art: it's the slow, slinking slide into creative oblivion that cools the original spark that first fired our imagination toward the manifestation of an artistic goal... Designers sometimes do similar things when choosing spot colors, typefaces or deciding on the cropping of an image - accepting easily the readily available solutions without comparing those choices against the look or feel that they were aiming for when they began the project. Hold true to your original creative impulses. Avoid the temptations of shortcut and convenience as you journey toward their realization." (p. 205)

"A well-chosen color of ink can be flooded over a surface, featured in any number of lighter tints or combined with one or two other inks for cost-effective impact." (p. 220) "Never underestimate the power of a simple palette." (p. 225)

Evaluating Components ("CAP"):
  1. Connotation - Is every sub-component within the element working toward the same thematic goal? Could color, proportion, quality-of-finish or font choices within this graphic element be adjusted (if even slightly) to better reflect its message?
  2. Attributes - Could linework be thickened, made thinner or "roughened up" in order to better establish the element's aesthetic and thematic integrity? If so, does the element stand out clearly and is it in thematic agreement with the backdrop? Will the color scheme of each element fit in well with the scheme of the larger layout in which they are placed? Is the text large enough for the intended audience to easily read? Is it time to look for new fonts?
  3. Placement - Should it call attention to itself or go virtually unnoticed? What sort of placement should this graphic element be given within the composition? Should its edges align with other elements within the layout? if so, will it conform to the same alignment conventions that apply to other elements in the composition (flus left, flush right, centered, etc.)? Once placed within a layout, should the element be further cropped, rotated, moved, sized or altered in any way? (p. 275)

"Obscurity can be used as a theme and as way of delivering theme. Most people find it hard to resist a well-presented puzzle, actual or thematic... Juxtaposition (a combination of objects that seem to be at cross purposes or without an obvious reasons for their association) can be used to generate intrigue, ambiguity and humor. Juxtaposition, when used effectively, takes advantage of people's natural tendency to investigate the deliciously obscure." (p. 310)

"Use instinct and logic to tell you whether each aspect and element of a design are working toward the delivery of the same message. Avoid adding elements that have a separate agenda, no matter how attractive they might be on their own." (p. 321)

"Fill your creative reservoir by training your eyes to SEE and your brain to ABSORB... Read. Read the classics, read pulp fiction, read a variety of magazines. Read before bed, read during lunch, read on the weekend. Read solo or as part of a group... Learn a musical instrument, borrow or buy a digital video camera, become a better cook, act. Creativity gained in one medium invariably spills over into others." (p. 326)

"Create a savings account of images - one that is always available for reference and use in personal and professional projects. A suggestion: purchase a camera and get in the habit of taking it with you wherever you go... Over time, you will build up a stock of banked images that can be used as featured photos, backdrops, visual textures and reference material for your work." (p. 202)

Evaluating Concept ("CAP"):
  1. Clarity - Is each working toward the same overall message and goal? Is there more than one message fighting for attention here?
  2. Audience - Who does the client think their primary audience will be? What can you do to be sure of your conclusions? What sort of lingo might they respond to? Does the concept behind this piece talk down to the target audience? What can this product or announcement provide that the audience wants, needs or desires? If this piece were a person, what would she/he look like and how would they behave?
  3. Purpose - Is it meant to sell a product? Is the purpose to inform or persuade? Have you discussed the purpose with your client or art director? If not, what can be left out in favor of a more focused presentation? (p. 339)