Review: Design Basics for Creative Results, 2nd Ed.

Walk through the design process with a critical eye (April 11th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: How Design Books

Price: $26.39 US (discounted)

The Good

  • Difficult concepts explained well for people with previous exposure. Clearly organized. No wasted words. Lots of full color illustrations.

The Bad

  • Concept of design as a Diamond should have been introduced earlier in book. Author might have analyzed samples to help readers to understand the difficult artistic concepts.

Despite the plethora of design books available, good design is hard to teach. Fortunately, Bryan Peterson recognizes that a solid understanding of basic design principles is needed. From this strong foundation comes the potential for great design. Design Basics for Creative Results deals strictly with the design principles that form this foundation. Though short, the book is a dense, real-world study of a difficult subject.

Real World Experience

Peterson's experience as a working designer is evident on every page. Throughout the book, he takes into account real-world considerations, such as quantity of information, print quality and production, mailing costs, and final destination. Sprinkled throughout are 200 color illustrations, most of which represent finished products from noteworthy designers. Peterson also offers questions throughout that every designer should ask of their designs to assess how well their ideas succeed. You will find the exercises the most valuable part of the book.

The structure of Design Basics for Creative Results follows the step-by-step design process from Peterson's own experience. The introduction covers idea generation and selection, sketching, and when to use the computer. In the first chapter, Peterson discusses format at length and thankfully covers the real-world practicalities of print design, which are sometimes lacking in design books.

design process as a diamond

The remaining two chapters, which make up the bulk of the book, deal with the most difficult and subjective parts of design. Chapter 2 discusses line, type, shape, and texture. For Peterson, all parts of any design can be classified as one of these four basic elements. Each element is discussed at length, with plenty of illustrations. Peterson also introduces you to his concept of the design process as a diamond. This analogy would have come in handy earlier to provide an overall frame of reference for the book.

Chapter 3 discusses how the four elements are used in a design's structure to create balance, contrast, unity, value, and color. As printers and advertisers know, few things have as much impact as value and color in any design. Experienced ad designers not accustomed to working with color will find Peterson's short discussion of color a welcome primer.

Prepare to Do Some Work

Peterson admits that writing a book about basic design principles is a tall order because there is much more to becoming a design professional than reading any book. The student designer must do some work. In every chapter, Peterson offers exercises to better understand and apply the principles discussed. These exercises are open-ended and thus require time and effort to perform. If you choose to ignore these exercises, then reading Design Basics for Creative Results is a near waste of time. The only thing missing from Peterson's well-executed introduction to basic graphic design principles is a human instructor to provide constructive feedback and further direction.

by Mike Swope


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