Sunday, April 02, 2006

Book Review: The Non-Designer's Design Book

I'm not a graphic designer. Not even close. So it was with skepticism that I picked up The Non-Designer's Design Book. In the past, when I've searched out design books that I thought would be useful for a non-designer I've been met with two options. Either the book is totally focused on how you can create graphics, or it's simply a collection of examples. Neither of which does me much good.

But The Non-Designer's Design Book is different. Instead, it finds balance in presenting both useful theory and solid examples. The author's goal isn't to teach you how to be a designer, but instead to help you make your existing work more presentable. She gives you some concrete rules to follow to produce better designs.

The book doesn't focus only on the web - examples from resumes, to Hello, My Name is _______ cards are discussed. This shows how universal the principles she's talking about are.

I found her advice especially valid because I've seen some of these exact principles being applied by professional designers. Take alignment - I quickly learned from working with a designer at my last job that everything needs to be aligned with something. By simply aligning our work properly, the designer could turn something created by a programmer into something that looked a lot sharper.

Another aspect of this book that I found useful is the terminology the author introduces. I'm very tempted to make this book required reading for my team (guys, consider yourselves warned) just so we can all be speaking the same language. I can say, for example, "What about moving the logo over here because of the proximity rule" and they should know what that means.

I give this book a 10/10 for not only delivering on what it promised, but by going beyond. And you get all this in a book that you could probably read through in just a few hours if you needed to.

Combine this book with Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug, and you have a pair of books that every web programmer should read. Doing so will no doubt lead to producing better user experiences for your applications.

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