Graphic Design: A User’s Manual by Adrian Shaughnessy

I loved this book. The chapters are ordered alphabetically so I went straight to the end to read about Web design because I was setting up this Graphic Design Blog. This is my fourth Blog and I have not really thought much about the design until now. My major concern has always been to try to impart information as clearly as possible. I have always used drop down menus, and sub menus, for navigation. Shaughnessy seems to be in agreement that this is the way to go about web design. It is the user who decides about how a web site should be used, not the designer. A web site is a work in progress. it is never finished but always evolving.

Andy Cameron says the ‘web designers only function is to give the visitor access to as much information as possible in the fastest, cleanest way‘.

It is suggested that the web designer should have a knowledge of coding and keep up to date with technological development. They will need to be visual thinkers. At an event, in 2008, Shaughnessy could see new landscapes being colonised, a sense of a new more expansive definition for the role of the designer.

Then I started the Manual from the beginning. A friend observed “You are one of those people who read manuals”.  No I am not, I normally use manuals as reference material, but this manual is so readable that I am finding it really entertaining and useful.

There is a chapter under each letter of the alphabet. The content is so varied that it weaves a colourful fabric of topics. The subjects covered span topics like “how to get clients”, how different numerals behave on the typed page to introduction to many, many great designers. For example the letter “I” contains subsections on “Ideas”, Illustration, In-house working, Installation, Integrated design, Interactive, Internships, Italics and obliques. At first sight it seems impossible that a single chapter could contain such diverse information. But it is so well written that one slides seamlessly from one topic to the next.

If I have any criticisms it is that no sub-section is detailed enough. But this is a good complaint as it has encouraged me to go and look up designers, companies and techniques that were mentioned. A second small irritation is that when good design is referred to it is not always shown. This may be because of authors rights but it is probably that the book would have been too long. It is already a big book.

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