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January 17, 2019

The Non-designer’s Design Book Book Review


​This slim book is packed with practical advice and examples. When I first started exploring the visual design I was struggling to find a resource that wasn’t jargon heavy or written for professionals and experts in the field. When I stumbled across the book, I knew immediately I found what I was looking for. Throughout the book you will find small exercises like do this, train your designer’s eye, and small quizzes. They help reinforce what is being covered.

​Overview of the Book

​Part One: Design Principles

​The first part of the book focuses on before design principles: proximity, alignment, repetition, and contrast. With a chapter devoted to each principal. Every chapter starts with a clear explanation of the principle and various examples of how the principle can be applied. Each chapter sums up the principal with its definition, the basic person purpose, how to get it, and what to avoid. Chapter 6 is the review chapter that includes two design it exercises to reinforce what was covered in the previous chapters. Chapter 7 (Design with Color) is all about color. This is an excellent chapter for anyone who is not familiar with color relationships or isn’t sure what the difference is between hue, shade, or tint. The last chapter in this section, Extra Tips & Tricks (Chapter 8), focuses on specific examples like newsletters fliers and resumes even though these are printer focused examples can be used as inspiration for the web especially if you provide any type of downloadable pdf.

​Part Two: Designing with Type

​The second main section is all about topography or as many people referred to it font. Essentials of Typography (Chapter 9) covers everything from how to apply certain punctuation to letter spacing to special characters. Chapter 10 (Type (& Life)) covers of the three type relationships: concordant, conflicting, and can contrasting as well as how these relationships are either beneficial or detrimental. Categories of Type (Chapter 11) gives an overview of the six groups of font: old style, modern, slab serif, san serif, script, and decorative. While you may not wish to know some of the finer details of what makes each style unique, having a general understanding of this is important for any design you create. Chapter 12 (Type Contrast) is a hefty section that explains and demonstrates how and when to use: size, weight, structure, form, direction, and color.

​Part Three: A Few Extras

​Part three is a nice wrap up to the overall book. It includes a short chapter on how to begin to design into exercises to practice what was covered in the book. The remaining chapters include miscellany like quiz answers, a mini-glossary, suggested resources, and a list of the fonts used throughout the book.


​Whenever I talk to someone who is interested in learning more about design or feels lost about how to design something, my first recommendation is always this book. And when I can I gift the book. Since my first interaction with this book, I am now well versed in the design principles. However, I still use the book and refer to it for inspiration or when I feel stuck. It is not unusual for me to casually leaf through the book and see an example that sparks my interest and gets my creative juices flowing again.

​Related Reviews

Visual Design Solutions Book Review

White Space Is Not Your Enemy Book Review

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Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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