Review of Introduction to Graphic Design: A Guide to Thinking, Process, and Style
Bloomsbury Publishing, NYC, 2018
240 pp., illus. 524 col.
As an academic in the field(s) of (new) media theory, design, and practice, I frequently find my students conflating conceptual design with visual design. This overlay no doubt follows from the porous boundaries demarcating formally siloed fields now digitized by a wide variety of computer hardware and software available for fostering creativity. That, and the high emphasis placed on the visual, creates the penchant to position every endeavor—advertising to blogs to books to games to interactive interfaces to marketing to packaging to virtual reality—under the umbrella of "graphic design," and promote an emphasis on the way a designed object looks, rather than the way it works.
So, if indeed one wishes to teach effective design with an emphasis on the way objects look, Introduction to Graphic Design: A Guide to Thinking, Process, and Style, by Aaris Sherin, is a valuable resource and foundation.
To provide context, Sherin defines graphic design as "the process or practice of combining visual material, usually text, imagery, and other elements, to communicate a message or to create an experience for an audience" (9). Practitioners are called "designers." They give form to content intended for viewing on computer, tablets, mobile telephones and other consoles. They also produce (often analogue) packaging, signage, displays, and installations. All endeavors have underlying principles of arrangement, structure, and expression. "All designers," says Sherin, "need to understand the formal principals of design, work well with typography, and have excellent visual and spatial skills" (12).
Introduction to Graphic Design seeks to impart these and other skills. "Basically," says Sherin, "this book aims to give first-year design students the confidence to balance the mixture of structure and experimentation needed to effectively give visual form to concepts and ideas" (6). The nine chapters focus on concepts and ideas, form and space, working with color, typography, using and creating imagery, layout and arrangement, and context and production. Sherin begins each by defining key terms, followed by information and examples (visual and textual), exercises, and reviews highlighting dos and don’ts.
At the book's conclusion, design is once again presented as both a conceptual and practical process, "a repeatable series of actions used to develop design projects" (232). Your definition, and mileage, may, of course, vary, but Sherin deserves credit for presenting examples and learning opportunities regarding fundamental concepts and practices of graphic design, whether the end product is digital or analogue.
Introduction to Graphic Design encourages readers (learners) to use critical thinking and visual exploration to understand the relationship between graphic designers and creative problem solving. Sherin positions graphic design as a way of life. For those new to the life, the case studies, exercises, key terms and concepts, and dos and don'ts provided in Graphic Design: A Guide to Thinking, Process, and Style provide comfort and confidence to give visual form to concepts and ideas.