The author I credit with teaching me the most about design is Jan V. White. A former art director at Time-Life, he’s written more than a dozen books on visual techniques focused in publishing. The best part about his books are the sketchy images (no fancy, computer-generated pictures here)! Instead of huge, wordy paragraphs, he fills pages with hand-drawn diagrams and quirky notes. He doesn’t just tell you about design, he shows you.
Book Titles by Jan V. White:
1. Editing by Design (1974)
2. Designing Covers, Contents, Flash Forms, Departments, Editorials, Openers…(1976)
3. Graphic Idea Notebook (1980)
4. On Graphics: Tips for Editors (1981)
5. Designing for Magazines (1982)
6. Mastering Graphics: Design and Production Made Easy (1983)
7. Using Charts and Graphs (1984)
8. The Grid Book: A Guide to Page Planning (1987)
9. Graphic Design for the Electronic Age (1988)
10. Thoughts on Publication Design (1989)
11. Great Pages: A Common-Sense Approach to Effective Desktop Design (1990)
12. Color for the Electronic Age (1990)
13. Great Color (1991)
14. Color for Impact (1996)
*Most of his titles have been re-issued multiple times, so there are newer editions of many of these. I’ve found very little difference, so I usually stick with the earlier editions which can be found on Amazon or Half for a few dollars each.
The most popular and beloved of all of Jan’s books is the Graphic Idea Notebook, a collection of more than 2,000 illustrations and line art that visualize the abstract problems that page editors encounter. The images are arranged in five groups that reflect the key concepts of design: mime (body language, pointing, showing, displaying), time, place, type, and idioms. I found mine online for under a dollar and it’s a still groundbreaking book, almost 30 years after its release :
Images courtesy of You Work for Them
Jan’s books are never intimidating; they’re fun and inviting. They have a way of getting your creative juices flowing that is unparalleled. The information contained in each volume is so fundamental that it crosses the barriers of both publication and graphic design. Any visual artist can benefit from the techniques he teaches.