Help Me Learn About Design
June 27, 2007 5:26 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to learn more about print design and typography (I think. I'm not sure if these are the right terms).

I have an immense casual interest in design for print (and to a lesser extent, for the Web). By "casual", I mean I'm clueless about it, but I appreciate good design and I am happy when I am able to make things that look nice. For instance, when our office needs a quick "bathroom out of order" sign, I enjoy firing up Publisher (a complete noob program, I know) and printing up a sign with a classy, simple border and judicious use of Georgia, as opposed to Times New Roman. Also, I enjoy (trying to) use LaTeX for papers, because I like how it looks. In general, I have no idea what I'm doing, but it's fun.

Anyway, I'd like to learn more about design and typography, especially for things such as simple signs and handouts (for instance -- I am a music education student, and would some day like to be able to make the coolest middle school band concert program). I'd also love to learn more about the field in general, not as someone looking for a career but just as someone looking to "geek out" a bit on the subject.

FWIW -- I use a Mac at home, a PC at work. I'm not really looking to buy any programs, but general tips on software, etc. are appreciated. I have access to lots of fancy programs through school, though, in the event that I get really into this kind of stuff.
posted by rossination to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Stop Stealing Sheep is a pretty good introduction to typography and its history.
posted by subtle-t at 5:36 PM on June 27, 2007

Check out the new movie Helvetica. I'm just like you and have just started learning LaTeX for graduate school. I haven't seen this yet but it will be out on DVD this fall.
posted by monkeymadness at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2007

You can get some cool stuff via blogs and sites. Delicious links to many of them.
I've had better luck with the typography tag for geeking out, because a lot of non-technical-articles are filed under 'design'.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 5:57 PM on June 27, 2007

Quark XPress used to be the industry standard for a layout program, but now Adobe InDesign CS2 (CS3 just came out) is the way to go. Adobe Illustrator is an excellent companion program that is used for creating art. Both programs can be a bit challenging for beginners, but they're pretty intuitive. Once you get the hang of things, you will be hooked. And you have the right computer at home -- most graphic designers work on Macs.
posted by boognish at 6:03 PM on June 27, 2007

First off, you're not clueless (we all start off at the beginning) and don't let the application snobs get to you (i.e. you'll progress from Publisher soon enough - don't let people browbeat you into buying CS 3).

That said, people will post lots of links (and I will, if I remember to) and there are indeed great resources and books out there, but nothing quite replaces a good class on the topic. An 'intro to graphic design 101' course I took many years ago at a local community college touched on typography and it was one of the best classes I've ever taken. Point being, it taught me to think about graphic design and to fall in love with it before I knew what 'it' really was, and that comes from a class - even a basic 101 level one.
posted by rmm at 6:12 PM on June 27, 2007

(my comment on CS 3 not directed at boognish or anyone - just accidently occured, honest).
posted by rmm at 6:13 PM on June 27, 2007

The Non-Designer's Design Book is an excellent resource which taught me things I still remember every day.

Don't be fooled by the title. I bought it long after I was getting paid for my design work. It's quite eye-opening, and addresses exactly what you seem to need. What makes good design different than bad design. How to choose fonts. And plenty more.
posted by The Deej at 7:44 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get Robin Williams' (not that one) book The Mac is Not a Typewriter and its more comprehensive followup Beyond The Mac is Not a Typewriter and the Non Designer's Design Book. They're fantastic places to learn the kinds of things you're trying to learn.
posted by Jeff Howard at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2007

I think she also has The PC is not a Typewriter, but I haven't read it and can't recommend it.
posted by Jeff Howard at 7:50 PM on June 27, 2007

I find enjoyment in heading to the local library and perusing the extensive collection of annuals from the Type Directors Club, the Art Directors Club, Graphis, and AIGA. If you want to study the work of masters then try Paul Rand or Hermann Zapf.
posted by JJ86 at 8:50 PM on June 27, 2007

Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style is a great introduction and also a superb reference book on typography. (It was also recently mentioned in another AskMe as a beautifully designed book itself.)
posted by RogerB at 12:08 AM on June 28, 2007

"Before & After magazine has been sharing its practical approach to graphic design since 1990. Because our modern world has made designers of us all (ready or not), Before & After is dedicated to making graphic design understandable, useful and even fun for everyone."
posted by Dean King at 6:56 AM on June 28, 2007

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