Book Review: The Elements of Graphic Design by Alex White

By Alexis Allen

July 4, 2014

Elements of Graphic Design

The Elements of Graphic Design by Alex W. White is an excellent reference on graphic design principles. The book covers the accepted rules related to designing page layouts, and their historical origins. Aimed primarily at graphic designers working in print and advertising, it’s nonetheless a great introduction and reference for anyone interested learning about visual design.

Designing software has its own set of challenges, but all design shares the same roots, and design in print has been around a lot longer than design on screens. We can learn a lot—even in the digital age—from studying the fundamental rules of design. That said, there are times you can break them—if you have good reason and know how. But first, you have to know what they are!

The book is laid out in the following four sections:
• Space
• Unity
• Page Architecture
• Type

Each section and subsection has a cover page listing the content as well as a short summary for each, so it’s easy to jump around to whatever interests you. I found the index extensive, which is important to me in a reference text. It’s helpful when you want to research a particular concept.

There are lots of practical examples given, and it’s written in an easy-to-read, not too formal style. I particularly like the little snippets of background provided about the history and significance of certain design concepts or practices. Throughout, quotes about design from famous designers provide interest and inspiration.

The book’s discussion of white space is very helpful and informative. For example, it covers passive vs active space, symmetry vs asymmetry, time and motion, representational and symbolic space as they relate to white space. The concepts are always connected to their practical meanings and the methods for using them to craft an effective visual design.

All in all, this is a wonderful introduction to visual design concepts and graphic design principles. It’s approachable, clear and easy to read, and provides lots of useful examples. You’ll find a lot here that will help you in creating effective FileMaker layouts.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!


Alexis Allen

About the author

I'm a certified FileMaker developer based in Toronto with over 20 years of experience. I've designed solutions for desktop publishing, signmaking, packaging design, marketing and advertising. I have presented several times at the FileMaker Developer's Conference in the US on the topic of design. As a lifelong student, I enjoy all creative pursuits.

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