A bit of design manual history!

Found this little gem in a second hand bookshop in the middle of nowhere and there were a few interesting surprises in it.

The book is Printing Design and Layout by Vincent Steer. I’m not sure what date – from indirect evidence it seems to be post WW2 (I thin around 1945-6) and is the 4th edition (a quick online look suggests the 1st Ed is about 1933).

I was really surprised by how much of a design manual it was, really stressing the underlying importance of good design judgement, skill and practice – basically all the good stuff we do in design distance learning. But it does this in a nicely grounded and practical way that we would also recognise at the OU today. It’s neither pure design theory or practice – it is a really good example of blending of both.

And because it is about printing design the book itself if the major lesson in and of itself. It is beautiful:

And here are a few examples of the practical theory I mentioned earlier:

On the importance of sketching, prototyping and proofs:

On using visual thinking:

On the history of ornament (!):

And a dire warning about underlining (prior to ye internetz):

And at the back there’s a fantastic catalogue of typefaces (not fonts!) ‘currently available (and I really like the Lorem Ipsum.

I’ll end on a last point about style and being clever – a great repetition on the theme of making sure that style never replaces the underlying value of good design:

It is easy to be modern, for to be modern one has only to follow the crowd. It is easy to be clever, for to be clever one has only to learn a few typographical tricks. It is not so easy, however, to be simple and direct, for to be effectively simple it is essential to have gained a thorough mastery of the fundamentals.

Worth remembering 🙂

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