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Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual

Timothy Samara · 4 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual" by Timothy Samara.
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Amazon Summary
The graphic design equivalent to Strunk & White's The Elements of Style This book is simply the most compact and lucid handbook available outlining the basic principles of layout, typography, color usage, and space. Being a creative designer is often about coming up with unique design solutions. Unfortunately, when the basic rules of design are ignored in an effort to be distinctive, design becomes useless. In language, a departure from the rules is only appreciated as great literature if recognition of the rules underlies the text. Graphic design is a "visual language," and brilliance is recognized in designers whose work seems to break all the rules, yet communicates its messages clearly. This book is a fun and accessible handbook that presents the fundamentals of design in lists, tips, brief text, and examples. Chapters include Graphic Design: What It Is; What Are They and What Do They Do?; 20 Basic Rules of Good Design; Form and Space-The Basics; Color Fundamentals; Choosing and Using Type; The World of Imagery; Putting it All Together?Essential Layout Concepts; The Right Design Choices: 20 Reminders for Working Designers; and Breaking the Rules: When and Why to Challenge all the Rules of this Book.
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
I'm a design manager, but I also code too. I buy books all the time for my staff.

If you want a single book that covers all major topics with theories and plenty of examples, give this one a go.

This is NOT a book on web design. This is book on graphic design and, a good one at that. It covers types, images, graphics, layouts, form.

Simply copying designs in this book will put you ahead of many 'professional' web designers. It's because many web designers do not fully understand what makes a design good (or bad).

Even though my work is all digital, personally I find most of the talented designers are still found in traditional print design world.

You can pick up a used copy for less than $15 shipped.

This is a general design book, but one that is packed full of information and examples that you might find helpful. It's not a how-to book, but if you feel like you can recognize "good/great" design, but can't really produce it yourself: this is your book. You won't look at anything visually creative the same way again.

Otherwise, consider: "when all you have is hammer, you treat everything like a nail". People, myself included, tend to stick with what they know and are comfortable with. It's no surprise that all your designs end up looking similar: you're probably using the same tools in Photoshop and the same techniques. No tutorial is going to directly help you create "elegant graphics" in any meaningful way, but there are certainly great tutorials out there that will expose you to new techniques and skills which will broaden your personal toolbox.

Having a broader toolbox or skill-set makes new things possible that previously you might have not considered.

I just got this and it's phenomenal. This is exactly what I needed, thank you so much.
I'm a designer and the two books I always recommend to non-designers and newbies are:

Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual (


The other is the complementary case studies book "Design Evolution" (

Also Graphically Speaking is useful if you want to know how a particular style is constructed (artistic, corporate, vintage etc.)and you need to be able to effectively communicate with other designers or clients. (

Excellent set of links! Thanks!
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