Archive for the 'Typography' category

 | December 8, 2010 7:11 pm

Note: Still working on the book.


While I spend most of my time dabbling with digital typography, I also have a love and appreciation for letterpress.  (I even experiment when there’s time and access to equipment. Unfortunately, that isn’t very often.)

Letterpress is a form of relief printing where type is set by hand.  Sheets are then printed one at a time in a form that’s not too different from the way that Gutenberg worked five hundred years ago.  I love it because it is physical.  This makes it feel valuable and amazing.  Digital design can be amazing too, but not in quite the same way.

My love of letterpress has lead to a deep-seated desire to attend the show  highlighted in the video below.  Called “Reverting to Type,” it will showcase the work of 20 different contemporary designers working in letterpress.  It looks amazing.

I don’t suppose that anyone would be up to flying me to London?  You could take it as a tax write-off, or something.  I’ll even publish a proper report so that it looks official, and everything.

Reverting to Type

10th–24th Dec 2010 and 4th–22nd Jan 2011

Standpoint Gallery

45 Coronet Street
London N1 6HD
Open daily: 10AM–6PM

 | December 3, 2010 4:43 pm

Note: Still working on the book, but there is light at the end of the tunnel!

There is a place in his book, “The Elements of Typographic Style,” where Robert Bringhurst talks about the the spirit and personality of type:

Letterforms have character, spirit and personality.  Typographers learn to discern these features through years of working first hand with the forms, and through studying and comparing the work of other designers, present and past … The subject is a lifelong study, and for serious typographers, it is a lifelong source of discovery and delight.  (Elements of Typographic Style, p. 99 – 103).

Like in most things, Bringhurst is right.  Exploring typefaces, their history, use, and meaning is a fascinating journey.  As you study and learn more about them, you realize that there may just be right ways and wrong ways to use a font, and, that there are stories behind the craft.

“Frederic Goudy, for example, is widely regarded as the most ebulliently American of all type designers.  The sensitive designer would not choose one of Goudy’s faces to set, let us say, the text of the Canadian or Mexican constitution.”

Which is why, perhaps, typographic specimen books are so interesting.

Type specimens are publications in which a typeface is shown and presented.  It details what fonts the type consists of and allows for designers to understand how a particular typeface behaves on the printed page.  They are, quite literally, typography for the sake of type.

Even better, specimen books are usually crafted by the typeface designer.  This means that they showcase the font as it is meant to be seen (or at least as envisioned by the mind responsible for its creation).  It also means that specimen books are beautiful pieces of art.  Many designers have gone to extraordinary efforts to show their typefaces in the best possible light.

While hunting about for different pieces of typographic art, I’ve come across several specimens worth sharing.  You can find the photos below.

Note: The Storm type books are available for purchase at the storm website: www.stormtype.com/printed-materials.html

 | December 1, 2010 7:22 pm

Note: Still working on the book.

In my readings in typography, I’ve come across two distinct schools of thought about what typography “should” be.  Hermann Zapf succinctly summarizes the position of the first school:

Typographic design [has been] misconstrued as a form of private self-expression for designers. But as Bringhurst puts it: “Good typography is like bread: ready to be admired, appraised and dissected before it is consumed.”

In the first school of thought, typography is seen as a way to enhance a message by conveying it clearly. To a member of this group, personal eccentricities are dangerous because they detract from the spirit of the text.  To quote from Bringhurst (The Elements of Typographic Style):

In a world rife with unsolicited messages, typography must draw attention to itself before it will be read.  Yet, in order to be read, it must relinquish the attention it has drawn.  Typography with anything to say therefore aspires to a kind of statuesque transparency.  Its other traditional goal is durability: not immunity to change, but a clear superiority to fashion.  Typography at its best is a visual form of language linking timeless and time.

The second school, in contrast, sees typography as a form of self-expression.  Amongst proponents of this way of thinking, what the typographer wishes to convey is at least as important as the message of the author.

Personally, I think that both schools have their place.  Moreover, there may even be a third school in the middle which combines elements of the two.  It is possible to both clearly communicates the message while still providing room for personal expression.  For example, consider this book design beauty from Behance, which consists of interpretations of Bob  Brown’s essay, The Readies.

Clearly, the typographer has something to say, but I would hardly argue that he usurps Brown’s message.

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The book was created by Jihad Lahham.  More examples from his portfolio can be found here.  Again, this looks like a portfolio piece, which means that copies are nowhere to be had.

 | November 29, 2010 11:18 pm

Note: I am still working on the book.  This is why there have been few postings.  I am plugging away full steam, but creating all of the needed illustrations has been much more time consuming than expected.  I hope to have updates soon.

For the past month or so, I’ve been helping to redesign the KDE eV Quarterly report.  (It is very much a team project, and I am only one of several people working on it.)  Below are several page layouts from one of the concepts.  I’m not sure that they’re going anywhere, but I liked how they turned out.

Therefore, I thought I would post them.  Thoughts, ideas, critiques, and flames are all welcome.  The theme of the template is “people.”

KDEeV01-Aqua2-Introduction

KDEeV-Aqua2-Layout01

KDEeV04-Aqua2-Activities

KDEeV-Aqua2-Layout02

 | November 18, 2010 10:00 pm

Note: Still working on the book, but some things are simply awesome and must be shared.

One of the great things about working on this book project has been the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of print design.  It’s a fascinating and beautiful world, and though web design has improved enormously, the best stuff still happens in print.

While combing examples on Behance, a showcase site for designers and other creatives, I came across a spectacular example of typography.  It’s a medium size pamphlet (about 60 pages in length) that was designed by Steven Acres, an upcoming designer who just graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

The book design incorporates a lot of design ideas from the golden era of printing and shows how classical book layout (with a few modern touches), can produce a truly spectacular volume.

(More images can be found on the project page at Behance.)

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Though I don’t know the history behind the project, it looks as though the book was produced as part of Mr. Acre’s student portfolio, and for that reason, isn’t available for purchase.  Which is a true pity, this is a book I would love to leaf through and explore.

 | October 26, 2010 2:37 am

Note: Still working on the book.  Making progress, hope to be finished very soon.  (Very, very soon.)  Regular programming will resume when the draft is sent to the editors.

There’s nothing like a deadline to throw you into pandemonium and confusion.  I am trying to finish up the chapters on stuff and things, and I’ve found myself deeply conflicted on what I want to do and how I want to do it.

I can take one of several paths, but all options require compromises which don’t excite me.  And due to the need to actually finish sometime in my lifetime, I’m going to have to cut material.  I’ve already made really deep cuts and  now it’s time for more.  Without supporting bits (already cut) I’ve discovered that a lot of remaining material doesn’t make sense.

This is painful, because I thought the material lovely, interesting and essential.  The bits were amongst my favorites, and I hate to see them go.  (But then, after you’ve worked on a book for a year, you lose any semblance of objectivity. Ideas are like your children, cutting them feels tantamount to murder.)

One piece that I had and really liked was a bit about the history and evolution of type, particularly how new letterforms allowed for new stories and types of ideas.  Then, I removed much of the surrounding material and the graphics no longer make sense.

But some of the ideas are nifty, and I’m always a sucker for history of any kind, so I’m making a last minute salvage attempt.

What do you think of the layout below?  (PDF to be found here.)  Is it too dense?  Are there too many words?  Does it work?  Does it help to tell a (somewhat butchered) story?  Opinions, thoughts and critiques welcome.

 | October 22, 2010 8:54 pm

Note: The regular programming of this website has been interrupted due to a need to finish the Open Source Writing book.  Progress is steady, and if everything goes well, I should be done with the first week in November.  While that doesn’t mean the book will be finished, it is still a major milestone.

I think that the world wide web has fried my brain.

There used to be a time in my life when I had self-restraint, discipline, and patience.  Once upon a time, I could even subdue my desires for self-gratification and entertainment in the name of a larger goal.  Not any more.

Now, if I come across something that is cool, interesting, or provocative, I’ve got this unfettered desire to share it.  And then, I need to see how people respond.  If the “something” is indescribably awesome, I also have an inordinately hard time getting back to “real work” until I’ve done something about it.  This is one of the reasons why Twitter is such a damnable distraction.  It provides me with a string of interesting things to check out.  All. Day. Long.

So, yesterday, I spent the vast majority of the day distracted and sidetracked. (Though it had nothing to do with Twitter.)  And it was all because of an email that came to the Scribus mailing list.

Not that the email was awesome on its own, or even all that interesting. But it touched on a trail of thought that I’ve been following for a while now.  A trail related to the way that style is beginning to impact matters of substance, particularly in relationship Open Source movement.

To show you just how serious I am about this topic, I’ve got a whole series of yet-to-be published posts (the next entries in this series, actually) which argue that the next major challenge for Open Source has very little to do with code or technology.

My premise is this: the beardies of the 70s and 80s, like Richard Stallman, did a marvelous job of delivering open technical freedom to the masses.  They had a demon (the tyranny of closed tools and the fear that proprietary companies would control the computer), and they largely slew the beast.  Now, because of their efforts, It is possible to work for your entire life and never render a penny to Microsoft, IBM,  or Apple.

But the solving of one problem has revealed others, and I’m not sure that the community is transitioning to deal with them.  It doesn’t look like we’re having much success in delivery the fruits of that work to a larger audience, or in expanding the circle of ideas in the “Grand Old Tent.”

These aren’t challenges of technical knowledge, but rather of “experience” and “style.”  For that reason, the future Open Source developer will also need to be a proficient designer.  Writing beautiful code is no longer enough to ensure that a piece of tech get adopted, it also has to offer a beautiful experience.

But I’ll get to all of that in time (when the book is done).  Here’s what got me all revved up yesterday.  The KDE e.V. (the group that governs and coordinates the KDE community) publishes a quarterly newsletter.  It has reports of going-ons in the community and generally keeps people informed.  (This was all news to me, since I thought all of that stuff just got posted to news.kde.org.)

And KDE e.V. is revamping the appearance of their newsletter.  I don’t have any details about where they are intending to go with it, or what audience they are trying to target.  (I’m not even sure that they know, since my inquiries on the subject have been met with silence.)  But a quick look at the current template shows that they need to do something.  (You can download a PDF here.)

KDEeV-Original

Now let me be explicit, there is nothing necessarily wrong here.  The text is a legible and the content readable.  The layout moves you between pages.

But there is also little that is right.

A good layout draws your eyes to the things that matter.  It provides contextual clues about what comes next and highlights the most important content.  It draws you deeper into the text.

Unfortunately, this layout doesn’t do that.

  • For starters, it causes you to focus on the wrong things.  When you look at the page, what is one of the first things that you notice?  If you’re like me, it’s probably the footer in general and the legal notice in specific.  If I didn’t know better, I would assume that knowing “KDE is a registered trademark of KDE e.V. in the United States and other countries” is the most important thing I could glean from this publication.  After all, it is typeset in bold font, underneath a prominent horizontal rule on every single page.
  • A second flaw is that the publication provides no way of navigating the content.  There isn’t a table of contents, thus, you have to flip through every page if you want to know what the report contains.
  • Finally, the use of a medium weight sans-serif type for the body copy makes the layout feel dense.  The type doesn’t catch and lead your eye, the way that a good font can.  Instead, it makes the text appear heavy, and for that reason, harder to read.

If I had to summarize the problems with the layout in one thought, it would be this: Good content, wrong emphasis.

Which, ironically, is a pretty good description of the state of the Linux desktop.  There is some wonderfully brilliant stuff available, but the mainstream public doesn’t really know it because of the way that open source is developed and promoted.  In some cases, the attention to detail needed for a beautiful experience hasn’t been paid, or the various sharp edges haven’t been blasted off.

Good stuff, but wrong emphasis.

Now, I’ve got all kinds of ideas about how the situation can be improved (some related to the tech itself and its development, and some addressing how to how it is promoted and marketed), but I won’t get into those here.  Suffice it to say that my ideas have little to do with reinvention, and a whole lot to do with tweaking the emphasis.  After all, the good stuff is already there.  You just have to let people know.

So, as an experiment, I went and changed a few details of the layout above.  Here’s the result.  (You can download a PDF here.)

KDEeV-Redesign1

While I won’t say the revised version is a paradigm of brilliant design (because it’s not, I’m not even sure that it qualifies as “good” design), I do think that it’s cleaner.  The good stuff is still there, it’s just more obvious.  There are aids to help you get around, the footer is no longer the center of attention, and I’ve tried to use elements which help to guide the eye into the text.

Not any one change was hard.   I just needed to know what bits I wanted to emphasize.  Which, I suppose is also at the heart of bringing open source to a larger audience.  But then, vision is everything and why the “big-picture” guys tend to be very well paid.

 | September 28, 2010 2:26 pm

Note: The normal programming of the website is still temporarily on hold in an effort to finish the Open Source Writing book.  I fully intend to pick things up very soon, but I must first send a finished draft to my editor/publisher.  They’ve been very patient and I’ve been irresponsible.

While I am trying to work in seclusion (or at least a reasonable approximation thereof) in order to finish the Open Source Writing Book, I put together a layout that I wanted to share.  (Mostly because I liked it and thought it cool.)

It covers the typographical niceties that distinguish a typesetting system from a traditional Word Processor and will appear in the “Writing and Editing” chapter of the book as a double page spread.  (In this layout, the material appears as a single, long-form poster.)  I’d love to hear people’s comments, thoughts or suggestions.  Particularly if there are any additional elements that I missed and you think might be included.

You can download a PDF version here.  Many thanks to Dario Taraborelli for creating his wonderful essay, the Beauty of LaTeX, from which this layout borrows heavily.

The poster is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share and Share Alike license.  Copyright 2010, Rob Oakes.  Some Rights Reserved.

Typographical Detail

 | September 24, 2010 6:17 pm

Note: The normal programming of the website has been interrupted by a need to get the Open Source Writing book done.  I fully intend to pick things up very soon, but I first must send a finished draft to my editor/publisher.  They’ve been very patient and I’ve been … somewhat … irresponsible.

With that said, an interesting topic came up on the Scribus mailing list last week.  One of the list members, who is preparing a presentation for a local Linux User’s Group, posted a request for materials on Scribus.  That request set off a larger discussion about how Scribus might be presented to a mixed audience.

Since I’ve been contemplating a similar question for the aforementioned book, I’ve found the back and forth to be very helpful.  So much so, that I thought I would post my comments here to engage a slightly larger audience.  What follows is an edited summary of multiple responses.  I have tried to capture enough context context so that it stands on its own.  The full thread can be found on the Scribus Mailing list.

I would love to hear people’s thoughts and comments on the ideas presented, especially since I happen to be finishing the chapters on LaTeX and starting the chapter on Scribus.  Though people might call writing a “lonely endeavor”, that isn’t true.  Good feedback is the way to great books.

______________________________________________________________

Dear Scribus Users,

Thanks for continuing this discussion.  I’m planning a book chapter on Scribus and I’ve found the back and forth to be very helpful for that purpose.  Since I’m also writing about LyX, LaTeX and related tools, the commentary here as proven invaluable in improving some of the other book sections as well.  Which is why I’d love to tackle a few of your points.

Sometimes it’s a good idea for a program to come with “training wheels” [in reference to LyX]. The only thing is, there needs to be a way to take them off once you don’t need them.

As a LyX user and contributor, this is too rich a target to pass up.  I’m not trying to start a flame-fest, but rather would like to clarify how I use LyX versus how I use Scribus.  (I’m also refining my arguments for said book, so there is also a selfish element in continuing this thread.)

Layout Program or Writing Environment

I wouldn’t describe the “limitations” as “training wheels”, but rather as structure. But then, I don’t think of LyX as a layout program at all.  It’s a document processor where I write.  Thus, the structure is actually quite helpful, at least for my needs.  it allows me to work productively without needing to worry about double spaces, inconsistent use of styles, or other formatting issues.  Such problems plague me when working in OpenOffice.  LyX also gives me access to my reference library and the ability to automatically generate a bibliography, which I appreciate.

Indeed, when I work with LyX/LaTeX, I have one primary concern: *very* clean *semantic* markup.  I don’t want any kind of LaTeX ugliness, strange formatting or other issues.  Perhaps this is also I agree with this sentiment:

Then I tried Lyx and found that it kept me on a really short leash. E.g., I was trying to set the title page, where I wanted the title in 120 point type. Lyx insisted that 120 points was a bad design decision. Yes, I eventually learned that you can convince Lyx to do it your way, but the whole idea of being forced to someone else’s idea of good
design practice left me cold.

It’s more than the juvenile design dictates.  Trying to create front-matter in LyX (LaTeX really) is painful.  Especially for a book or similar type of document that really should be unique and customized to the content it contains (though internally consistent).  Every time this comes up on the LyX users list (about once a month), the consensus is the same:

If writing a book, thesis or similar document use LyX for the text.  Create your front matter in Scribus or another visual environment.  It saves days of time, leads to better output, and it makes it easier to comply with formatting guidelines.  The exception to this rule is when using a class specifically created by a publisher or journal.  In that case, they’ve already ensured that the type-set output will match with their style guide and you are better off following their dictates.

Personal Writing Style or Fingerpainting

In my personal work I start by writing in OOo. But I do not “write” the same way everyone thinks I am supposed to. That is, in today’s parlance I am supposed to create “content” and then use something else to format it. I hate the word “content.” My brain does not work that way. I need to format it as I write it. Else I will forget that I intended that paragraph to be formatted a particular way.

Indeed, I write as though I was teaching the material to a class. As you explain the subject to the class it occurs to you that a drawing showing how the concepts you are explaining fit together would help the class understand. As the teacher I would turn around to the board and draw a diagram or make a bullet list or table or something to give the students a visual perception of what I am talking about. Thus, when writing the same thing occurs to me. I need to stop writing then and run off to Inkscape or whatever and create the graphic. In my OOo document I would just enter a paragraph containing <graphic001 here>. Then, while doing the layout later in Scribus I can just place the graphics at the appropriate places. In my brain the graphic elements are at least as important as the words; in many cases more so. I cannot understand how people can write without visualizing the final layout as
they write.

I don’t think that this is strange at all.  Actually, this is exactly how I like to work.  Moreover, it’s the way that I’ve seen great writers do things (at least described in some of the materials I’ve found while researching aforementioned book).  First they say something and lay the groundwork for what it means using tags or formatting.  (I like to use semantic tags, but it appears you prefer to use formatting.)

Then, such writers describe figures and images that would help them say it.  Some  need to create the graphic before continuing.  Others continue and then come back to the graphics after all points have been made.  Like you, I add a placeholder (in LyX parlance, a Figure float) and a caption then I run off to illustrate.  The image will join the other two pieces of text when its finished.

But all of that is still different than placing the image in a final layout.  And it is that phenomenon that LaTeX users speak so disparagingly when they refer to “finger painting.”

The Big Picture and Principles of Design

Principles of design sounds like an entire art course. Perhaps several art courses. Again, I have just an hour and a half.

I don’t think I was clear, initially.  I’m not recommending that you be comprehensive, or even cohesive.  The original talk I attended, which was called “Illustrator and the Principles of Design” didn’t try to be a primer on the principles of design.  Instead, it was a very specific discussion of three examples.

With each example, however, the presenter did three things:

  1. He used illustrations that clearly demonstrated a principle.  For example, one showed how color and position could be used as effective contrasts.  (And all of the layouts were awesome.)
  2. He succinctly described why each example worked and helped enumerate the specific principles/guidelines behind the composition.
  3. He then showed the tools used to achieve the effect.

Though I’m a scientist by training/profession, I’ve been dabbling in the art/design world for a while.  (Since high school, when I sadly realized I wasn’t talented enough to make a living from my artistic skills.)

In that time, I’ve noticed something important: art and design have their own language.  To move from novice to proficient requires that you learn this language and the ideas it embodies.  This isn’t hard, but it requires that an instructor be aware that pupils aren’t fluent.   To become fluent requires that you learn both the theory and the lingo, but most instructors I’ve been associated with don’t really bother with the bigger picture.  The discussion is either about technique or its about high level concepts.  The Illustrator presentation combined both, and for that reason, I thought it hugely effective.

That’s what I’m trying to advocate.

Take your skills and feel as a designer and instructor (in effect, your aesthetic eye) and use the language of design to help your audience appreciate the layouts at a slightly deeper level.  You don’t have to dedicate a huge amount of time to it, but touching on the big picture is always nice.  It also avoids a second problem I’ve seen at design conferences: technical presentations with little or no context.  It also whets their appetite for the really good stuff, like Bringhurst.  I wouldn’t have moved into the design literature without teachers who pointed me there and prepped me to understand it.

Software Does Not Sell Itself

[Point raised by another user.] For me, … Scribus gives me the tools to do what I want then gets out of my way and lets me do it. Most of what I need to do is fairly easy to figure out, and when it’s not, there’s this mailing list and an IRC channel I can use.

If part of your presentation is giving reasons your audience would want to use Scribus instead of something else (Closed Source/Expensive) this might be a good talking point: you can be up and running in short order, and expand your skills as you go.

+1 for this.  In you are presenting to a novice crowd, it’s particularly important.  While I’d like to say that good software speaks for itself, that isn’t true.  It needs a spokesperson or salesman to illustrate the real-world benefits. This is why Steve Jobs is such an effective salesman for Apple.  At his best, he doesn’t talk about features, he speaks to the transformative power of great tools.

With your presentation, you could effectively do the same.  Show an awesome example and then answer the question, “Why Scribus?”  After all, there are other options?

If it’s a poster, why would you choose Scribus over Inkscape?  If it’s a long-form document, why would you choose Scribus over LaTeX (or if you prefer, OpenOffice)?  For existing users, the answer to the question is obvious.  For new users, it is not.

Even more advanced users might appreciate your insights, I like to paint in watercolors, acrylics and oils.  Though its possible to use any medium for a composition, some material begs a particular treatment.  Hearing the technical opinions of other artists is always valuable.  Even if I choose an alternative.

I think I will just present Scribus and let it speak for itself. If it clicks with members of the audience – and I’m sure it will click with at least some – then Scribus has won new fans. If someone wants me to compare it to other tools I’ll just say that I don’t have time to get into detailed comparisons.

No need to be detailed, 20 sec. would probably do it.  Just enough to answer “Why Scribus?” as applied to that particular example.  People aren’t necessarily stupid, but they can be obtuse.  It is much better to be explicit than implicit.  If you trust an audience to understand an implicit point, you might be tremendously disappointed in the rate of retention.

Miscellaneous Begging and Pleading

Unfortunately, I do not have a web site. I might be able to post it to the web site of our local LUG. But we’ll cross that bridge when and if we get there.

Please do cross the bridge, though.  As I said earlier, your presentation is relevant to one of my current projects and I would love to see your notes.  I am also trying to find really great examples that I could include (with proper attribution, acknowledgment, etc) without needing to create them all on my own and I would love to see your work.  I would even be happy to host the slides and material.  (I’ll stop before descending into full pathetic pleading.)

Again, best of luck with your presentation and I hope that some of these thoughts were helpful.

Cheers,

Rob

 | September 1, 2010 8:52 pm

The Elements of Typographic Style, Letterform AnatomySince starting work on the Open Source Writing project, I’ve become hyper attentive to many little things that I’d previously overlooked.  For example, I’ve started to notice the typefaces in books, magazines and advertisements and think, “I wonder what that is” and even contrive thoughts on how things might have been done better.

I’ve also started to visit my local bookstore much more frequently.  I go to browse the art and design books and the magazines.  I want to see what other authors are doing (particularly those of art, design and computer books).  I enjoy looking at their layouts and comparing them to the style I’ve chose to use.  I look at the prose and illustrations and think about components that I might make use of.  While in the store, I’ve also become interested in how people interact with the books on display.

If you’ve never people-watched in a bookstore, I highly recommend it.  It’s very revealing and you’ll immediately notice several different groups.  Some of the buyers like to pull multiple titles from the shelves and then go to the coffee shop to  review them; others will wander the aisles until they find a title that catches their eye; and still others will compare similar books side by side.

It doesn’t take long to see that book-store shoppers are very different than those who use sites such as Amazon.com.  Browsing in a store is a tactile and interactive experience, and for that reason, decisions are made based on sight and touch as much as they are on feedback, reviews and more logical factors.

For this reason, I want to see which books get picked up by shoppers, and, I want to know which ones stay in hand versus those that go back to the shelf.  I’d like to understand why a patron chooses one Photoshop or Illustrator book over another and what factors go into making a purchase.  Most importantly, though, I want to know if there are a few general principles that I can use to make my own work more attractive and, as a result, more likely to get bought.  (I’ve also spoken with the book store management and they’ve been kind enough to share some of the sales statistics with me.)

It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned many lessons that I’m trying to put into practice.

There is one lesson, however, that stands above the rest.  The art, design and computer books that are successful all share one thing in common: they are visually stunning and incorporate amazing examples.  Every last one of them.

In fact, stunning visuals might just be the single deciding factor as shoppers try and determine which book will go home with them.  The content, after all is mostly the same.  They all cover the same fundamental principles and techniques, and for that reason, must differentiate themselves on appearance.

And in the very best art/computer graphics/design books (such as Thinking with Type, the  Adobe Classroom in a Book series, and anything by Edward Tufte), the illustrations aren’t just stunning, they are positively lavish.  More than that, though, they are practical, illustrative, useful, and provide enormous value to the text.  They make an impact, and for that reason, they sell books.

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