The Robin Williams Library

Robin Williams (no, not the once-funny-now-supposedly-heartwarming-but-actually-mawkish actor) writes about design and type for non-professionals. Not many years ago, authors did the typing and someone else made the figures and layout look nice. Now we’re all suddenly designers. Going to art school isn’t an option for most of us, but a crash course in page layout and print production is a good idea if you produce graphics and type as part of your job. A few hours invested in the following can save you from days of anguish and frustration when your print job doesn’t work, or your table columns aren’t lining up properly no matter what you do.

macnottypewriterThe Mac is Not a Typewriter (There’s a PC version too)
Robin Williams
Peachpit Press, 2003 • ISBN: 0201782634 (PC: 0938151495)

This wonderful little book is very short, but so good it should be given out with every computer sold. Get three and pass them around. Williams covers not just basic typography (like why you shouldn’t type two spaces after periods) but also some more arcane topics, like hanging punctuation and the line spacing of capitals. What I think anyone who works with text for a living should know about type.

nondesignersdesignThe Non-Designer’s Design Book
Robin Williams
Peachpit Press, 2003 • 0321193857

I used this as a standard text for a course on desktop publishing and design. The students with pretensions to being graphic designers pooh-poohed it at first, since it was short and approachable, but were won over at the end. Williams walks you through half a dozen different kinds of typeface, so you’re able to mix them confidently on the page. Then she lays out the immortal CRAP principles: contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. Just these are enough to improve most people’s layouts about 300%.

scanandprintThe Non-Designer’s Scan and Print Book
Robin Williams and Sandee Cohen
Peachpit Press, 1999 • 0201353946

When creating your own graphics for publication, you always have to deal with file format issues (EPS or PDF? Vector or raster?), color models (CMYK or RGB?), resolution, scanning, paper size, embedding fonts, and so forth. Most people muddle through by following a list of arcane demands from their publisher, but wouldn’t it be great if you actually understood all this stuff and could chat with the printer ahead of time about spot colors and line screens? That’s what this book is for.

If you enjoy these, I recommend you check out:
The Robin Williams Design Workshop
The Non-Designer’s Web Book
The Non-Designer’s Type Book

All are easy reads, and full of good stuff. Get the most up-to-date edition of each of you can, as this field dates fast.

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