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The Graphics of Communication: Methods, Media and Technology, 6th ed.

Russell N. Baird, Duncan McDonald, Ronald H. Pittman, and Arthur T. Tumbull. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1993. 409 pages, including appendices and index. $41.75.

The sixth edition of The Graphics of Communication: Methods, Media and Technology provides helpful material for newcomers to visual communication but suffers from inconsistencies and design problems. It consists of three sections: The first teaches the esthetics and components of visual literacy; the second canvasses current media and includes a new chapter on television graphics; the last gives readers the essential know-how. Each chapter concludes with "Supplemental Sources," which are unevenly inclusive lists of additional books, magazines, newspapers, journals, newsletters, organizations, and other supporting material.

The computerized workplace forces today's media professional to be more than a writer or editor. The authors contend that "He or she must also have a visual sense and the skill to implement a design that will carry a reader through the information effectively." This is achieved through competency in visual literacy, which requires an understanding of why visual techniques are applied, how they work, and how to use them effectively.

Chapters 1 and 2 cover the basics of seeing and the principles of design, a natural place to start learning visual literacy. Chapter 3 discusses the principles and use of typography, a fundamental component of design. When used skillfully, typography facilitates effective communication. This chapter will prove valuable to the uninitiated. Because of its textbook format, the material is presented in an easy-going manner without bogging down. Seventy pages of typeface samples, by the way, are included in an appendix.

The next two chapters discuss images and color. The first-time buyer of color printing will benefit greatly from the concise primer on communicating with color found in Chapter 5. A wide range of contemporary media and their technology are detailed in Chapters 7 through 11. Of possible interest to the writer or editor is information in Chapter 7 on newsletter design. It covers body type legibility, columns, margins, and grids and templates that "computerized or not, provide a valuable foundation for good design, especially for editorialists and others not schooled in design."

Of interest to the writer who must prepare camera-ready art is Chapter 12, "Preliminary Steps of Printing Procedures." It covers pre-press editorial and design functions, cropping images for production, and methods of reproduction. Chapter 13 reviews a number of printing processes and concludes with a checklist useful in print preparation. "Electronic (Desktop) Publishing" (Chapter 14) is a general overview of hardware and software, basics most of us in the workplace already know.

Unfortunately, inconsistency reveals itself from the very beginning. The book opens with a short preface followed by a lengthy 12-page table of contents. The table of contents is simply a very long list lacking any visual cues of the book's overall organization. This oversight, coupled with major spacing errors in the contents, seems surprising in a book focusing on visual communication.

The six appendixes at the end of this book vary greatly in quality. The appendixes on type samples, copyfitting, and scaling illustrations are excellent. The glossary, in contrast, contains inaccurate or incomplete definitions. Also, the appendixes on Adobe Illustrator and PageMaker try to cram way too much in too little space--you would do better to refer to the software documentation or tutorials.

Understanding graphic design requires skill and experience. Parts of the textbook provide a good place to start for those who have no regular responsibility for design but are called upon to produce or evaluate layout and design and would like to do so with some degree of visual literacy.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Society for Technical Communication
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Jach, Adriane
Publication:Technical Communication
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1994
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