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31 Reviews
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely perfect
I have read this book thoroughly and I love it. It's better than any book of it's kind, and I would recommend it absolutely. I do, in fact, whenever I get the chance.
I own a bunch of books like this (including a couple by Robin Williams), but no other book is written (and presented!) so clearly. McWade is both a designer, making things look good, and a communicator,...
Published on March 18, 2004

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
This book goes into great detail about how to exactly create the author's provided designs. You have to really want to create something exactly like the sample for this to be of any help. But even the explanations seem kind of fragmented and hard to follow, even with the illustrations. I really expected a book that would simply show a lot of "before and after"...
Published 5 months ago by Linda K Dickeson


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely perfect, March 18, 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
I have read this book thoroughly and I love it. It's better than any book of it's kind, and I would recommend it absolutely. I do, in fact, whenever I get the chance.
I own a bunch of books like this (including a couple by Robin Williams), but no other book is written (and presented!) so clearly. McWade is both a designer, making things look good, and a communicator, making things clear. He knows his stuff, but also knows how to make it accessible. And it's worked for me. I'm no professional graphic designer, but I was able to improve the look, and more importantly the usability, of all our corporate paper documents because of what I learned from this book. My partner is amazed (and very pleased). A very good $20 investment.
Though I've been interested in design and typography for years, it wasn't until I read Before & After that I really felt I had the specific tools to make it work. He gives very specific advice and recommendations (point and pica sizes), but still gives you the confidence and know-how to deviate from his recommendations.
Two nits: while everything is explained, not everything is explained in order. For instance, on page 11 he's telling me to use Century Light Condensed 16/18, but it's not until page 37 that I discover that the 16 is the font size and 18 is the leading. That only happens a couple of places, but it something he should have fixed.
Secondly, a few of the examples were clearly written a decade ago and not updated. The principles are still completely valid (and very, very good). But the color scheme on page 160 was so 1980s it was distracting. Sad, since that was hands down the best (and most comprehensive) chapter in the book: "Create a do-it-all business portfolio." Buy it for that section alone.
Seriously, no small business should exist without this book.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just Before and After..., November 15, 2004
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
So many redesign books say "this is before" and "this is after." But this one has starts with how to design it and then shows a before and after to demonstrate. I like the callouts on why the each part of the layout was done and why it works so that it can be duplicated on my own. The designs also say when that layout should be used. For example, the digest-size newsletter says it's "great for short runs and small budgets" though the author says an example of this layout is Reader's Digest. I don't think of that magazine has having a short run or small budget. But yes, it is smaller.

Some of the vocabulary is unknown to this new designer. For example, on a newsletter each area is explained but what is a kicker? What is a deckhead? He even says that the kicker box touches the edge, but doesn't say what it is. From the context of the layout, I guess it's the name of the magazine, but the kicker has a byline. So maybe not.

There is a lot of great information on the different types of layout, but I'll jump forward to photo layouts since that's one of the things I am working on now. The before and after are dramatically different. And instead of just showing you the after, he shows how the layout came to be step-by-step. The progress photos are a great complement to the simplistic illustrations which I think are called wireframes. There are also tips a non-designer might not notice like overlaps add depth and a reminder to check for trapped space.

I like all the random tips scattered throughout the book that aren't necessarily design, but a good designer probably would probabl know. For example, in the advertising section the author has a tip on taking a color photo. The brief instructions are illustrated with backdrop placement, angle of lights, and camera position.

The book is great as a read or reference book. I can see myself referring to it for upcoming print projects. I will apply some of the design ideas to my web projects, though there isn't a web layout demonstrated. I wish there were.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McWade Gathers all the Before & Afters in one BIG book, December 30, 2003
By 
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
In case you didn't get this, this book is built from years of newsletter and publication ( ads, flyers, business cards, etc) design in the mighty Before & After magazine.
See: [...] for a taste and some free goodies.
The design examinations here are thoughtful, well-reasoned and thorough from choosing colors to all-important voicing of typeography.
This book is also much cheaper than buying all the back-issues of the magazine. The new design and format do a great job of presenting the designs.
Jim, Before & After subscriber since issue one
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning design, March 28, 2004
By 
Al Kunz (Emerson, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
We go at a frenzied pace to acquire and learn programs like Adobe PageMaker, Illustrator, InDesign, Corel Draw, Microsoft Publisher and applications of this type, namely those that are very much involved in `desktop publishing'. Once learned we then sit down and design a newsletter, flyer, brochure or whatever vehicle we pick to convey a message to an unsuspecting public. But, when you sit down and really think about it, who is the `unsuspecting' party? In my humble opinion it is I, the so-called designer of the material that we foist on that public out there.
All too often, we forget, or really never realize that learning desktop publishing programs is but the first step. What we surely need after that is some training on the principles of good design. For those of you that have gone through extensive training in design schools, you know what I mean and can just go on to the book at hand for a concise primer on design. For those that have had no training in graphic design, listen up for your design skills are about to get much more extensive and sharpened.
The book, Before & After Page Design, could not have a simpler or more descriptive title. The title says it all. The author takes a `before' design of some type and then, in the course of several pages, transforms that design into the `after' that leaves you saying, `Sure, why didn't I do that in the first place?". Granted, page design, like all art, is a subjective field, open to the whim and interpretation of the designer. However, I must admit that the initial designs presented (the `before') in many, if not most, cases would have represented my final efforts. But after seeing the transformation to the final (or `after') design, I must admit that it was not only more graphically stunning but totally logical.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New to design?, July 9, 2006
By 
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
This book is wonderful for designers new to design. It teaches you the basics rules and gives plenty of examples (before and after) of how to arrange elements and type.

Very "eye catching" solutions! I am an illustrator & this is a wonderful way to enhance and round out my creativity in my illustrations. A definite must for someone new.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John McWade is a genius..., December 24, 2003
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
and this is his first book.
John knows how to teach design better than anyone I've ever met (or could even imagine!) He understands the leverage points and he has an innate sense of what is good and what's not.
I've been subscribing to John's newsletter for five years (and bugging him to write a book for 4) and I can't tell how pleased I am that it's finally done.
Move that mouse finger quick! Buy a copy. You won't regret it.
Seth Godin
Author and wanna-be designer
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Great Book, August 24, 2004
By 
Chris O'Leary (St. Louis, MO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
I know just enough about design to be dangerous, and this book has helped me do things for myself while ensuring that they look good. It's full of great examples and I have found it to be an invaluable reference.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great tips., June 29, 2007
By 
J. Hughes (Mendocino, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
I subscribe to the before & after website and decided to buy this book based on my satisfaction with that membership. The book has great design information. It's so helpful to have the here's what it looked like before and here's how it could be better aspects. It really helps me in my design work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for designers and non-designers alike!, July 27, 2010
By 
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
If you're not technically a designer but want to design nice-looking stuff, this is the book for you! It explains WHY the "before" design is ineffective, and explains every step of the way to the "after." Over time, seeing this process will help you develop your own eye for design. You do need some skills with whatever design software you're using, however.

If you're a graphic designer, as I am, you will still find this book to be a good source of inspiration and instruction. In some ways, it's a little basic, but how many times have you seen a a design and wondered, "what font is that?" "how exactly did they do that?" You could probably figure it out, but this will save you some time.

This book is also a good tool to use when trying to explain good design to non-designers. Being specific with your boss or client, instead of saying "this is ugly and you need to redesign it" is a good skill to develop; anything from Before & After will give you good examples to share.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to design for mere mortals, and still lots of gems for pros, July 21, 2010
This review is from: Before & After Page Design (Paperback)
I read this book after I'd already spent years doing design, and I still thoroughly enjoyed it. As some have said, the examples in the book are dated - but the design principles it teaches definitely are not. It is perhaps one of the best introductions to design that I've read. Before and After does a great job of concisely explaining why a design works or does not and how to improve it. They do it in such a way that the earliest beginner can understand it but the seasoned designer can still gain tips to improve from it.
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Before & After Page Design
Before & After Page Design by John McWade (Paperback - December 20, 2003)
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