Top critical review
183 people found this helpful
Slide show without the speaker
on June 15, 2005
You may at first be tempted to buy this book for one or more of the following reasons:
(a) if you leaf quickly through it, you'll see lots of grid thumbnails, which may give you the impression that a range of different grid possibilities is carefully explored and explained;
(b) you'll also find several design pieces (pictures of posters, ads etc) with transparent overlays containing grids, suggesting that each piece is carefully analysed and explained;
(c) it's published by Princeton Architectural Press, so hey, it must be good.
Unfortunately, if you do buy the book for one of the reasons above, you're in for a lot of disappointment.
You'll find that the actual text is like a series of quick notes such as what you'd expect to see in a slide show, except that there's no speaker or presenter to give you the actual explanations and help you make sense out of all the images. In other words, you'll be confronted with a few bits of text that don't really teach you much besides a few (very few) basic concepts and which don't even properly explain the images. (And if you really believe that an image is worth a thousand words, good luck deciphering the message.)
Most pictures of ads and such are accompanied by transparent overlays; some of these contain lots of lines, circles and crosshairs. You'd think there's an explanation somewhere as to what all the lines, crosshairs and whatnot mean, but that's not the case.
Take the Nike ad on pages 64-5, for instance. The overlay has a complex grid with four darker areas, and five even darker ones, plus external lines that seem to indicate that some sort of proportion exists (and is therefore going to be explained). But here's ALL the author has to say about the pictures and the overlay:
"These are pages from a catalog of seasonal products for outdoor-industry professionals and athletes. The typography appears on the vertical in a band that spans the spread. The band is punctuated by solid vertical rules that change color and reverse out the product name. The descriptive text follows the vertical rule, with size and pricing information in bold. The rules and text have the option to flow across the gutter from the left page onto the right page. The images float in between bands of text and vignettes".
That's it. The text above appears before any of the pictures and is in no way visually connected to the overlay. You'll end up guessing what some of the lines in the overlay refer to, but will be left to wonder what most of the others mean.
And that's not all: all the grids [briefly] explained by the author are square, divided into three equal horizontal and vertical sections. However, most of the design pieces presented in the book are rectangular, and not one of them is divided in the familiar 3×3 grid. There's no explanation anywhere as to how the transition from square to rectangles can or should be made, and there's no information as to how the 3×3 grids relate to the 4×4, 4×6 etc grids you'll find on the overlays.
The first overlay (page 35) is presented right after the first series of 3×3 square grids, but it's a rectangle with no less than 14 horizontal lines, 5 vertical lines, and 2 unequal, overlapping columns (one of the rules that must be followed in the grid exercises is "no overlapping"). There's no introduction to this new logic, no explanation about the proportions; just a bit of history about the 1928 brochure which apparently is a cornerstone of modern design.