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Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication Paperback – February 4, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Since 1981, Maggie Macnab has been creating symbols, visual metaphors and conceptual design for a wide range of clients. She had been published in every major design magazine including Communication Arts, STEP, Print and Graphis. Maggie is past president of the Communication Artists of New Mexico, teaches symbolism and logo design at the University of New Mexico, and speaks at national conferences, universities and schools.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HOW Books; 1St Edition edition (February 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581809697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581809695
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 8.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What really makes good design work? It's a question we as professional designers ask daily. For some designers, it is a constant struggle. But for a handful of top award winning designers, it seems to come easy. What's their secret?

The answer? It's all around us. The answer is given to us in nature. The answer has repeatedly revealed itself to us over time.

Mathematicians and philosophers throughout time have been aware of the key. The key to what makes things 'work' - both from a spiritual perspective, and in the world of physics.

Perhaps what sets top designers apart from the rest, is that they have discovered this key. Whether through deep personal exploration, or simply by being more in tuned to the world around them - they are aware of the patterns all around us and have harnessed these 'secrets' and applied them in the world of graphic design.

Award winning designer, Maggie Macnab is one of these unique individuals. Her logo design work has taken top awards worldwide for decades. In her book 'Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication', Macnab shares her secrets of success.

Each chapter progresses numerically - from zero to ten reflecting the importance these numbers play in design. From simple shapes like circles and squares, to more complex shapes like spirals, they are all seen in nature. They are all part of the key to effective design.

In each chapter, Macnab deconstructs award winning logo designs by applying the principals she is teaching. The book contains photographs from nature, architecture, and history. She includes photos of her sketches in which she reveals her creative process when designing logos. And finally, she includes visuals of the completed logos.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very good book, and I'd recommend it to artists & designers. Some good thought that's gone into analyzing deeper patterns and meanings that give influence to a symbol in our minds.

However, I'm continually disappointed by the author's unlikely connections. For example in the chapter on the number 2, she joins 2 circles together to create an almond shape called a "Vesica Piscis". The she almost-arbitrarily draws two connecting lines inside that vaguely look like a christian cross, and uses that to explain the deep religious significance behind the cross & piscis.

While some things are a bit of a stretch, the book on the whole is fascinating.
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Format: Paperback
Originally written for [...]

Today's fast paced world tends to lose track of its surroundings and move away from understanding nature's relationship. Ironically nature has embedded itself into all we do and it's a big part of logo design, even if we tend to be unaware of that.

In Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication, Maggie Macnab does a wonderful job of pushing aside some of the everyday noise and clutter to reveal how the nature of numbers and symbols are deeply rooted in design. Using both a scientific and philosophical approach, each chapter does a wonderful job of revealing some hidden gems about logo design. As the numbered chapters 0-10 progress, these hidden gems bring about an amazing awareness, almost an enlightenment about how certain logos have come to be what they are. Focusing on the strength of the number and shape involved in the design.

While many of us are taught the philosophy of K.I.S.S., sometimes "keeping it simple, stupid" doesn't always mean the logo is truly simple at it's core. Logo design is a process, sometimes very complex, that goes on between a designer and a client. Decoding Design, helps you be better prepared for that process through case studies and "deconstructions" of logos we see regularly. These explanations are by no means shallow but rather deep with information and theory. Examples range from the author's own work to many other well known designers in the field. It was especially nice to see sketched concepts, as well as the finished logo. Giving even more insight into the process.

Decoding Design is wonderfully written and points are nicely displayed visually with many examples throughout the book. The design of the book itself is very intriguing and well thought out.
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Format: Paperback
Decoding Design is a must for any visual or graphic artist. Much of what's done in the graphics and design field isn't done by hand anymore, it's done on the computer which has speeded the pace up considerably. The fast pace of today's world means designs are thrown together with little insight or thought. The work done today is less fresh and interesting. Look at an old poster book from a century ago and you'll see what I mean. The designers didn't have computers, worked and lived in a much slower paced but put more care and originality into their work.
This book helps the reader to slow down and actually consider the symbolism of everyday design by reconstructing logos, geometric forms and numbers. This design world today has gotten mediocre and repetitive, this book will help us to rise above that.
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Format: Paperback
I'm currently working on a more comprehensive review of this book, but this is the bottom line: If you are a practicing artist, designer or craftsman--buy this book. If you have friends that fall into these categories--buy this book for them. Many design books are pure fluff or puff pieces for their 'celebrity' subjects. This book has all the great photos, illustrations and examples of a well produced, showy design book, but more impressively, the text is highly engaging and thought-provoking. It has inspired me to try new things in my work as well as elucidated some things that were already happening--just at that slightly unconscious level. This is not only a good read, but a reference book that actually lives up to that ideal.
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