- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: HOW Books; 1st Edition edition (February 4, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1581809697
- ISBN-13: 978-1581809695
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,763,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication Paperback – February 4, 2008
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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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This engaging design theory book fulfills its stated purpose, to: "connect us back into the language of nature, to revive our understanding of source, and to create communications that flow unobstructed by an intelligence that has lost its way in the world." A quote attributed to Galileo Galilei sums the author's intentions in "demystifying and decoding" visual language--"You cannot understand the universe without learning first to understand the language in which it is written..." without which "we wander in a dark labyrinth."
Having made the case for more cogent design at the outset, the book delves deep into symbolism, pattern awareness, and "the recursive nature of nature." (I love that line). Ten subsequent chapters (each introduced with a compelling illustrated plate by Joel Nakamura) illuminate the subject by "bringing shape to meaning," and vice versa by means of case studies, "deconstructions" of well-known logos, and depictions galore--all-the-while demonstrating how visual communication can "tap into the dynamic energy of the collective psyche."
The sources Maggie cites are wide and varied (Jungian psychology, Aztec shamans, Unitarian Universalism, Sufi Enneagrams, sacred sexuality...) and visuals draw from a vast treasure house of the familiar as well as the unexpected, arcane, and esoteric (DNA helices, Buddhist mudras, Arachnid webs...). Through it all, she weaves together a persuasive narrative to support her rubric that what sets humans apart from other mammals is our ability "to understand how basic patterns connect, allowing us to alter our experience..." and thereby to symbolize.
Decoding Design will appeal to anyone interested in the "why" behind effective graphic design and communicative form-giving. Well researched, well designed, well referenced, and with hundreds of visual entry-points for the reader, it successfully achieves its claim--a must-buy for design students and visual communication practitioners--even the best-read in our field are sure to learn and benefit from it.
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In her new book, Decoding Design: Understanding and using symbols in visual communication, author and designer, Maggie Macnab takes you on a journey of symbolism. She pulls back the veil over several logos and other designs to reveal the hidden meaning just below the surface. Meaning that may not be obvious at first, yet is often archetypical and resonates deep within our being.
When I first heard of the book, I figured it would be yet another, "Parade of logos," promoting their superstar designers. On the up side, great for inspiration. On the downside, vehicles for yet more copycat designs. Not so. This is the stuff that should be the cornerstone for every design curriculum. For veterans, it reminds of why we may have chosen communication design as a profession and the power to have to influence our audiences on behalf of our clients.
Decoding Design isn't just a lot of heady theory. There's a lot of meat, but it's not dried out. The chapters progress, one through ten, where Maggie explains the meaning and symbolism behind each number. She goes on to describe the forms and shapes the reflect its meaning and how it has been incorporated into various designs. I particularly enjoyed how she deconstructed several marks and pointed out how the underlying symbols are used. Macnab also shares her own and other designers thoughts and process about the logos and other designs within the pages.
Back in the day, designers enjoyed a seat in the Board Room. But, over the years, our profession's standing has eroded. We often find ourselves competing with a client's neighbor's cousin's kid with a copy of Creative Suite. Or it might be the Administrative Assistant with Microsoft Publisher. We've all been there. Decoding Design, and the concepts Maggie teaches, will greatly help you to explain and, when needed, defend your work. Plus, it will provide a roadmap for creating better design that is more than simple decoration. It's ammunition for the thinking designer.