Book Reviews

It’s becoming increasingly harder to find good design and publishing books in the bookstores but there are many available elsewhere that can help even the most seasoned professionals. If you need help learning new techniques, or just want to know more about certain procedures, here are brief reviews of several good books to help lead you in the right direction. Several of the books are great to help give your imagination a jump start while others are great references for ongoing projects. To make it easy for you all of these can be ordered through the VUE website. 

Type BookThe Non-Designer’s Type Guide

Author: Robin Williams
Publisher: Peachpit Press
ISBN: 0-201-35367-9
List price: $24.99
Amazon Price: $17.49

Attention to detail, or lack thereof, is one of the things that can give you away when it comes to your publications. A trained eye can often tell if a publication was done by a “professional” or a novice typesetter by the little details. For instance, the use of true open and close quotes is something we all should pay attention to, but are you aware that there are times when a straight quote, or more accurately, an inch mark, should be used—when the text refers to inches, of course. Are you aware that the hyphen should not be used except to join compound words, not to separate thoughts nor to denote duration in time? The hyphen is often misused, but after reading The Non-Designer’s Type Book you won’t have any excuse for using the wrong characters.

This book is full of interesting and valuable facts about typography and the use of correct symbols and characters. The interesting part is the background behind the use of some of the characters used in the past. If you’ve ever read one of Robin Williams other books you’ll know and appreciate her sense of humor which is ever present in this book.

Here are some of the tidbits you’ll get:

And, there’s so much more. It is suggested you read this book from cover to cover, but if you can’t find time to do that, at least have it nearby and peruse through it often to learn the correct way to typeset. You may not agree with everything Robin has to say, and that’s okay if you have a valid reason other than ignorance of not knowing the right way to do it.

This book is highly recommended to everyone using Ventura. No matter what your background or how long you’ve used the program you’re sure to learn something that will help make your publications look more professional.

PDF w A4PDF with Acrobat 4 (Visual Quickstart Guide)

Author: Ted Alspach
Publisher: Peachpit Press
ISBN: 0-201-35461-6
List Price: $17.99
Amazon Price: $16.19

Peachpit’s Quickstart guides are by far the best, most concise books to help users get off to a quick start (no pun intended) and this one is no exception. The best part about the Quickstart series is that you don’t have to follow the topics in any particular sequence. It’s easy to find a topic and learn how to perform the functions as long as you know what you’re trying to do.

Many people think Acrobat is only for reading documents. In fact, that’s what it’s used for most, but it has power far beyond displaying documents for reading. PDF with Acrobat 4 gives users some insight into the true power of the Acrobat program. The first few sections deal with the basics of creating PDF files, both using the PDF Writer and from PostScript files. This is the only part of the book found so far that is below standard, because it doesn’t go into enough detail for Windows users. It isn’t clear that you have to select a PostScript printer first before you can follow the instructions. Since Mac systems only use PostScript printers, this is probably just an oversight on the part of the author, but an important oversight.

Other online reviews point out other discrepancies, however, this book is still highly recommended to anyone trying to work with Acrobat beyond the basics. Even if you just flip through it, you’ll learn some of the great features of Adobe Acrobat 4.

Look Good in Print-4-gLooking Good In Print (Fourth Edition)

Authors: Roger C. Parker and Patrick Berry
Publisher: Coriolis/Ventana
ISBN: 1566048567
List Price: $41.99
Amazon Price: $23.99 

It’s hard to say which book would be the best choice if you could only own one desktop publishing reference, but Looking Good In Print is definitely in the running. You will be inspired and can get some interesting ideas on new designs just by looking at the examples shown throughout the book.

If you look closer, you’ll find a wealth of information about how to organize a publication so the reader gets the message quickly and easily. The authors discuss the proper use of elements such as white space, typefaces, illustrations, and color. The techniques and concepts presented are relevant to all types and lengths of publications.

While not everyone will read this book from cover to cover, it’s a great reference that can quickly provide information on an as-needed basis. It’s a “must have” for any serious publisher’s library.

Studio TechniquesCorelDRAW Art & Artistry

Publisher: CorelPRESS
ISBN: 007-211879-2
List Price: $49.99
Amazon Price: $42.49

This is the eighth in a series of books showcasing the works of artists who have entered the Corel World Design Contests. This volume covers winning entries from early 1998, and contains the actual images plus details about some of the effects used and techniques practiced by the “masters.” There is also a Tips and Tricks section with step-by-step instructions for some of the effects.

The book comes with a CD containing 40 of the award-winning entries, together with video testimonials from the Best of Show and Grand Prize winners. While past versions of the Art Show series contained many more of the images submitted to the contest, the addition of instructional information in this book more than makes up for the difference.

Studio Techniques-gCorelDRAW Studio Techniques

Authors: David Huss and Gary Priester
Publisher: CorelPRESS
ISBN: 007-882450-8
List Price: $49.99
Amazon Price: $39.99

The techniques illustrated in CorelDRAW Studio Techniques are from real-world images created by the authors during their years of experience with Corel products. David and Gary show you how to create those images using techniques from CorelDRAW and PhotoPaint versions 7 & 8. But users of CorelDRAW 9 and PhotoPAINT 9 can get inspiration and insight into the creation of similar images.

While many of the images are created in only CorelDRAW or only PhotoPAINT, several techniques are demonstrated in a back-to-back approach, showing how to create the image in both programs. The individual images are covered in a step-by-step approach to help you learn. This is a serious book that lets you get down to business quickly.

Non DesignersThe Non-Designer’s Scan and Print Book

Authors: Sandee Cohen and Robin Williams
Publisher: Peachpit Press
ISBN: 0201-35394-6
List Price: $24.99
Amazon Price: $19.99

The Non-Designer’s Scan and Print Book starts at the place where every publisher should start—the end. It's always important to know how you plan to produce a publication and what the final output device will be before you begin. 

By answering a few basic questions first, you can plan your work for a minimum of changes during the final stages. This book leads you in the right direction, with discussions of paper use, graphics, and color. But more importantly, it goes into detail about the process of printing to laser printers, inkjet printers, and imagesetters. The authors provide information that will help you find a print shop, and they explain different types of picture file formats.

As its title implies, the book covers the principles of scanners and scanning as well. It also includes basic information on digital cameras and Kodak Photo CDs, and the use of stock photos and clip art.

The Non-Designer’s Scan and Print Book can help you understand what goes into and comes out of Ventura and other publishing programs, and gives you what you need to know about production and prepress to get great-looking pages.

PC Not TypewriterThe PC is not a Typewriter

Author: Robin Williams
Publisher: Peachpit Press
ISBN: 0938151495
List Price: $9.95
Amazon Price: $7.96

This little book is a must for everyone wanting to put their best their best foot forward when publishing a document of any kind. It explains the proper use of spacing, dashes, quotes, justified text, quotation marks, and more.

The PC is not a Typewriter was written in 1992, and some of the keystrokes listed to access special characters in different programs are out of date. But the most important part of the book is how to use the characters properly, and this information is timeless.

This is an excellent reference that can be read from cover to cover in 30 minutes to an hour. It is strongly suggested you do read it from beginning to end, and keep it close at hand for easy reference when putting the finishing touches on any Ventura publication.

Idea Book2The Desktop Publisher’s Idea Book, 2nd Ed.

Author: Chuck Green
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 0679-78006-8
List Price: $25.00
Amazon Price: $20.00

Chuck Green provides over 100 step-by-step designs with illustrations for web sites, brochures, packages, presentations, and so much more.

There are hundreds of pictures of the finished projects along with details of the specifications, such as page size, font, spacing, etc. so you can create stylesheets with a minimum of effort.

In addition to the many ideas presented, Chuck talks about different methods of output, working with services bureaus, and other issues that need to be considered for any quality publishing project.

The design of the various pieces are truly refreshing and inspirational. If you’re stuck in a rut when it comes to designing a book, business card, postcard, fax cover sheet, or even a Rolodex card let this book help you get a fresh perspective on the design process.

Non Designers-gThe Non-Designer’s Design Book

Author: Robin Williams
Publisher: Peachpit Press
ISBN: 1566091594
List Price: $14.95
Amazon Price: $11.96

The subtitle of this book is “Design and typographic principles for the visual novice.” Even seasoned Ventura publishers will be inspired and gain some valuable information from this small, easy-to-read book. You can learn a lot from just looking at the before and after images, but you are encouraged to also spend a little time reading the short explanations accompanying the images.

Robin Williams has authored many design books, and she gets her points across easily. Each chapter contains a summary that pinpoints the main concepts and tells you what pitfalls to avoid. You know she’s been there before you, to help you save hours of time by following tried-and-true guidelines from the start.

If you weren’t trained in graphic design, but are responsible for the overall composition of your publications, add this book to your library right away.

If you’ve discovered a book that you think would be a good for other publishers, please send us your short review to publish in future issues of VUEPOINT. You can send the information via email to