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Wooden Books

Designa: Technical Secrets of the Traditional Visual Arts

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Following the success of Quadrivium and Sciencia, a compendium of six titles on art and design in the acclaimed Wooden Books series appears here in one volume.

Book 1: Celtic Pattern by Adam Tetlow

Book 2: Islamic Design by Daud Sutton

Book 3: Curves by Lisa Delong

Book 4: Perspective by Phoebe McNaughton

Book 5: Symmetry by David Wade

Book 6: The Golden Section by Scott Olsen

416 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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John Martineau

34 books17 followers

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5 stars
112 (54%)
4 stars
66 (32%)
3 stars
19 (9%)
2 stars
6 (2%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for Manintheboat.
453 reviews4 followers
December 30, 2014
Um, how do you pronounce this book? Does is rhyme with "vagina?"
Amazing book though, despite my childish observations.
Profile Image for Tiffany Rankin.
Author 1 book
May 26, 2018
I love this book. It's great on several levels. For the lover of art and design, this is a great read that explains the art and science behind what we view as appealing. As a designer I also appreciate the step by step instructions in creating some seemingly complex designs. In my opinion if one is using it as a reference book it might be a bit of a struggle to replicate some of the images in here for a beginner. However, as in anything practice makes perfect and there are more than enough examples for that.
Profile Image for Adriana.
2,558 reviews18 followers
February 6, 2018
Consisting of 6 books on related subjects and an Appendices and Index section, it's small enough that you only get the very basic of information on each point within each topic.
However, they are all great starting points if you're looking to know the basics of some classic (and ancient) techniques.
Do be prepared to read a lot about math, geometry, and complicated equations. They make up the biggest part of each technique.
The best part of this book, though, is without a doubt the very last section. It's a treasure trove if you're looking for a quick and easy to follow listing of basic artistic elements, techniques, and terms.
Profile Image for Sula.
229 reviews24 followers
July 30, 2021
This book is more a collection of images showing nice design, than really providing any technical understanding. The first two 'books' do show some underlying construction to the designs but do not really explain how they were achieved. Sometimes the construction lines do not actually make sense with the design shown. A fair amount of the book is more examples than technical explanation, e.g here's some design work with leaves, here's some with symmetry and so on. Beyond the first two 'books' it is very gimmicky and relies on the illustrations for their real value. From what I can tell, most of the illustrations are not designed for the book but taken from books no longer in copyright, sadly often with no references to allow further reading. They tend to be reproduced rather on the small side too.

Intrigued by a few things in the appendices: instead of explaining how the pattern of a net was created (why is this under Celtic art anyway?!) the informative description tells us 'Nets haul life from the depths, they gather and enfold. Creative thinkers use the net of the mind to catch creatures of imagination with as much stealth and purpose as any hunter'! Also amused by the fact that the 'Useful Recipes' section in the appendices includes how to make lime - as most of us have the means to heat materials up to 900 C and would find it handy to be able to make lime at home - and also a 12th Century recipe for Vellum - for those goat skins you happen to have lying around!
Profile Image for Sarah Bergius.
319 reviews
February 28, 2022
"Designa" ist ein kleines Coffeetable-Buch, das eine Übersicht über die traditionellen bildenden Künste bietet. Symmetrie, keltische und islamische Muster, Perspektiven, optische Illusionen und den goldenen Schnitt.
Das Buch ist optisch sehr ansprechend und wundervoll gestaltet. Die verschiedenen Beiträge sind von Experten geschrieben und definitv informativ.
Das Buch geht fachlich (und vor allem mathemstisch) sehr tief ins Detail. Das kann natürlich einerseits gut sein, für unwissende Interessierte wie mich wird es aber streckenweise etwas zu kompliziert. Auch fehlt für mich der übergreifende rote Faden, der die Themen und Kapitel miteinander verknüpft.
Vor allem für Künstler und Inspirationssuchende ist das Buch mit Sicherheit sehr empfehlenswert. Für Laien ist es jedoch etwas zu fortgeschritten.
22 reviews
June 24, 2019
This book is a must-have if you appreciate traditional art and want to know a bit more about some of the principles behind it. It succinctly covers Celtic Patterns, Islamic design, curves, perspective, symmetry and the golden section.

There's just enough here to even get some basic working knowledge of the geometry and techniques behind much art of the past. It works well as quick guide on the subjects covered that you can explore more in-depth elsewhere if you so choose. Some of it gets rather profound, especially with the golden section, and can be hard to follow if you're new to these concepts and don't have much background in maths.

I definitely see myself coming back to this book now and again for reference.
15 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2019
I would say this is a must read for anyone in the visual arts. For me, it did not inspire me to create masterful artwork, but it strongly interested me and got me to learn more about shape and symbolism. Knowledge is a great base for making good drawings.
Profile Image for David Ultis.
4 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2020
I especially enjoy influencing meaning of forms in design, so this book always returns a sense of value to the forms of drafting practical models in my daily works.
19 reviews
April 16, 2023
Fantastic but short book. I feel like I would have ravaged this book as a child, looking at the pictures.
Profile Image for Nachtreich.
175 reviews11 followers
August 2, 2020
Vista la quantità di testo a fronte della quantità di illustrazioni (unico motivo per il quale acquistare il volume), è comprensibile come nessun capitolo sia realmente approfondito.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Rose.
Author 2 books4 followers
May 4, 2016
Each of the six books that make up Designa is written by a different author on a specific subject. Since they were originally published separately, there is a little overlap from book to book, but not much.
Book 1 is Celtic Design. It offers numerous examples of the iconic winding knots most identified with Irish rock art and illuminated manuscripts. Explanations of how such designs were/are created are clear and practical.
Book 2, Islamic Design, delves into the geometry of the abstract tiling patterns that adorns medieval mosques and the winding patterns of illuminated copies of the Koran from the same era.
Book 3 discusses different kinds of Curves in art and architecture from wrought iron to paisley patterns.
Book 4, Perspective, veers into more cerebral territory, dealing with three-dimensional illusions in two-dimensional media as well as naturally occurring illusions like mirages and rainbows.
Book 5 explores the concept of Symmetry in every possible way. Different kinds or visual symmetry and more abstract notions of mathematical symmetry are given equal time.
Finally, Book 6 explains the pervasive Golden Section. expressed by the Greek letter "Phi", this same proportion appears over and over in botany, anatomy, painting, and even music. Numerous examples are given on all topics.

The only problem I had with Designia is that it's not quite long enough for full and clear explanations on every point. I think the authors presupposed a certain level of mathematical and/or drafting skill that I personally lack, so I was unable to follow some of the more complicated ideas. Nevertheless, I wish this book's mixture of practicality and abstract musing (or something like it) had been incorporated into the way I was taught math back in high school. I might have appreciated more of it.
Profile Image for Alina.
27 reviews1 follower
April 7, 2016
For those interested in learning the technicalities behind art, i.e. math behind the art, this book is perfect for you. As a mega-book composed of six smaller ones, you'll get to explore different eras and cultures of art, from European to Islamic to Geometric and Natural. Additionally, the illustrations provided are beautiful and well-captioned to be easy-to-understand.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
14 reviews
February 2, 2016
Beautiful pictures, interesting concepts, but the text got a bit confusingly technical and sometimes repetitive. This coming from someone with a math degree! I found the appendix of how-to's even more useful than much of the text.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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