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The Elements of Graphic Design: Space, Unity, Page Architecture, and Type

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  477 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Approach page design in a revolutionary new way! Unlike other graphic design books, The Elements of Graphic Designreveals the secrets of successful graphic design from the unique perspective of the page’s “white space.” With the help of carefully selected examples from art, design, and architecture, the book illuminates the role of each design element and how it can be ren ...more
Paperback, 149 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Allworth Press (first published January 1st 2002)
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Jay Yes, in my opinion, it's perfect for a newbie autodidact. It shows examples of what to do and what not to do. As an added bonus, toward the end, it ha…moreYes, in my opinion, it's perfect for a newbie autodidact. It shows examples of what to do and what not to do. As an added bonus, toward the end, it has further readings as well as checklists to evaluate your own designs. Very helpful.(less)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  477 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
Some good info, but its buried in pages of disorganized filler. Readability is sacrificed for visual flare on each page which makes for a hard read. (Ironically, this is what White instructs designers not to do). He introduces terms without defining them until chapters later. He can't seem to decide whether he is writing a guide for beginners or his grand treatise as a designer with years of experience. Generally his tone is pedagogical and snobby.
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As the other reviewer stated, for a book about graphic design, this book has lots of visual clutter. Sidebars, topbars (is that a thing?), and full-page examples distract from the text and obscure the point that the author is trying to make. I could barely follow the text through because my eye didn't know where to go. I'm not a graphic designer, but I felt that the layout could have been a lot better. The text was well-written, though I felt it read more like an academic paper than a textbook, ...more
Nov 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
If you are starting a career in graphic design this book can give you a short but effective overview of the basic principles professional designers follow in their work, and the aesthetics behind it.

But if you are simply someone that, for some reason or the other, needs to build some graphical skills, and apply what you learn to some practical work, you are going to find this book just too theoretical.

The only part which seemed to me to be a bit more down-to-earth is the last section (the fourt
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am an Educator and I found this book to be worth the time reading. I would categorize it ad an introductory book on design. Also, it is important to understand that this book is not a typical read and cannot be approached in the same way as other non fiction.

The unique layout was engaging. It gives the reader an experience with the topic. There are many examples throughout that illustrate the authors points, along with various quotes that add emphasis. There is plenty of imagery and even some
Oct 14, 2013 marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
I didn't read this book cover to cover. I found it on a list of 10 books for graphic designers & got it from the library. The text seems aimed at people who design commercially (advertising, magazines). As someone interested in graphic design as a hobby I didn't find myself compelled to read all of it. At first I liked the design of the book but there are so many captions describing the images that it disrupts the flow of the information, especially since you don't know if the example images app ...more
Adam Gilbert-Cole
For a book about graphic design, the interior was a MESS. There was no white space, no breathing room, nothing that wasn't jam-packed with graphics and text. It was overwhelming. I'm much more enjoying Design Elements: a Graphic Style Manual. The layout is clearer, the graphics and illustrations are given more space when paired with descriptive text, and the pace of the information is better.
Manuel Frias
Good reference to learn the basic principles of design with a lot of examples. This should be a good thing but I have however mixed feelings. The reason is that every page has so many of them that sometimes it was difficult for me to either focus on the main text or on the examples. Plus, some are crammed at the top of the page and sometimes too small.
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Concise introductory design tips focused mostly on use of white space and typography.

I'll agree that this has a lot of visual clutter, but I think it was going for a textbooky look—which does tend to run heavy on the visual clutter. There was a bit of a "do as I say, not as I do" aspect to it.
Jeffrey Fredericks
May 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Swing and a miss!!!

I have had this book on my shelf for years. With COVID-19 giving me a little more time indoors, I figured it was time to dust it off and gain some design knowledge. I chose to read this book over another book I also had purchased about the same time: The Non-Designer's Design Book

I wish I would have read the other book first! This book is convoluted and hard to understand. The author writes with a "holier than thou" style, in a book that lacks the basic design principles he to
Ashley McBride
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I learned some valuable tips from this book. The format is weird in the order of information given. Also I think it was more confusing to have the info on the right page and the examples on the left page. Having to look back and forth to figure out which example pertains to the info wasn’t always simple when there are sometimes 10 small examples on one page. Also, there was a lot of information repeated too many times. I understand how white space and letterforms could pertain to multiple design ...more
A Reader
Jun 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Don’t force this terrible book on students with learning disabilities. This book is not educational grade. It is coffee table grade. Keep it on the coffee table and don’t stab people in the eyes with it.

I think I could write a better book. I could use broken and worn out Christmas lights as the photos. Maybe a drawer full of risk pieces and thumbtacks juxtaposed in a quasi interesting way. I hope Mr. White reads this. Clutter does not graphic design make.
John Michlig
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design
Terrific, wide-ranging review that covers a lot of ground in a small space.
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Travis Fantina
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
A little too academic to make it really enjoyable but there is a lot of really good information in here. I only wish whoever designed the layout of the book had taken the advice of the book, lots of the graphics were hard to follow and confusing, some were very low resolution as well. Strange for a book on graphic design.
Oct 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The actual text portion of this book I would give 4 stars, as it is chock-full of useful information and really helps cement basic design principles. However, I'm giving it 3 stars because the structure and design of the content makes gleaning the information at times a challenge.

The content itself is pretty basic graphic design principles, how to think about them, how to use them. Size, color, proportion, white space, grids, typography, etc. While is could have been organized so there was a lit
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: intermediate Graphic Designers
This is probably the best book on graphic design I've ever read. Usually, Graphic Designers are fairly incommunicative verbally. They will try to show you; ask you whether you "see" it or "feel" the harmony or balance or whatnot of some design. Of course, I don't see it. If I did, I wouldn't have to ask in the first place. Thankfully, this Alex W. White doesn't do that. His prose is clear about every concept Graphic Designers have ever introduced me to and neglected to explain.

Majority of the bo
Bubu Dragoş
To be honest, I think it's an overrated book which lacks substance and is difficult to read because of the format chosen to display the information. The explanations from the glossary are more useful than the general definitions, examples until that point. I can't recommend this book to someone else.
Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Besides being a very well-designed book (as one would expect), this is a very practical and down to earth handbook for graphic designers. The emphasis throughout is on the techniques needed to convey a message, as opposed to simply satisfying a designer's desire to be different or to stand out.

This book is obviously useful for aspiring or professional graphic designers, but I think it would be useful as well for anyone putting together a website, writing a brochure, putting out a newsletter, etc
DeAnna Knippling
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Okay. Book on graphic design. You expect it to be well-designed.

I'm not sure if this one was or not: maybe that was the purpose. It was incredibly informative (especially on typesetting, for some reason), but the layouts and graphics seemed to break a lot of the rules that he was trying to get across. You'd look at a page and have no idea where to start reading, there were so many text boxes on it. And yet it wasn't hard to read, or boring, or confusing--you just had to dance around a lot.

Lindsey Lockwood
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: web-design
I liked this book compared to other graphic design books I've read. I believe it gave me a good jumping off point in learning GD fundamentals. The "elements" (space, unity, page architecture, and type) didn't go as deep as I would have liked but alas their only elements. A few exercises, discussions, or even quizzes could have added more insight. I will have to find more material for further learning but at least I have a small base to start from. There are a few bits of information I could use ...more
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
Yet another book that I wish my coworkers would read. This is written at just about the perfect level for me, covering a broad amount of content without going too deep. It was a good overview, and definitely showed me that I could stand to learn some more about this topic. (Especially typography, which was quite fascinating. I've read a bit about typography in the past, but this presented the topic in pretty much the exact amount of detail that I wanted.)
I enjoyed the many examples presented here. I found many suggestions and the way they were presented to be disjunct. Possibly this is an attempt to meet the public where attention spans are generally short and fragmented? As film seems to bombard the senses, the reinforcing inserts seemed to impede the flow for my taste.
Apr 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: graphic design students and graphic designers
This is a great book for designers and students to read in order to find out what graphic design is about. Designers and students will benefit from this book, Alex brought up very good example of what space is about and why it is important in graphic design, when applying elements onto layout.
Aug 18, 2007 added it
I was going to just write a review of this book when I saw it on my shelf, but an hour later I'm done reading it through again. In a long tradition of books about graphic design being overly stylized and self-indulgent, this is a mediaful fun-fest of knowledge and artsy-fartsy discovery.
Dec 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
This book will make you more cool in a Bauhaus, European, wear-lots-of-black, visual arts sort of way.

Or maybe it will help see the world anew... ordered and chaotic.

At the very least, you'll learn a lot about the power of active white space in graphic design.

Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
Great reference book!
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
Read this book 3 times... Can't wait to get my copy. Really go with learning the basics... Read it in school.
Claire Botman
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
very useful set of checklists at the end
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent images accompanied the principles described. Well designed and well written text. Very useful beginner's book on design principles.
Douglas Fenstermacher
Great for developing a foundational understanding of graphic design
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