A Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Good

Mark Gonyea, Author
Mark Gonyea, Author . Holt $18.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7575-5
Reviewed on: 06/27/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
Paperback - 144 pages - 978-0-7868-7575-7
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Cartoonist Gonyea eschews complexity in this design primer, but unfortunately simplicity "doesn't make it good" either. He begins promisingly with the statement that "Design is all about the perception of size, shape, and color," but seems not to notice that he has his hands full; a curious young reader might reasonably wonder, "What's perception?" In 10 brief chapters (which lack a table of contents), Gonyea visually demonstrates how "You can't change one piece [of a composition] without affecting all the other pieces," yet certain basics such as the color wheel go without mention in the minimalist spreads. The central points are practical but debatable ("Warm colors are aggressive and advance./ Cool colors are passive and retreat"), and the ostensibly harmonious image of a smooth orange rocket on a blue ground looks static, even when the artist introduces jazzy patterns to its balanced components. It's telling that Gonyea does not select this rather staid spaceship visual for the book's cover, and instead confronts readers with a jarring picture—a smiley-face bull's-eye hybrid in primary colors—that he purposely over complicates. This self-consciously busy image may have its faults, but it's also the book's most eye-catching picture. Even the title, which seems to have switched places with the subtitle, implicitly questions Gonyea's logic. Ages 9-up. (June)

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