Book review: Design It Yourself


Even though the official Saluteâ„¢ is over, with six bags of books ready to go to the used book store on my next trip out that way, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the titles that made the cut.

I've pulled D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself from the shelf on the last five purges, but I've never been able to let it go.

An exceptionally well-thought out and equally well-produced book, Design It Yourself is crammed (in the prettiest possible way) full of ideas and information about conceiving and executing design projects of all kinds, from logos to photo albums to websites. It seems targeted to what I'd call the ambitious beginner, these aren't particularly scary projects, and there are ideas that range from super-simple to pretty advanced, but all of them require a kind of roll-up-your-sleeves attitude towards making your own stuff, and assume a level of lively interest in the mechanics and principles of good design.

Or, to put it another way, you could start with any particular project, a business card or a t-shirt, a press kit or printed book, and start to develop a fundamental understanding of the way things work, design-wise. The editor, Ellen Lupton, and the many contributors (all grads from the MFA program at Maryland Institute of Art) don't want to just walk you through how to put together a newsletter or roll your own notecards; they'd like you to see the beauty in thinking of things from a design standpoint, how they work, and why they work better when you take a thoughtful, holistic view of things.

The best way to do that is to demystify what they can, which they do in excellent overviews of design theory, branding and the DIY ethos, and then to make it all look incredibly sexy and fun. Which, I'm here to say, it is. Once you get your hands a little dirty with this stuff, you get sort of addicted to it.

Even if you decide you'd rather turn certain jobs over to the pros, the pictures, projects and stories will inspire you to open up and embrace your creative side a little more readily. Plus I'm fairly sure they'll make you a much better client, it's always easier to get good work out of someone when you have respect for what they do, and some understanding of how to evaluate and participate in the process.

Bottom line: if you're looking to get a few ideas for the big gifting season coming up hard upon us, or a little smarter about how to look at design in general, Do It Yourself is a fine place to start. And definitely, a fun one.


Image by yuichirock via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.