Opening A Designer's Toolkit
I received a new book to review from Chronicle Books the other day and was happy to see that a CD came with it. For some reason, I get more excited about a book when there is an extra little goody attached. This book is by Graham Davis and is called The Designer's Toolkit 500 Grids and Style Sheets. After my excitement about the CD wore off, my mind went to "Oh no, another anyone-can-be-a-designer book" and I was kind of dismayed. I went into the book anyway and here is what I found out.
Davis does a good job of laying out the groundwork for the grid, something we all use and pretty much cannot live without. I learned in school that a "grid is good". He also includes discussion on the two versions of every template in his book - U.S. document sizes and the metric "A" sizes that're used by the rest of the world. He talks about the anatomy of the grid and gives some useful measurements and document proportions which are helpful for those of us who don't like to figure those kinds of things out on our own. There is a wonderful reference section in the back which breaks down all (and I mean all) American and British paper sizes.
Davis's book (and the nifty CD with it) not only has grids (and nasty templates) for virtually every type of printed piece you'd ever work with, from postcards to catalogs, it also comes with Web templates laid out in CSS. The Web style sheets are for basic to rather complex sites, which is a great feature.
The CD's files are saved for InDesign and Quark users, in the latest versions, for the print area, and HTML files with linked CSS style sheets, all ready for Dreamweaver or any text editor, for the Web portion. The CD is quite well organized and thought out which is also explained in the book. I recommend you read that part before you pop in your CD.
I had some problems with the template portion of the book and CD, as I thought I would. But if you use what you want (grids) and not what you don't want (e.g., the preview images and color palettes) it can work out OK. The book has template thumbnails for every file on the CD - so you will have reference if you still want to use a dastardly design template. Don't despair, you can delete and/or change the template designs.
I would recommend Davis's Toolkit for designers who appreciate pre-defined grid areas, especially for those projects which may be new to you, such as a catalog or tabloid-sized magazine. I would also recommend this book to those designers who want to dip into the Web, especially production, area of the visual communications pool. This book may be helpful for instructors and design students as well.
For me, I would've liked to have seen less actual design templates and more of just the grids and guides. (Maybe Davis could offer novice and professional sections of the book and/or CD.) All in all, for the $30 US plus tax price tag, I believe it's worth the investment.