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Location: Bellevue, Washington, United States

Nathan is both a writer and designer of books and eBooks and is part-owner of boutique publisher Long Tale Press, LLC. He is available to help make your eBook or Book publishing project come alive with great book design.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Purpose of Design

Back at the advent of the desktop publishing revolution (in the mid-80s) there was an influx of new designers in the market, most of whom had designed nothing more complicated than their signatures before getting an Apple Macintosh. A friend actually sent me a letter that used all 28 of the original Apple fonts on one page. He was so overwhelmed with the opportunity to use type that he’d never had before that he simply couldn’t control himself. Hence we entered an era of “ransom note publishing.”

But we set about educating the new raft of designers and computer users and we mostly got past uncontrolled typography. But documents still didn’t look good, and the more features that were added to desktop publishing programs that real designers were craving (rotated type, text wrap, kerning, etc.) the worse the non-designer’s documents looked.

So I came up with a basic tenet that I delivered to all my students: The purpose of design is to communicate a message. Design that fails to communicate, fails. And I hold that some of the “real” designers out there probably still need reminding occasionally that no matter what clever technique they have discovered recently, if the design doesn’t facilitate the communication of the message, it fails.


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