About a dozen years ago, as I embarked upon my journey into the realm of publishing, I bought a book called The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams. I’m pretty sure it was recommended to me by the guy who taught my first Quark XPress class. I remember thinking it was a fine and fun book. It may have taught me just enough about design to be dangerous. I made up business cards, and took on a couple freelance jobs designing flyers and the like. Years later I had enough confidence to take a side gig designing newspaper ads. Not exactly the peak of the design profession, but it was fun to at least be the guy picking the fonts. I left that job after I’d made enough to buy a second family car, and then spent the better part of a decade forgetting everything I learned from the Non-Designer’s Design Book. So I was happy to stumble upon a copy of the brand new, 3rd edition a few weeks ago.
I re-read the book and to ensure that I don’t forget it all again, I organized my notes into a non-designers-design-checklist (PDF). I tried to distill 200 pages of design principles and advice down to one page. The title comes from the book’s four foundations of good design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity. Obviously, the checklist is no substitute for the book, which is a great source of knowledge and inspiration for a novice like me. But I am a strong believer in point-of-use instruction, like those old keyboard shortcuts guides that came with Quark XPress. Nothing beats having everything you need in one place as a handy reminder.