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"A Practical Guide to Designing the Invisible" Book Review

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When working on a web project, it's all too easy for designers to get caught up with the latest trends, cutting-edge HTML5 or CSS3 techniques, and forget about the why behind the decisions we make. In his book, Robert Mills asks us to consider this very question.

A Practical Guide to Designing the Invisible, from Five Simple Steps, reveals the hidden meanings and psychology behind the everyday design elements we take for granted. From the emotions generated from the color red to the values communicated by Comic Sans; it’s all told in five easy to consume parts.

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Thoughts on the Book

Robert Mills spent three years writing Designing the Invisible, plenty of time for any industry to progress, let alone the ever-changing world of web design. Design trends and web technologies may be continuously evolving; however, you can be sure the principles and techniques shared in this book will remain relevant for many years to come.

This book asks designers to focus on more than just the pixels on the screen and consider the story that we are telling. Using elements such as color, signs, typefaces and tone of voice we can create a story that engages users and reinforces our brand. Author Robert Mills provides an in-depth explanation of each aspect using both online and real-world examples. Detailed case-studies and live websites are also included to highlight the techniques in action.

Throughout the book, there is a strong emphasis placed on the need to know your audience. Robert Mills does an excellent job of explaining the effects and connotations of various design elements, but also stresses that factors such as age, gender, politics and culture will influence the way your audience interprets your design.

This is nowhere more apparent than in the use of color. Part 3 "Using the Right Palette" really stands out in the book and describes the powerful influence color can have. The different emotions and associations colors generate depending on who are viewing them are all thoroughly and beautifully presented. If you have ever wanted a solid understanding of color theory, this book is an excellent starting point.

In Summary

The book itself is very easy to read, not too long, with clear information broken up by plenty of imagery and examples. The author, Robert Mills, has plenty of experience having worked at the BBC as an Audience Researcher and at some large web agencies including Carsonified and Mark Boulton Design.

In a foreword to the book, Mark Boulton says that this book is ideal for those just starting out in web design – and it is. I’m certain, however, that this book will also be of much benefit to many more experienced designers as well.

A Practical Guide to Designing the Invisible is available from Five Simple Steps
£11.50 for eBook (PDF, ePub and mobi), at time of writing.

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