Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the
competition, in which an esteemed jury
identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear,
compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design
thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on
Project brief: Redesign the tech book to create a title that introduces HTML and CSS
to an audience who may be intimidated by the style of traditional tech
books (and keep it at the same price point as competing titles).
Overview of market: Every day, more people benefit from learning a bit of code—not just
those who want to build websites for a career. Designers, bloggers,
hobbyists, marketers and all kinds of people who update a company
website can all benefit from learning some HTML and CSS. Many people think that the code used to build websites looks difficult
to learn, and it doesn’t help that the books that teach HTML and CSS
look dull and undigestible.
$24,000 (plus royalties)
This is a book we had wanted to do for several years, and prior to the
start of the project, we had collected many sources of inspiration for
the design of the title. We studied a range of books that taught subjects from architecture to zoology, as well as infographics from several different eras, and experimented with how we could show code examples on-screen within a lifestyle setting. We also spoke to educators to find out what topics newcomers commonly
struggle with, and we spoke to people who had purchased competing books to find out
what they found hard to grasp.
The first challenge was getting a publisher to allow us to throw away
their traditional templates and redesign the tech book from scratch (plus
convincing them of the need for another book on HTML and CSS in what
was already a competitive marketplace with established series of books).
The publisher also insisted that the title would have to be made
available at the same price as competing titles.
Because the topics covered were very broad, the information needed to be
edited and presented in a way that would provide enough detail for
those who wanted to become professional web developers without putting
off those who did not intend to pursue programming as a career. Since the subject can be difficult to grasp at first, we needed to find
visual ways to gently introduce readers to high-level concepts. It was also important for us to find a format that would work as a
reference book long after the first read-through.
The main strategy was to create something highly visual, and to have it
appear as at-home in the graphic design section of a bookstore as it did the
computing section. We achieved this by:
We decided to move the writing and editorial process out of Word and
work directly within InDesign and Illustrator. We also intended to supplement the printed material with an online companion website for subjects that were better taught via video, and for interesting content beyond the scope of the main title.
Economy: The book has sold far better than the client’s initial expectations. In
the first five months it had four print runs (totalling 47,000 copies),
with translation rights sold to China and Korea. It has given the publisher
a market-leading book from which to build a new series.
People: As we had hoped, the title has gained popularity far beyond the
traditional technical book market. Readers have uploaded pictures to Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and their blogs (pretty much unheard-of in the tech book market). Many universities have expressed interest in using it as a text for
courses covering a range of subjects, including design, computing,
English and journalism. Staff from Adobe, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have initiated contact to
discuss the title and offer kind comments about the book.
Culture: Many readers have emailed or tweeted to encourage us to write additional
books on other programming topics, and we are keen to look at expanding
beyond programming, into other subjects that people struggle to learn. We have also prepared some additional academic study material to
accompany the book due the high level of interest from tutors and
Learn more about the jury’s perspective on the competition and their
rationale behind the selections.
Section: Events and Competitions -
AIGA’s national design competitions celebrate exemplary design and
demonstrate the power of design.
Section: Events and Competitions -
As part of a major restoration to reopen the parks after Hurricane Sandy hit New York in October 2012, Pentagram created a program of environmental graphics that welcomed New Yorkers back to their beaches.
Section: Why Design -
Competition, Justified, environmental design, graphic design, identity design
By now there must be few
people who are unaware of the recent uproar surrounding the University of
California’s rebranding effort. Seldom does
the media take such an active interest in design, so it was disheartening that they got their reporting so very wrong. The outcome
of that misreporting—fueled by an online petition and fanned by our very own
design community—has set back the course of design and cheated the university out of a progressive new identity.
Section: Why Design
The go-to design podcast helps AIGA Women Lead celebrate women’s achievements, with a playlist of inspiring and innovative women leading the profession.
Section: Inspiration -
Womens Leadership, diversity, digital media
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