Shades of Gray: Using black & white with flare
Author: David Reynolds
Date: April, 1994
Keywords: Ventana Press Gosney Benson book review Gray grey design Designing in Black & White on Your Computer
Text: If you think working in monochrome poses a severe limitation, The Gray Book will open your eyes to endless creative possibilities. You've seen the slick brochures-full-color photographs, deep, cool color background bled to the edges, and a splash of bright yellow in the upper right announcing a limited-time offer. Powerful, persuasive* and possibly overdone. The proper use of gray can be just as powerful as color. That's the premise of The Gray Book. Its purpose is to help desktop publishers create solid and interesting black and white pages using both good design principles and a little imagination. The authors give several reasons why good black-and-white design is so important: * it is more economical and convenient to produce; * it is more appropriate than color for most purposes; * laserprinters and imagesetters have become standard and mostly print in black and white. Given these reasons, it makes sense for the desktop publisher to learn to use black and white effectively. The Gray Book is divided into two sections: the first consists of several chapters about design principles like contrast, light and shading, and working with scanned images; the second consists of an annotated gallery of black and white images. Each chapter in the first section covers a design principle. Chapter One illustrates the use of contrast as the primary means of getting attention in a black-and-white document. Chapter Two reviews some other methods of grabbing attention, such as reverses, initial caps, shadows, rules and borders, bleeds, rotated elements, patterns, and high-contrast screens. Chapter Three moves from the realm of black-and-white into the use of gray, especially screens, reverses and overprinting out of gray, drop shadows, embossing, multiple grays, and gradients. Chapter Four reveals techniques of lighting and shading, beginning a venture into the use of scans. Chapter Five continues to develop the use of scans, and shows some interesting variations on those techniques. Each chapter builds on the last, and by the time the reader finishes the first section, she or he will have amassed a number of strong design skills. Section two, the annotated gray gallery, is a strong display of illustrations produced in black-and-white. The strength of the gallery-other than the striking images it contains-lies in the explanation of tech-niques, equipment, and software that the illustrator used to achieve the effect. While the annotations are somewhat useful, unless you are familiar with the partic-ular software that the artist used, the annotations don't mean much. The gallery is extensive, containing over 150 or more illustrations. There is some-thing in The Gray Book for almost every level of electronic layout artist. Where the first section of The Gray Book is appropriate for beginning and intermediate desktop publishers, the annotated gallery is wonderful for those with experience who may need some ideas. I found myself constantly referring to both the section on embossed initial caps and the annotated gallery in my day-to-day design work. The Gray Book is published by Ventana Press. Ventana has published several other desktop design books, including The Makeover Book, Type from the Desktop, and a personal favorite of mine, Looking Good In Print. The authors, Michael Gosney, John Odam, and Jim Benson claim experience with several publications, as well as work in an electronic design agency. The Gray Book is a good resource for experienced designers, and an excellent tutorial of basic design principles for beginning designers. It's worth the list price of $24.95, and, on the back of the book, Ventana offers a money-back guarantee if not completely satisfied. One note-the book itself is a beautiful example of the use of gray in print; there wasn't a single use of color in the entire text. THE GRAY BOOK: Designing in Black & White on Your Computer. Michael Gosney, John Odam, and Jim Benson, Ventana Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: 1990. Paper, 263 pages, $24.95.
Copyright © april, 1994 by David Reynolds