Looking Good in Print 6th Edition, by Roger C. Parker, ISBN 1-933097-06-X

Reviewed by: Robert Boardman, March 2006
Published by: Paraglyph Press
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$29.99, CAN$41.99

In a little more than three hundred pages, Roger C. Parker attempts to help readers learn most of what there is to know about desktop publishing (DTP) without using any particular piece of DTP software to do it. He concentrates on design, not on tools. Fourteen of the fifteen chapters plus an appendix focus on designing printed publications to communicate clearly and effectively. One chapter is devoted to the differences between printed and electronic documents in the hope that some web page designers will learn a little about presenting information on screen.

The first six chapters deal with the necessary design tools for printed information: what is the message about, page organization, typography, illustrations and photographs. The next six chapters discuss various forms of printed publications including newsletters and other news media, advertisements, sales material, communication material, forms and large documents. Chapters thirteen and fourteen illustrate mistakes and redesigns, what not to do and how to fix mistakes.

That this title is now in its 6th edition should say something about its long-term usefulness. Most computer books are only in print for as long as the software version for which they were written is still being sold. New editions of books come out when software is updated. Here is a book that is not tied to any particular program however. Partly because of that, it has been in print for over fifteen years.

The layout of the book reflects Parker's insistence that good design aids communication. There is a significant amount of white space, leading (pronounced "led-ing" — it's a measure of the space between lines) is adequate, and readability is very good. The graphics are appropriate for the text and placed closely to the point they illustrate. There is no color used, but it is not missed. The absence of color is an appropriate design choice for the book given the small numbers of businesses that print in color for distribution. It also helps keep the price of the book down. Parker writes in a friendly tone. Without talking down to readers he gives the impression he knows what mistakes people make and he is prepared to help readers avoid most of them. Sentences are short and he does not use any jargon without explaining clearly what a term means and what it refers to.

There were several places where I had some difficulty understanding what a particular graphic was supposed to be illustrating. Sometimes it took a bit of searching to locate a sentence or a phrase that seemed to be relevant. Other than that the book is easy to read, easy to understand and, most importantly, easy to put into practice.

I purchased a remaindered copy of the 3rd edition of Looking Good in Print just after the 4th edition was released. I used it regularly when I was actively involved in the publication of Current Notes magazine, and have used it since when I teach web page and web site design. While Looking Good in Print will not tell you how to do everything you need to do when desktop publishing, if you understand and follow the advice and ideas in the book, you'll be better able to use desktop publishing tools to communicate clearly and effectively, whether you are designing business cards, letterhead, training manuals, newsletters, and magazines, or creating flyers and marketing brochures. If there has been a reduction in the volume of bad design in print, and on the Internet, it is due in part to this book and to the efforts of Roger C. Parker. It belongs on your reference shelf. Highly recommended.

(Publisher's Note: Reviewer Robert Boardman and Kickstartnews Managing Editor Howard Carson published Current Notes magazine during the early to mid '90s. Several books, including Looking Good in Print, Newsletters From The Desktop, The Copyeditor's Handbook, and The Chicago Manual of Style remain among their long-time reference standards and should also be part of every editor's and publisher's collection).

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