Tag Archives: David

BOOK REVIEW: Photographically Speaking by David duChemin

I enjoy David duChemin’s books because he speaks about artistry and philosophy, and not just about the technical details in his photography. Many photographers do the same thing and talk about composition, light and other aspects of photography beyond the camera, but David really brings his thoughtfulness into his writing.

duChemin book cover

Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images is David’s latest book and one more example of his inward-looking style. The book considers what makes a photograph successful and how to apply these qualities of visual storytelling to future images. There are many techniques illustrated here that you can get in many other books—the rule of thirds and the golden spiral come to mind—but the real takeaway is how David explains these concepts and examines them at their most philosophical level.

For example, there’s a small sidebar on “reading” versus “viewing” photographs where David describes the difference between passive viewers and active “readers” of images. I learned a similar concept when I was studying music history: to really understand a work of art, you have to go beyond your superficial reaction to it. In today’s saturated world of images, it’s easy to jump at first impressions when viewing photography, but David is wise enough to avoid that and frame the discussion with that single word.

The last section of the book—almost 100 pages—is devoted to 20 of David’s photographs. Those are a lot of pages to devote to just 20 images, but I appreciate the focus. In this section, Photographically Speaking applies the concepts of visual language that were developed in the previous section, such as orientation and the rule of thirds. I enjoy the philosophical aspects of the first section more than the technical focus in the second, but it does help make the book well-rounded.

Photographically Speaking is a very enjoyable book with beautiful images and very thoughtful writing from David. Photographers who have a firm grasp of their craft and want to really think through the images they produce can’t go wrong with this book.

Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images
David duChemin
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Photography In Vision & Voice

vision-voice-large

David duChemin‘s Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom would be just another book on Lightroom were it not for the great photography that’s inside. Most Lightroom books boast good photography but I think it’s David’s focus on exotic locations, introspective portraits and quiet moments that unify the material and make the book stand out.

I think the first four chapters are the most important in the book, because they cover the essence and distillation of vision instead of the Lightroom techniques you get in the rest of the book. David’s notion of a “vision-driven workflow” is not really anything new—intention, aesthetics and process—but I like it when authors frame old processes in new ways because it can help readers visualize and refine the rote way they approach things like photography. Other books have done this too, such as Scott Kelby’s seven-point approach to Camera Raw, but that was for photo processing and David’s workflow is for composing and creating images. David will be the first to say it’s not a paint-by-numbers method for making photos, but the exercise of quantifying the process can help improve the process.

The highlights of the book are the 20 case studies that take up the last half of Voice & Vision. These are David’s own photographs and not only do you get to see how he improved the images but also learn the circumstances of their creation—where they were shot at, what was going on at the time, and what David was thinking when he processed them. These glimpses into a real-world situation always interest me and David’s are memorable. He knows how to shoot interesting things and get the most out of them with Lightroom.

The rest of Vision & Voice focuses on Lightroom tips and techniques, and they are well-written and illustrated but do not make a comprehensive Lightroom resource like other books. This is expected since the book has a lot more going in it than just Lightroom tips. If I were buying a gift for a photographer starting out with Lightroom, a good combination would be Vision & Voice with a more comprehensive book like Martin Evening’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers. Vision & Voice stands up very well on its own but by its nature it can’t be all things to all people. That is not a bad thing.

Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
David duChemin
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 10/10

BOOK REVIEW: “Do Good Design” Not A Typical Design Book

dogooddesign

At a publishing company I used to work for, I was asked to produce an invitation for an award ceremony honoring community activists. I’ve always been bothered to the point of activism by the sheer volume of waste paper and media our society produces daily, so I had the idea to design an invitation that was stamped upon waste cardboard rather than printed on pristine paper. Unfortunately, someone at the company didn’t like that idea and the project was given to another, less maverick designer.

Maybe I was onto something after all.

Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change The World is a unique book. It’s the only graphic design book I can think of that considers the ethical ramifications of design and treats it as a tool for good or evil—and argues that our world is suffering from serious maladies brought about by the subversion of design for evil purposes. Almost no designers think about such things—they’re too busy learning the new features of Photoshop CS4 or updating their LinkedIn profiles to get more clients and more money. Perhaps that’s why I think this book is an essential read for everyone in the industry.

The big problems: overconsumption and the end of the world

Author David B. Berman, who has become known as an advocate of “good design” in his native Ontario, believes graphic design does far more than anyone realizes to shape our perceptions of the world and control our behaviors, and in the past century designers have unwittingly contributed to a world of overconsumption and environmental destruction that will eventually lead to an unsustainable way of life. Exhibit Number One in Berman’s argument of the power of design is the Palm Beach County ballot used in the 2000 U.S. election: this ballot was so poorly designed that many people mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore—swinging that county’s vote to George W. Bush and setting the United States up for eight years of war, death and outrage.

Buy the book if only for the international perspective

Berman traveled to a wide variety of countries around the world while writing Do Good Design, and I encourage American designers to buy this book if only to learn more about what American graphic design, branding and lifestyle are doing to the world. Did you know…?:

  • Thousands of Third World schools, orphanages and public signage sport the Coca-Cola logo. It costs Coca-Cola only $200 to brand an entire village.
  • Americans know Hugo Boss as the high-end clothing company. Most Americans don’t know that Hugo Boss himself designed the Nazi SS and Hitler Youth uniforms during World War II.
  • Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, is so large and heavy—700,000 tons—that it’s believed to have increased the instance of earthquakes across Taipei.

Berman’s thesis is that the drive for overbranding and overconsumption is due to graphic design, in particular American design and product development. Do Good Design looks at the thesis in a fascinating way, with around-the-globe observations and plenty of preaching. If you want to remain in your bubble of preconceptions about design and the world, don’t read this book.

A call for activism

For Berman, it’s not enough for readers to simply read Do Good Design and go back to the usual work for the usual clients. The last section of the book is a toolkit of sustainable design practices, manifestos from various organizations and a general push to become a “good design” activist. This is going to make some readers uncomfortable, but that’s what makes this book unique. There are a variety of small actions mentioned that will move things in the right direction. Others actions—such as pressing for sustainable design in the workplace—are more complicated. Berman thinks bosses and company owners will work with designers, but I think they’re just as likely to fire you if you start advocating changes they don’t want.

Do Good Design is a hard book to rate because it’s not necessarily perfect: it can be preachy and readers who don’t like being pressed to change may not like the last 30 pages. However, Berman’s message is too important to ignore and I encourage every designer to read this book and maybe change the world. My rating reflects the importance of Berman’s message.

Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change The World
David B. Berman
Published by New Riders and AIGA
Rating: 10/10
US$24.99