Join Us and Win The Smashing Book #2

Having received my copy of The Smashing Book #2 I thought I’d share a few thoughts in form of a review. Also, see below for info on how to be in the draw to win one of five copies of the book!

Photo of the cover of The Smashing Book #2.

Summary

The Smashing Book #2 is the most recent addition to my bookshelf, and shares the space with a number of my most valued works (The Elements of Typographic Style, Arabic Typography, Don’t Make Me Think, The Design of Everyday Things, O’Reilly’s massive Fonts & Encodings, The Zen of CSS Design — to list a few). Does Smashing Magazine’s latest book stand up with the rest of them? Verdict: not quite, but it has a different purpose and use.

Getting into the Details

Product/Book Design

A Good, Solid Cover

While I don’t own a copy of the first book which I remember featuring a paperback cover, I’m happy to see The Smashing Book #2 bound with a solid hardcover. Paperback books are of course fine, but the hardcover nicely allows me to open the book and lay it flat for reference without forcibly keeping it from closing or pages from turning back over onto themselves.

Top side view of the book.

Added ‘Inbuilt’ Bookmark

The book also sports a handy bright-orange brand colored bookmarking ribbon allowing you to note your position or keep a page or chapter handy for quick referencing.

The Paper

I immediately noticed upon opening after turning past the orange and textured orange inside blank leaf that the body paper choice had a polished gloss finish, reminding me somewhat of cheap magazine copy—this was of an instinctual connection and reaction—but then realised the book held a large range of full-color screenshots and illustrations, explaining the choice of paper finish. Although I’m a fan of rich, textured and non-glossy papers, when printing with full-color images gloss finishes are good way to go.

Photo of the illustration art marking the start of chapter 4.

On the note of the opening leaflets, following the title page is a double-page ASCII art feature of names from the Smashing community. Personally, a really nice touch to the book.

The Typography

The body is set in the garalde Adobe Garamond Pro set quite loosely and at a fairly large size. (I would probably have opted for something less humanist or old-style; Scala or Quadraat?, or a recent work by one of the many brilliant foundries?) I have only two more critiques regarding the typography. Firstly, the body is surrounded by fairly limited margins, particularly the inside margins; I like to see the page and its body hugged by ample margins—enough for the thumb to rest in. Finally, I noted there were a number of little things that could have received some typographic attention, for example the setting of abbreviations and acronyms, which stick out blatantly in full-capitals, and could have been better set in small-capitals. Ultimately however The Smashing Book it remains quite readable.

Pretty Illustrations

The book features beautiful full-color illustrations, marking notably the start of every new chapter. The work is by Yiying Lu, the designer behind the infamous Twitter “Fail Whale”.

Yiying Lu and The Visible vs. Invisible chapter illustration.

Contents

So it’s readable and visually enticing, but does the content stand up? Answer: yes. The book covers a staple range of design topics; here’s the chapter rundown:

  1. The Principles of Great Graphic Design, by Matt Ward and Alexander Charchar
  2. Visible vs. Invisible Design, by Francisco Inchauste
  3. Designing Mobile User Experiences, by Mike Rundle
  4. Sketching, Wireframing and Prototyping, by Janko Jovanovic
  5. Red Flags in Web Development, by Christian Heilmann
  6. The Future of Web Typography, by Vivien Anayian
  7. Game Design Techniques Applied to UX Design, by Christoph Kolb
  8. When They Click: Psychology of Web Design, by Susan Weinschenk
  9. Design Patterns on E-Commerce Websites (A Study), by Steven Bradley
  10. How to Make a Book (Like This One), by The Smashing Magazine Team

The Introduction Chapter & “Timeless Design”

Topics although arranged ad hoc in the book and don’t necessarily flow logically. As noted I don’t own a copy of the first book, but as I understand it #1 focused particularly on coding and layout techniques, whilst #2 is more solidly grounded in design and user experience theory. This is fine of course, but means the book needs a good opening introduction and bind things together a bit, which it does quite well.

I particularly liked the call for “timeless thinking”, a self-critical assessment of the design and the design process to ensure the end result doesn’t exploit the current range of trends to satisfy the client in the now but rather ticks all the boxes while retaining an accessible and inviting quality next year, five years from now, or even in the far off future. (See “Timeless Thinking, page 19.)

The Typography Chapter

Yes, I admit, the first chapter I looked at—Vivien Anayian’s chapter provides a pragmatic look at the current state of web typography. Her writing includes a good selection of conversations and quotes from many of the pioneers and recognised leaders of the field, and will bring you up to date with the happenings of typography on the web (@font-face, WOFF, hosting and licensing services, open source type design, advanced OpenType features, CSS3, and so on). The chapter deserves two thumbs up.

The illustration for chapter 6.

I’m currently on chapter eight, with Susan Weinshenk’s look at the psychology of web design and user behaviour.

Bonus (Free) eBook

I should note there is also a bonus PDF ebook featuring four additional chapters that were originally scheduled for inclusion but due to the unforeseen size of the book as it published, they were omitted, and are provided freely as bonus material. You can grab the DRM-free PDF, priced at $0 by registering yourself with the Smashing Shop to download your copy.

The bonus ebook contains these chapters:

  • Plagues in Web Design Business & How To Deal With Them, by Speider Schneider
  • Web Design Community: Where Are We Going?, by Paul Scrivens
  • The Ultimate Web Design Questionnaire And Checklist, by Kat Neville
  • Interviews: Expert Tips From Renowned Designers, by Steven Snell

Promotional design work showing off the eBook additional chapters.

As for the full book, it’s available exclusively through the Smashing store, and is priced at USD $29.90.

Final Assessment

With a good broad spread of design topics and many useful tips and best practices the book is certainly worth a look at. It doesn’t compare to the exemplary leaders from the design fields, but I think it was never intended to; the Smashing Book #2 is solid, pretty and well-rounded book on various design aspects as applied to the web and serves as a great introductory gateway and reference to where we are at currently. If you’re serious about web design, it’s a great springboard.

Head on shot of the cover of The Smashing Book #2.

5 Copies to Win!

We’re proud to be giving out five copies of The Smashing Book #2. To be in the draw to win, subscribe to SitePoint’s premium design newsletter: Design View.

We’ll announce the winners of the five copies in the next edition of Design View (Wednesday 6th, first week of April), so be sure to be subscribed to be in the draw to win your copy.

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  • http://twitter.com/emwhytee Yousuf Tafhim

    1st week of March or April?

    • http://klepas.org Simon Pascal Klein

      April — thanks for pointing that out. (:

      • Pete

        …and if we’re already subscribed? Are we still in the draw?

        • http://klepas.org Simon Pascal Klein

          You are indeed. (:

          • http://www.dryadmusings.com Alex

            Excellent, I was just wondering the same thing :-)

  • Tukoart

    i just subscribe hope been the winner

  • Wayne Browning

    Would be nice to win the book!

  • Nathaniel hamann

    The book sounds awesome, hope i win a copy. Just subscribed. Thanks

  • Fabienmarie

    Awesome ! Hope i’ll get a copy !

  • http://www.orbitmedia.com Andy

    This is really a great book. I’m proud of the fact that one of the designers at our little web design company is quoted on the first page of the first chapter! It’s from a Nick Haas blog post about the difference between graphic design and web design.

  • http://twitter.com/marek_koza Marek

    Very insightful book, I think its has something for everyone, so you don’t get bored with just one subject. Thanks guys for the opportunity to win one. Great prize!