Matt and I are working on quite a few sections for Mastering Comics (DWWP2) that are either centrally or tangentially about design. So I was pleased to find a copy of Comic Book Design, by Gary Spencer Millidge, to use as a reference. The only problem? I found it on my own shelf. What does it say about a book on design that its own cover design is so weak that I never noticed we owned it? OK, I’ve got a pretty full shelf, but still.
Once I actually opened the book, I realized what a gem it is. The design of the cover and front matter (ToC printed black-on-red? In a “comics lettering” font?) aside, this is a truly excellent compendium/overview of the various ways design intersects with comics, from character design to lettering to covers. The approach is comprehensive, with short, well-observed sections touching on just about every design issue you can think of, all beautifully, very fully illustrated. Even end flaps rate their own section.
It isn’t a textbook by any stretch; you couldn’t sit down with this and learn how to become a master designer. But it does give you a sense of the many design choices cartoonists make, and will refine your ability to appreciate good (and bad) choices. It may even provide you with a kind of checklist if you are faced with making comics and/or designing comic books. I wish all my students read it cover to cover.
One of the more interesting features of the book is a series of sidebar “spotlights” on various cartoonists/designers: Seth, Matt Kindt, Chris Ware, Brian Wood, and Chip Kidd. It’s a fresh way to look at one facet of what these multi-talented people do.
(As an aside, I realize the cover of DWWP actually resembles this cover not a little…what does that mean?)
(Also, the UK cover is way better than the US cover. The same is true with Matt’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story. I wonder what that’s all about? Are Brits actually classier than we are, just as we’ve always suspected?)