Graphic Design Playbook - Front CoverAfter years of sitting in my Amazon wish list, then in my saved items, I finally decided to order The Graphic Design Playbook. It’s actually a relatively new design book, having been published in 2019, but to be fair, 2020 really felt like 5 years.

The Graphic Design Playbook is one of the most unique explorations of design that I’ve ever seen in a book. It’s more of a workbook than a reference guide, but it’s also too much fun to really be called a workbook. So I suppose the title ‘Playbook’ actually fits quite well.

Chapters in The Graphic Design Playbook

The Graphic Design Playbook is divided into four chapters; typography, posters, signs, and identity. Chapters are pretty short but full of fun design activities that are useful for taking a creative break and for teaching some basic design concepts to students. Many of the activities would even be great for teaching kids early design concepts. That being said, I’m not sharing this book with my kids because I want to do all the activities myself.

Graphic Design Playbook - typography page

Typography

The first section in the book deals with typography and gives the reader some very simple but enjoyable activities that explore type in different ways. The activities start out at a very basic, elementary level and then ramp up quickly. The activities in the typography section are:

  • Dotting the I’s
  • Connecting the dots
  • Matching typefaces
  • Drawing in the parts of missing letters
  • Creating a modular letter using stickers and stencils
  • Finding the mismatched letters
  • Interpreting words from negative space
  • Creating a letter inside a grid
  • Drawing a letter paired with a word
  • Creating and identifying ligatures
  • Drawing an I dot
  • A summary of all the activities in this chapter and what each teaches

Graphic Design Playbook - pages

Posters

This section of the book mostly explores imagemaking in posters through simple shapes, visual puzzles, overprinting, showing movement, and more. The poster chapter starts out asking you to make visual sense of a relatively chaotic line illustration. In the summary section, you find out this activity is meant to illustrate the principles of overprinting in a really unique way. The activities in the poster chapter are:

  • Separating superimposed images
  • Adding abstract imagery to a type poster
  • Finding the differences between two busy, chaotic posters
  • Creating totem poles from basic shapes
  • Completing typography on a half-made poster
  • Putting a poster back together with scissors and glue
  • Colouring in a contour poster
  • A summary of all the activities in this chapter and what each teaches

Signs

This chapter focuses on the creation of signs and the objective types of of design that graphic designers work on where things need to be communicated quickly in an unambiguous way. This chapter also talks about isotypes, which are a visual language made up of pictograms. The activities in the signs chapter are:

  • Making a sign
  • Identifying signs
  • Making a story using pictograms
  • Making pictograms on a grid at different detail levels
  • Illustrating abstract concepts
  • Drawing movement lines
  • The language of flags
  • A summary of all the activities in this chapter and what each teaches

Graphic Design Playbook - pages

Identity

The identity chapter deals with identification forms of design like logos and coats of arms.  The activities in the signs chapter are:

  • Creating a coat of arms
  • Creating monograms
  • Unmixing popular word marks from their typefaces
  • Identifying the chronological order of logos from a particular brand
  • Identifying a company from a graphic rebus
  • Finding where a letter inspired a building
  • Drawing logos using a building for structure
  • A summary of all the activities in this chapter and what each teaches

Who The Graphic Design Playbook is For

This is the type of book I would love to see design schools use for design students in their first week of class. It’s such a great introduction to the basic ideas and components of design, composition and imagemaking, while being incredibly fun. This book is great for anyone with artistic interests, the focus being on graphic designers. I think both amateur and experienced designers would love this book.

The Graphic Design Playbook has stickers in the middle of it. Stickers! Stencils too! This book is my happy place.

A Review of the Graphic Design Playbook – In Summary

Overall, I love this book. It’s the perfect combination of fun and design education that new designers would devour and experienced designers would simply enjoy. I don’t have much else to say other than you should buy this book and check it out for yourself. I’m hoping the authors make a squeal to this one; there are plenty of more design activities they could add that would help new designers learn fundamentals in a fun way.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about this book, other than I wish it were longer. Though there is one activity that asks you to cut and glue images to make a poster design; I wish this were stickers instead; it would just be easier. Also, the artwork in this book is beautiful and I would love to display some of it, along with my work, somewhere on my wall. Perforated pages would make this easier.

Have you read the Graphic Design Playbook? Do you think we need more design books like this, because I certainly do. Let me know in the comments below!