Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Review: Before&After Page Design

I generally like articles from  the Before and After Magazine. They are short but complete and with few explication they give you interesting tips and outlines about several graphic creations such as brochure, catalogs, business set and so on.

That’s why I decided to buy two books edited from them even if they are not up to date: Before & After Page Design and Before & After Graphics for Business, both written by John McWade.
In this article I review the first of those books.
Let’s see the contents.
Before & After Page Design
By John McWade
  • Newsletters & Newspapers
  • Brochures
  • Fliers & Mailer
  • Advertising
  • Stationery
  • Business Documents

Newsletters & Newspapers

The grid analysis is still valid, showing the arrangements of text and graphic elements, the use of the contrast and of the tinted columns to highlight contents.

Some tips like the use of callout and their best locations are useful. They show you the importance of the head levels to explain and expands the main concept of the news. For example pictures should always be scaled and cropped to fill the width of a column.


the author shows different brochure shapes, square with few text and more beautiful pictures for elegant solutions, tiny to present a short story.
Again is explained the use of the rules and guides. Empty spaces can be used to set apart different kinds of information so they are worthy and useful. He suggest useful applications of pocket brochure as a sales tool.

The chapter also provides shape mock-up complete with sizes, margins and folding explanation. I really want to mark this chapter with a positive vote.

Fliers & Mailers

The author suggest that a good flier is a good sales tool. He shows how to mount a good flier using the product images, text description and a short headline. I've to say it is catchy and the example looks like some Absolute Vodka advertising that you still can see everywhere.

A dominant element in the graphic catch the eye and helps to develop the story around it. This chapter also explain how to create an effective coupon card, a promotional postcard, and a 3D flier using a table tent layout, another useful tool to promote you activity or your special dish of the day on a restaurant table.


Balancing. This is the main topic of this chapter. The author suggest that you first have to divide the space you have, organize your ideas and construct your ad one element at a time, exploring the better effect and balancing your elements.
The elements location mainly depend on some of them that can't be modified. For example a logo or the length of the headline. In those case they dictate your decisions.

The user is not interested in the graphic skills but in the product so is important to give space and relevance to it. If you promote an event give space to the title making it bold and emphasizing the effect with an image.

If you are working on a photo catalog, play with the blocks variety, creating empty spaces, zooming some pictures and making smaller some others as shown below


Some useful tips about how to create letterhead and envelope, business card but nothing really innovative.

Business Documents

Tips to create a complete company portfolio, from the letterhead to the brochure of a company activities, everything collected in a well studied cover/folder passing though the colors choosing, sizes and fonts.
Other document are explained in depth: the creation of a modern resumé, a book cover, a data-sheet easy to read and forms easy to fill in.


I'm sure there are other books more up to date than this published in the 2003. By the way I like how the author has organized the contents and explained tools and tips that I consider still useful. Graphic tendencies change continuously but some schemes are worthy independently and reading from experts experiences can always enrich our works.


I’m Ester Liquori, multidisciplinary graphic designer with great expertise in running effective and custom tailored design projects. I’m globally capable and specialized in brand identity design, content creation and communication, both for digital and traditional purposes. It’s really quite simple, I help you bring your business image to life. Oh, I’m also an avid traveler and photography lover.