This new book: Never Use White Type on a Black Background: And 50 Other Ridiculous Design Rules by BIS publishers grabbed my attention because I’d just attended a web design conference that made a case that you lose 50% of your site visitors if you put white text on a black background. So, I was excited to read this alternative view that encouraged us to break all the rules. What was their angle? What were the other 49 ridiculous rules? I had to know.
When I glanced at the table of contents, I became more and more interested. Some of the rules they were challenging covered many I’d heard before, and others I hadn’t:
Never use more than two typefaces
Design isn’t art
Never use copy and paste
Never photograph people eating
Always make the top left-hand logo of the website a home button
A picture is worth a thousand words
Never stretch a font
Form follows function
The logo must be recognizable
Helvetica always works
Never work with animals or children
Now that they had my attention I had to know their “take” on things. While the book was excellently laid out and had wonderful graphics, I was kind of stunned that the content mainly consisted of short quotes by famous people. While the quotes were inspiring and challenged the rule, I really wanted a page of explanation, or an argument for how, why and when to break this rule.
For example the only text for the rule “Never photograph people eating” was this:
Nobody really seems to know who came up with this one, but take one look at the undoubtedly unflattering photos taken of you or your loved ones while munching away on some food and this rule’s raison d’être will immediately become apparent.
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” Ansel Adams (1902-1984), American photographer
“I really believe there are things nobody “Photography is not a sport. It has no would see if I didn’t photograph them.” rules. Everything must be dared and Diane Arbus (1923-1971), American tried!” photographer Bill Brandt (1904-1983), British photographer and photojournalist
“My photographs do me an injustice. They look just like me.” Phyllis Diller (1917), American comedienne
When I evaluate whom this book might be intended for, I’m thinking it might be a designer who needs a break from the rules, and wants a quote to post on the wall from Steve Jobs or Giorgio Armani, to remind them to go ahead and be a revolutionary.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have been disappointed if the book had been given a different title, such as “Quotes by Rule-Breakers on Design.” In that case I’d give it an A+, but for someone like myself, who was really looking for an alternative perspective I could use in my work, I wanted more than quotes. I would prefer to read a lengthy page by Steve Jobs making an strong argument for breaking a rule, rather than 5 short quotes by a variety of designers.