Recommended: The Designer's Desktop Manual by Jason Simmons

Anyone with a bit of patience can learn how to use publishing and desktop software such as InDesign and Photoshop.  However, even with Internet access, not everyone can learn professional publishing and digital design concepts.

Jason Simmons' "The Designer's Desktop Manual" is not an instructional guide book that takes the professional step-by-step through software.  The book introduces concepts and terminology professionals should know before beginning a career in digital design and publishing.  The Adobe Classroom in a Book Series, Wiley's Dummies, and Apress Software books tell you what to do with application features and how to go about tasks, but the authors assume knowledge (or ignore altogether) of industry terms such as spot colors, finishes, trapping, and color matching.



Some of the sections in "The Designer's Desktop Manual" seem dated and misplaced, particularly when dealing with workspaces, operating systems, hardware, and specific software (e.g. CSS, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, etc.).  There are moments when the book feels like it tries to do too much, such as including web design (a totally huge field on its own).  Jason Simmons,however, excels when dealing with industry-relevant jargon and displays a true understanding of the print and publishing industry.  He succinctly and clearly explains important concepts absent in other books such as font anatomy, color trapping, color usage, and layouts.  His recommendations when working with colors, type, images, and proofing are practical and relevant.

First edition
I only own the first edition of "The Designer's Desktop Manual" but I found it very useful for technical writing and design projects even though it contains information regarding dated hardware and software.  Nonetheless, it's an excellent reference and worth more than one read.  I particularly like sections that deal with obscure topics such as using old-school Proofreading Marks, the different color-matching systems, and layout methods.  Some books trick readers into thinking it contains all the answers and attempts to convince the reader that their work is nowhere near as good as the authors' examples.  Simmons does no such thing.  Unlike other books that dictate how to do things and what to do, "The Designer's Desktop Manual" advises and informs, allowing the new professional to consider design problems and concepts he hadn't even thought of and encountered yet.  

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