The Levers Of Design + “The Shape Of Design” Book for Free

I recently read Frank Chimero’s book, The Shape Of Design. It is is laden with analogies to assist the reader in visualizing Frank’s perspective. Of all the analogies “The lever analogy of design” struck a chord with me.

Here’s the basics behind the levers as quoted from his book:

All design work seems to have three common traits: there is a message to the work, a tone of that message, and the format that work takes. Successful design has all three elements working in co-dependance to achieve a whole greater than the sum of the individual parts


  • Lever 1
    “The message is what is being said, the kernel of information to be communicated, or the idea trying to be expressed through the work.

  • Lever 2
    “The tone is the domain of design, the arrangement the message takes and inflection in which it’s said”… “It is often mistaken for style, but the two should not be confused: style is a formal device used on the surface to establish the tone of the work.”

  • Lever 3
    “The format is the artifact, the thing being produced. It is often physical form, such as a poster, brochure…” “Increasingly these ‘artifacts’ are becoming less physical, and may take the form of an application, website, or even experience.”


“The relationship between the three characteristics could be thought of as levers on a machine: different settings can be chosen and adjusted to yield different outcomes. Specific settings have emerged by imitating the success of others…”



Yes, no surprises here, it’s fundamental design. I am a visual thinker and it is the way Frank parses these fundamentals that delights me. I envision three physical levers that I am adjusting and bumping up and down slightly ensuring my brain spits out the appropriate product.

A great “visual read”, best news of all, Frank has been kind enough to offer an electronic version of The Shape Of Design for free!



Photo courtesy Creative | “Lathe Levers” | Trevor Risk | Changes: Crop, Graphic

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