REVIEW - Dust Or Magic - Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design


Dust Or Magic - Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design


Bob Hughes




Addison-Wesley Professional (2000)




Francis Glassborow


June 2000



this is a well-written and highly readable book

This book is divided into three sections. In the first the author tries to give you some sense of the territory that he calls 'Cyberia'. He makes clear that the fundamental concepts of multimedia are nothing new; the Greeks were doing it two thousand years ago. Coming closer to the present day he traces the growth of the computer as a medium and begins to suggest some of the ways in which we have come unstuck.

In the second part he writes about a number of individuals together with some great successes as well as some horrific failures. His central focus here, as it is throughout the book, is people. He writes enthusiastically about Voyager (the multimedia company, not the TV programme) though by the time he was finishing this book the company ceased to exist. It was here that I began to feel irritated, not with the author but with the repetitive use of the Apple Mac for innovation. All these great ideas that really do not depend on the platform that were only developed for what became a minority machine. Why did these innovators confine themselves to a single platform? By doing so everyone, creative artists and customers have lost out. The author mentions other machines and projects such as work based on the Amiga as well as the Doomsday Project based on the Acorn BBC machine.

In the final part of the book the author approaches the problems of developing good multimedia products. Once again the focus is on people. You will not find recipes for instant success but you will find a wealth of insight. This is not confined to the products themselves but extend into good management. It is very difficult for me as a reviewer to give you a good overview of a book that is itself an overview. I think that this is a book well worth reading if you have the slightest sense of creativity. The author would be at pains to point out that if you produce anything then you are potentially being creative.

All I can say is that this is a well-written and highly readable book (despite my irritation with some of the typography and layout) that should be widely read by many more people than those that might think the subject was their domain. Multimedia is not new nor are the mistakes. This is not a 'how to' book nor is it a book addressed directly at programmers but reading it should broaden your understanding and give you some insight into what maybe going wrong in your work.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.