There isn’t a limit on some books a designer should own. In all honesty, I’d love to live in a library that would have all the design books. Each day I’d make coffee and pick a new book to look at or read.
For each creative person it’s important we get some kind of input of information, knowledge or something that has some impact on us. Either we learn, are inspired or feel happy after. Generating new ideas is a process, and our brands are fantastic at creating new things or coming up with solutions, but they need information, the more, the better.
Learning or experiencing something new each day, can have a great impact tomorrow or at a later time, but each bit will help, and it’s impossible to know what information is needed to get great results. So take it all in and enjoy.
Here are some of the books I’d recommend. You’ll look through them many times as they will help you find new ideas, be better at design or get excited by great graphic design.
How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
This is an excellent resource for students, but design veterans as well. It will motivate you and make you remember, why you’ve been pulled towards design in the first place. It has a lot of insight into what to expect from this industry and has a lot of helpful and practical information.
Best thing is, as your skills grow and you get experience, you will want to reread the book as you’ll know and understand more of it. It has many tips for the working designer like getting clients and what to do about personal projects.
Studio Culture: The Secret Life of a Graphic Design Studio by Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook
Imagine reading interviews with some of the best designers and talking how they founder some of the best and most famous design studios of our time. They share their stories and experience. Get the first look on how it is a one-man band freelancer, five man design studio or being a 200 person advertising agency (or something in between).
Each person is different, and each designer is different, and each of the skills we excel from logo designs to paper art can be used in different ways, clients of businesses. Some people prefer small 1to1 action; others prefer the Mad Men way of doing things under pressure. Reading this book will show you what you can expect in each of these paths. In my case, I’ve done it all (freelance graphic designer, in-house, studio, ad agency,…) and being freelance works best for me and my growth.
Make Enemies & Gain Fans / by Snask
Snask is one of the most known and one of the most fun places to work. Fredrik Öst, Magnus Berg created a culture, and you can say they’ve become rock stars of the design world. This a relaxed, funny and motivational experience.
It’s a story on how they met, started their studio, found design work and achieved global domination. If you want to jump in the world of creative entrepreneurship, it will inspire you to start your studio today. It will also make you laugh hard when you read how some of their projects ended bad.
Thinking With Type / by Ellen Lupton
Type is one of the basic skills any designer needs to master. Period. Knowing which font to use for the message or brand can make or break things. You need to know your serifs from your sans-serifs, sizes, font pairings, harmony,… It’s an art.
The book has a lot of great examples of graphics with laid out type and text documenting the principles of typography. Great for design beginners.
Making and Breaking the Grid: A Layout Design Workshop / by Timothy Samara
Designers work in many different mediums from print to digital web design, each having their sizes and rules. Layouts are one of the core principles of a design process which would help you create better work on any format.
This book is a complete layout design class teaching the grid (and even gridless) layout concepts. You will learn the history of the grid and end with the modern design practice. It’s excellent for other creative people like architects, not just designers alike.
Grid Systems in Graphic Design / by Josef Mülller-Brockmann
Another book on grids, but this one is more about systems. Best thing is, it’s written by a German, so it’s nicely structured as expected. Some of the examples can be a bit dated but are still used today by different creative industries.
The start of the book is quite simple, but as you’re turning the pages it will get more difficult, but the theory behind it is very informative. It’s a timeless classic.
A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design / by Beryl McAlhone, David Stuart
What’s even better if a graphic design work looks perfect? It’s if it makes you smile. Wit is one of the best ways to make your work memorable and enjoyable. This playful books examples show the thinking behind creative processes and case studies used to create some of the best work out there.
The book has many categories, so It’s great to come back to it if you have a specific problem. There’s a chapter devoted to holiday cards that were made by advertising agencies showing what amazing work can be created if a graphic designer and a copywriter work together as one.
House Industries: The Process Is the Inspiration by Andy Cruz, Rich Roat, Ken Barber, J.J. Abrams (Foreword)
This is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen, print and craft of it are top notch, and the book is amazing. It tries to answer the question about how to find inspiration and tries to answer it with helpful lessons and stories. Its case studies from different topics and fields(fonts, craft, fashion and even space technology) and very informative as well. Ideas are waiting everywhere; we just need some mindfulness to receive them.
Sagmeister: Made You Look by Stefan Sagmeister, Peter Hall
A brilliant book by a brilliant designer. It’s one of those books that contains some tricks. You will read some hilarious stories, see beautiful work and read some of his quotes he’s known for.
Stefan is anything else but boring, and his work shows that really well, that’s why he’s one of the most famous graphic designers out there. It may make you want to quit your job and start to work on “real design” projects.
How to… by Michael Bierut
This is the first monograph of Michael Bierut, one of the worlds celebrated graphic designers and one of Pentagrams partners. The book shows 35 of his most outstanding projects made throughout his career. It offers insight and inspiration for anyone interested in how words images and ideas create unforgettable experiences. It will show you his design process, so you will see how he thinks and how he produces. That will help you understand his and other great work so you will be able to appreciate design even more.
Books on design are going to always be a great investment
I know owning design books can be pricey, but a great graphic design book is an investment worth making. You don’t need to get 50 books right away, add them as you go and create your library of inspiration and knowledge.
What are some of your favourite books that inspire you and make you a better designer?