Design is a funny thing in that you can learn something new about it every day of your life. What better way to learn about design than by reading about it from other design professionals. I have come up with my list of top design books for beginner to advanced designers. These books are so full of knowledge it would be a shame not to check some of them out. Let me know if you have a favorite design book in the comments, I’m always looking to add one or two more to my library as well. Enjoy!
Top Design Books
1,000 Graphic Elements: Details for Distinctive Designs – Often, the small, delightful details make a piece shine, similar to the way unique buttons on a white shirt can give it an entirely new look.
Marks of Excellence – Finding the roots of trademarks in heraldry, potter’s marks, monograms, and other such ancient devices, this book traces the history of the corporate visual lexicon and produces a taxonomy of the commercial age.
Typography: Formation + Transformation – Rather than being eclipsed by new technologies, modern typography has become a powerful medium for visual experimentation and personal expression.
The Elements of Typographic Style – This lovely, well-written book is concerned foremost with creating beautiful typography and is essential for professionals who regularly work with typographic designs.
Paper Graphics: The Power of Paper in Graphic Design – Paper can be an elegant solution to the challenges of graphic design.
Experimental Formats and Packaging: Creative Solutions for Inspiring Graphic Design – EXPERIMENTAL FORMATS examines the shape and size of the designed page and reveals how decisions made at this initial stage of the design process have a huge impact on the finished design.
Type and Typography – While writing and alphabets go back thousands of years, the history of typography is a long, rich, and unique one-spanning from the movable type used to set Guttenberg’s 42-line Bible in 1455 to today’s 21st-century computer-designed typefaces.
Handwritten: Expressive Lettering in the Digital Age – An introduction by design historian Steven Heller places the contemporary work in a broader context of design.
Logo Font & Lettering Bible: A Comprehensive Guide to the Design, Construction and Usage of Alphabets and Symbols – This book is a hands-on guide to the entire process of making logos and fonts and even icons, all of which, essentially, start with the ability to draw letterforms.
A Smile in the Mind – This book gathers together the best examples of graphic wit over the past three decades.
Paperwork (Phaidon Colour Library) – hardcover won acclaim: this paperback edition will reach new audiences with a more affordable price tag and an excellent display of design works from around the world.
Typography Now: The Next Wave – First published in 1991 to wide acclaim, Typography Now: The Next Wave rapidly established itself as the one indispensable guide to new experimental typography.
Pen and Mouse: Commercial Art and Digital Illustration – Much has been said about how the computer has murdered creativity. More has been said about how everything that comes out of it, or looks like it came out of it, is great.
Business Cards: The Art of Saying Hello – Over 300 cards are grouped into sections reflecting different design approaches: Typography, Photography, Materials, Illustration and Found Objects.
David Carson: 2nd Sight: Grafik Design After the End of Print – While The End of Print showed the world Carson’s radical new approach, his rejection of the traditional ‘rules’ of communication, 2ndsight examines the creative process behind the work, and considers the broader implications of his intuitive approach to graphic design.
Soak Wash Rinse Spin – Soak Wash Rinse Spin investigates the cycles of the Tolleson Design creative process through a textual and graphic layering of information involving four phases: research (the intake of as much information as they can gather), collaboration (with the client and with the other members of the creative team), visual exploration (the workbook process, which includes refinements and the examination of multiple options), and environmental influences (consideration of the ultimate purpose of the solution).
Life Style – More manifesto than monograph, Life Style is the first book to document Bruce Mau’s creative process and studio practice. Written by Mau and designed by his firm, the book is a singular album of perceptive, always thought-provoking, and often playful statements about the visual and cultural trends that influence today’s design culture.
Los Logos – A book that is a definite ‘must have’ for each and every graphic designer in the world.
Tres Logos – Tres Logos is a state of the art visual encyclopedia on the current state and evolution of Logo Design.
The Creative Business Guide to Running a Graphic Design Business – This is the graphic design industry’s go-to guide for operating a successful business.
Graphic Design Solutions, Third Edition – Outlines step-by-step procedures readers can apply to solve design or advertising problems. Includes projects and exercises throughout.
Visual Workout: Creativity Workbook – This one-of-a-kind workbook for graphic designers, which may be used independently or in conjunction with Graphic Design Solutions, 2E by Robin Landa, will stimulate your imagination and enable you to flex your creative design muscles.
Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers (3rd Edition) – For designers who are about to set up their own office or for those who feel their design practices lack real organization, this book could be immensely helpful.
Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines) – Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines, 11th Edition is the industry bible, containing information all graphic artists and their clients need to buy and sell work in a totally professional manner.
Real World Print Production – Translating inspiration to the printed page has always been a challenge. The advent of desktop publishing granted new levels of power and control to the layout artist and graphic designer, but it hasn’t eliminated the traditional pitfalls.
Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students (Design Briefs) – This is a well-structured and well-written text with refreshing examples from a wide range of designers.
Color Design Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Using Color in Graphic Design – Color Design Workbook invites readers to explore color through the language of professionals. As part of the Workbook series, this book aims to present readers with the fundamentals of graphic design.
Design for Communication: Conceptual Graphic Design Basics – Text encourages students to develop and master the basic conceptual thinking and technical skills that distinguish graphic designers from desktop technicians.
How To Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul – How should designers manage the creative process? What’s the first step in the successful interpretation of a brief? How do you generate ideas when everything just seems blank? How to be a graphic designer offers clear, concise guidance for these questions, along with focused, no-nonsense strategies for setting up, running, and promoting a studio, finding work, and collaborating with clients.
The Anatomy of Design: Uncovering the Influences and Inspirations in Modern Graphic Design – An iconic collection of design work presented in fresh and useful format. The selections include all kinds of design work including posters, book and record covers, packages, catalog covers, and more.
Starting Your Career as a Freelance Illustrator or Graphic Designer – If you get overwhelmed by the image you may have of what the life of a freelance illustrator is like, read this book.
Fingerprint: The Art of Using Handmade Elements in Graphic Design – Inside you’ll find examples of work that showcase a variety of design methods, including mixed media, illustration, letterpress, screenprinting and collage.
The Graphic Design Business Book – What graphic designers need is The Graphic Design Business Book, packed with directly relevant strategies for creating a business plan, managing a studio, presenting portfolios, marketing on the Web, keep clients happy, and more, including sample contract forms and listings of professional organizations””all contributed by experts in their fields.
Notes on Graphic Design and Visual Communication – Notes on Graphic Design and Visual Communication is the most essential graphic design book written. Despite being very thin in quantity of pages, this book holds an enormous amount of graphic knowledge.
Type, Image, Message: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop -This book changes all it. It gives designers the practical know-how to combine type and image for dynamic effect as well as to use them in contrast to create tension and meaning in design.
Making and Breaking the Grid: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop – Making and Breaking the Grid is a comprehensive layout design workshop that assumes that to effectively break the rules of grid-based design one must first understand those rules and see them applied to real-world projects.
Publication Design Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Designing Magazines, Newspapers, and Newsletters – Readers will develop a clear understanding of publication design through a comprehensive and accessible workshop-style format.
U&lc : Influencing Design & Typography – U&lc magazine (Upper & lower case) was a defining voice in graphic design worldwide between 1970 and 1999. It was in some ways a lifestyle magazine for the desgin community providing a fascinating intersection of popular cultural and graphic design in the last quarter of the 20th century.
Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design – More than a collection of great examples of layout, this book is an invaluable resource for students, designers, and creative professionals who seek design understanding and inspiration.
Wolfgang Weingart: My Way to Typography – The book itself is a lesson on layout and impeccable typesetting. Mr weingart lead us in a trip through tipographics arts, the book is an outstanding example of engineering freedoom, A R T. I flip the book for less than 2 minutes,enough to know this is the kind of book you have and you travel with it every once in a while. a book with an incredible echo.
The Designers Complete Index (Boxed Set) – This super-cool boxed set contains all three of Jim Krause’s best-selling “Index” books, including Idea Index (graphic effects and typographic treatments), Layout Index (your secret weapon for effective, dynamic layouts) and Color Index (over 1100 color combinations with CMYK and RGB formulas). Each volume is packed with hundreds of stimulating ideas, creative solutions and practical instructions.
Paul Rand: A Designer`s Art – This is not a tutorial or a how to, but a why. Why things work, why they don’t, and why it is important to know about its history. Learn the importance of this medium, its impact on industry, and its place in the arts.
Design with Type – Design with Type takes the reader through a study of typography that starts with the individual letter and proceeds through the word, the line, and the mass of text.
No matter how much you know about design there is still so much out there to learn. These books are chalk full of knowledge just waiting to be read. If you can add even one of these to your design library, do it. Reading is the only way to get ahead in this game and these are the tools that will help you create far into the future.