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50 Best Graphic Design Books Every Designers Should Read

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We’re bringing you a list of 50 awesome graphic design books so you don’t have to search anymore on Google. Just bookmark this article and start reading these books.

Get comfortable and let yourself be inspired.

1. The Vignelli Canon by Massimo Vignelli

The straightforward Vignelli Canon dates back only about 6 years but in this time it managed to become one of the most important graphic design books. “Creativity needs the support of knowledge to be able to perform at its best” writes Massimo Vignelli, underlining that the purpose of the canon is to reveal basic typographic principles to young designers.

While there is an extended printed version, the original was posted for free on the Vignelli website and it is still available for download.

2. Graphic Design by Milton Glaser

If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked for the name of a famous graphic designer, I would say Milton Glaser.

Milton Glaser is to graphic design what Vincent Van Gogh was to impressionism and any designer should at least flip through his writings on visual language and graphic design. That’s why we published this book in top graphic design books every designer should read once in a lifetime.

3. Design as Art by Bruno Munari

An interesting design book by a most intriguing man, Design as art lays down the fundamentals for interpreting graphic design as art and for designing art. Though is was written over 40 years ago, Bruno Munari’s work remains pertinent even today and through his writing you can feel a rare sort of wondrous personality exude. That’s my recommendation as one of the best graphic design books for students.

4. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

One of the challenges in the world today is improving without complicating and John Maeda’s concise rulebook gives us 10 simple laws to keep the meaningful, the useful and to lose those components that complicate things or frustrate.

If you’re like me, you’re also going to love his TED talk: Designing for simplicity

5. A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand

A designer’s art is a book about artistic discipline, compelling art, usefulness and beauty, all from the point of view of one of the world’s leading graphic designers: Paul Rand. Because Paul Rand books are a must on every designer bookshelf.

6. Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand

Paul Rand’s short iconic publication on design thinking is like a gold mine, relevant today still for the students, designers, historians and anyone who shows interest in the basic principles of design thought. Just put aside 2 hours of your time and get ready to immerse yourself in this classic.

7. 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design by Steven Heller

As the title clearly suggests, this is a reference book for the chronological milestones of graphic design, with 100 eclectic ideas. Each idea has a double page spread with visual examples as well as text.

Beyond being informational as a reference and design history book, 100 ideas is also a great source of inspiration and a wonderful addition to your design bookshelf.

8. Left to Right by David Crow

This graphic design book tears into the cultural focus from words to pictures, a transformation you can clearly see at a basic level by looking at historic ads and comparing them with ads today. We are visual creatures, imagery has always been a powerful tool and communication today thoroughly relies on it.

Learn how to use non-textual pieces to transmit your message.

9. Merz to Emigre and Beyond: Avant-Garde Magazine Design of the Twentieth Century by Steven Heller

Steven Heller wonderfully curates 20th century design magazines in this compelling art history study. Incredibly well written, it completes an overview of the past century’s experiments and bold design. Now this is a book about graphic design magazines.

10. The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

Full of wise, entertaining anecdotes from all over the world, The art of looking sideways plays with your visual perception. Captivating, inspiring and all over the place, this graphic design book lights up imaginations.

11. Beware Wet Paint by Alan Fletcher

It’s always interesting to see where great designers started and how their work evolved. Beware wet paint covers over 30 years of design work from Alan Fletcher, a man whose obituary asserts him as “the most highly regarded graphic designer of his generation, and probably one of the most prolific”.

12. Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible by Sophie Lovell

In this biography you will get acquainted with the remarkable Dieter Rams, the industrial designer behind Braun products, a firm believer in designing for optimum functionality with the motto “Less is better”.

I love reading about people of great integrity and while his life and creation is fascinating, for me the best chapter was the one about his Ten Commandments that apply in design and not only.

A great person. A great designer. A great graphic design book.

13. Designed by Peter Saville 

Peter Saville is an art director and the most known music cover designer in the world. His book on the designs he’s made is informative, savvy and needless to say, has fabulous design.

14. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Published in 1988, this timeless book is equally a design and a psychology piece useful for any creative professional because it examines how design influences the way consumers interact with everyday objects. It is so well written that it’s hard to remember it has an educational purpose, but  it will open your eyes and you will never look at a doorknob the same way again.

15. Graphis Design Annual 2015 by B. Martin Pedersen

Graphis is an international design publication, a place where the best work in design, photography and visual arts can be presented and promoted. The annual publication exhibits the past year’s highlights and of course, the winner pieces. Get inspired and start submitting your own work on graphis.com

16. Universal Principles of Design: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach Through Design by William Lidwell , Kritina Holden, Jill Butler

What I love about this graphic design book is that it delivers all that it promises in that long title and it manages with an approachable writing to not be stuffy about it. But don’t get me wrong, it’s packed with information only all of it is so intelligently, visually organized that it rallies you to learn and expand.

17. The Little Know-It-All: Common Sense for Designers by Silja Bilz

This handy book entitled The little Know-It-All, contains all the fundamentals that designers need to know about all aspects of their business in about 400 pages. One of the less known books on this list, it has proven to be a strong reference and important addition to a designer’s library.

18. The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems by Josef Müller-Brockmann

 

Although it was written over 50 years ago, “The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems” is a timeless piece, it approaches the fundamentals of design and commercial creativity.

The problems then and now are essentially akin despite the time, trend and technical differences.

19. The design career handbook by Computer arts

 

The design career handbook will prove useful if you’re trying to make your way into the profession, with awesome tips and motivation. You can do it!

20. Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide by Johanna Drucker, Emily McVarish

If you love graphic design history, you’re going to love this visual trip from prehistory to the present as  it presents a wonderful starting point for understanding the evolution of design. It is particularly aimed at student readers, with comprehensive information and analysis, but it can also be enjoyed by those who want to find visual inspiration in historic pieces.

21. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, 5th edition by Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis

Having a copy of Megg’s History as a graphic designer can be very useful as you have the entire chronicle of visual language, typography and print at your fingertips.

22. Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships by Gail Greet Hannah

 

This visual design book is a tribute to the remarkable industrial design teacher, Rowena Reed Kostellow: her teaching, methods, concepts and legacy. Most importantly, Elements of design takes the readers on a series of exercises that aim to help visualization and problem solving skills. A wonderful read. A wonderful book.

23. The Elements of Graphic Design by Alex W. White

This is a wonderful design book to add to your reads as it covers exactly what it promises: the important elements of graphic design and it does so in an educational, accessible manner. This teaching book is one of the best resources out there for a graphic design student.

24. Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann

If you’re studying graphic design, this great theoretical read is probably in your curriculum and if it isn’t, make sure to check it out. Generally considered the most comprehensive book on grid systems, it offers a practical framework for design and layout and it can be enjoyed as a reference piece because many designers live by grid systems, or as a reading piece if you’re a skeptic.

Either way, Grid Systems in Graphic Design is one of the classics.

25. Making and Breaking the Grid: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop by Timothy Samara

If you want to know how to design using a grid and comparatively how to do the same without the grid, this is the publication for you. It goes to show how learning to think outside the box means first understanding how everything works inside the box.

26. Geometry of Design by Kimberly Elam

Proportion and visual mathematics are the words that best describe the Geometry of Design. This captivating read will give you all the tools you need to understand and evaluate design but not only because essentially the same geometry rules apply in photography, painting and any visual creative endeavor.

27. Visual and Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Making Decisions by Edward R. Tufte

Short, but poignant, Tufte’s pamphlet is a reprint of a chapter from his book Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, just the right size to be a great read during a commute. The two case studies, the cholera epidemic in London 1854 and the launch of space shuttle Challenger in 1986, demonstrate the importance of visual displays of evidence and include data errors, data selection and statistics.

While it is a short read, this pamphlet is rich in information and it will entice you to buy his bigger books.

28. Interaction of Color: 50th Anniversary Edition by Josef Albers

 

Another classic masterpiece almost 50 years after initial publication, Interaction of color still manages to astound, inspire and teach. If you haven’t read this one yet, keep in mind that it is exceptionally rare for a graphic design book to remain as timeless as this study of color.

29. Information is Beautiful by David McCandless

If you love graphs, you’re going to love David McCandless visual exhibit of data. He selects fascinating topics and introduces them in a captivating way, using little text as well as oh, such pretty design.

30. Graphique de la Rue: The Signs of Paris by Louise Fili

Delicate and elegant is what best describes Louise Fili’s latest book on Parisian signs, an exquisite source of inspiration especially haunting for vintage sign aficionados and francophiles. All pictures were taken and catalogued on her journeys and she even revisited some signs to immortalize their change after a while.

What can be more  delightful than curling up with a cup of tea, a croissant and this book?

31. Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

One of the best graphic design books to help you get immersed in the world of typography is Thinking with type, a book that is useful for novices, teachers and all creatives looking for inspiration. I was particularly enraptured by the perfect beauty and variety of this piece, while the layouts just made me focus intently, eager to absorb it all.

32. TM: The Untold Stories Behind 29 Classic Logos by Mark Sinclair

Learn about the making of iconic logos such as Coca Cola, Pirelli, UPS, I love New York and more. This book was clearly made with care: it has a great format, comprehensive text and image layout and to me it has a lovely encyclopedic feel that makes me want to pick it up over and over again.

33. Package Design Workbook: The Art and Science of Successful Packaging by John Silva and Steven DuPuis

Packaging design is a crucial element when it comes to the marketing and sales of a product and in many cases it influences the customer’s decision to make a purchase. An undoubtable important aspect in commercial design, the finishing touch, the packaging is an art and a science which is why a book on how to do it right is most welcome.

34. UI is Communication by Everett N Mckay

User interface design is challenging. This book does a great job at explaining the connection between UI designers and consumers in a way that is deeply insightful and approachable. Some of the sections are: Communication design principles, Interaction design, Visual design, Communicating to people, A communication-driven design process and UI design examples.

While it is all fascinating and educational, the sea of examples in this book makes it go beyond: it’s remarkable.

35. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) by Steve Krug

The principle behind Steve Krug’s web approach is that people should be able to use your products as easily as possible, which means intuitive design for intuitive navigation. Engagement and retention is another important part: what makes users look at something or click on you ad? What can make people remember your text?

You can figure out ways to make your work memorable with this great introduction to effective web design.

36. Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design by Bill Buxton

Sketching User Experiences is a fantastic book, full of great insights for anyone who creates UX products. Bill Buxton, one of the pioneers in  human-computer interaction, offers lots of design and testing methodology in his book, lots of theory but he also succeeds to be accessible and strongly inspirational. One thing is for sure, reading this book is known to make designers sketch more.

37. Designed for Use by Lukas Mathis

The key word and the goal is usability: to create things that people can use intuitively, honest things that beyond beauty, are effective and comfortable. It’s very unlikely that difficult or user unfriendly products will have success because there is always something better.

38. Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, Alan Smith, Trish Papadakos

Alongside creating artistic design, a designer’s job is to create desirable, useful pieces. Sustainability as well as efficiency are some of the most valuable characteristics we look for in products today and respected resources such as Value Proposition Design come to the rescue with a great business model and graphic design perspective.

39. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky

 

If you’re finding yourself in a rut or if you find it hard to accomplish your goals, to manage your time effectively and to put your ideas to good work, you might benefit from picking up this motivational book: it’s all about getting things done with a practical system and defeating ineffectiveness.

40. Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

From one of the co-founders of Pixar, comes a highly rated book about inspiration, leadership and perseverance. It was believed that making a film completely computer animated was impossible, but a few people proved that impossible is just a word and they not only created the first computer animated film, but they also started making the best, most heart-warming animated films out there.

Read all about Pixar’s journey to spectacular innovation practice in Creativity Inc..

41. Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Origin stories are always appealing to me as I believe that they hold the key to success, there are some elements that most successful ideas and most successful endeavors have in common. There is no winning unless you believe in what you do, dedicate your time, work the hardest, reach your maximum potential but it all starts with the Idea.

42. Change by Design-How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

An iconic figure in the creative world, the CEO and president of IDEO Tim Brown wrote Change by design to impart his concept of what design thinking should be from both an artistic and a pragmatic point of view. This high level, educational design talk covers business practices, creativity, problem solving techniques, successful introspection and so much more.

It is one of the pieces on this list that all leaders, not only designers should read.

43. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler

If you need help creating your brand identity and making your marketing strategy go up a level, pick up this straight-forward gem. Reading this book has the effect of making everything appear simpler, somehow, more to the point. Clear cut objectives and the right questions are all you need to get started. Now, what are those things? Read up to find out.

44. Keep It Simple: The Early Design Years of Apple by Hartmut Esslinger

 

In another book about Apple’s powerful history of design, one basic concept is stressed: the power of keeping it simple, accessible. It’s incredible how good design decisions make such a vast, lasting difference in the way users relate to companies.

Keep it simple is a book about making great design, great brand choices and about the partnership of two different designers who worked and influenced each other: Hartmut Esslinger and Steve Jobs.

45. Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender

There is one thing to be said about Steve Jobs in 2016: he is everywhere. His ventures, ideas, concepts, they intrigue and inspire as they have done for years but now his reputation has grown to where he is the most known designer in the world: a great designer and brilliant marketer.

Personally while I appreciate his importance, I love balance so I’m not so hyped about this adulation trend, but there is much to learn from a man who inspires such admiration.

46. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

What makes some companies rise while others with the same conditions, fail? Why do people purchase something, when they have so many options? If you’re wondering  why your business is not taking off even though you have great services or products, peruse Simon Sinek’s book and you will start to see things differently, guaranteed.

47. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

The psychology behind human response in our consumer society is fascinating and understanding the way we see, read, decide, get motivated is fundamental for any designer or creative. However, while this captivating book is written especially for designers, the principles easily apply to a wider range of domains that involve basic psychology. 250 pages later you will know what makes people tick.

48. The Next 100 Years by George Friedman

George Friedman undertakes the magnificent task of forecasting where our world is going in the next 100 years. Interesting, visionary, occasionally glum, this is something any designer should have in mind: what will this century’s innovations be and how can I be a part of them?

49. How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

 

I’m sure many freelancers and employed professionals can relate to the title, maintaining your professional integrity is a topic not often discussed but of undeniable importance. Adrian Shaughnessy wrote a book that touches both on the philosophical and the business aspect of on demand creative work.

50. Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur by Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor

Relationships aren’t all easy sailing, especially when you’re your own boss, stressed out because income is uneven and work time tends to be all the time because you’re not working for a company but for your dream. So while your loving partner may be supportive, your relationship isn’t growing into what it could be. Read this art design book to find out what you can do to live your life together to the fullest and enjoy the ride.

 

Now back to you, tell us in comment what will be your next graphic design book to read!

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