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Graphic Design Books Every Designer Should Have on Their Shelf

February 1, 2024
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A graphic designer’s life is a busy one, we know, but you’ve still got to make time for yourself.

And if you’re a designer who likes to sit down with a good book in your “you” time, then you’re going to love today’s blog!

We’re bringing you a list of hand-picked graphic design books that aren’t just something to read but designed to be faithful and informative companions on your creative journey!

So, whether you’re a seasoned expert or a new designer just getting started in this wonderfully creative world, then read on for books that offer you insight, inspiration and timeless wisdom for your creative mind!

Why Designers Need Graphic Design Books

Even if reading isn’t exactly your favorite way to spend your time, it’s still a good idea to take a look at some of these books.

Reading well-written books about your craft (especially those written by experts!) is beneficial in many ways! Here are just some of those benefits now:

  • Inspiration Unleashed — Graphic design books serve as boundless sources of inspiration, providing a huge variety of design styles, techniques, and perspectives. Exposure to different artistic journeys can ignite the spark of creativity within designers.
  • Mastery of Craft — Books often delve into the technical aspects of design, offering insights into tools, software, and design principles. This aids designers in mastering their craft and staying abreast of industry trends and advancements.
  • Design Thinking Refinement — Graphic design books frequently explore the thought processes behind iconic designs. Reading about the challenges and successes of seasoned designers refines one's own design thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Cultural and Historical Context — Many books contextualize design within historical, cultural, and societal frameworks. Understanding the evolution of design over time contributes to a richer design perspective and the ability to create work with cultural resonance.
  • Professional Development — Books often touch upon the business and professional aspects of graphic design. Insights into client interactions, project management, and marketing can be invaluable for designers navigating the professional landscape.
  • Continuous Learning — Design is a field that constantly evolves. Graphic design books act as learning companions, allowing designers to stay current with new design theories, technologies, and emerging trends.
  • Community Connection — Books written by seasoned designers create a sense of community and shared experience. Designers reading about the challenges and triumphs of their peers may find solace, motivation, and a sense of connection within the design community.

25 Must-Read Graphic Design Books Your Shelf Needs

An open graphic design book with tabs.

So, no matter what your jam is, take a look at our picks below and choose the ones that resonate the most with your creative palate!

1. The Graphic Design Bible

Written by Theo Inglis, The Graphic Design Bible is a comprehensive and modern guide to contemporary and historical graphic design and an absolute must-have for any type of designer!

It’s organized around subjects like history, theory, practice, typography, and media, with eye-catching graphics and a ton of illustrative examples, insightful quotes, and words of wisdom to keep you engaged and keep you reading!

2. A Designer’s Art

Don’t let the rather plain cover fool you!

Paul Rand’s A Designer’s Art is beautifully illustrated, showcasing the author’s stunning design for all types of medium, including posters, advertisements, book jackets, magazine covers, and more.

Perfect for a dose of inspiration when you need it most!

3. Thinking with Type

This best-seller is your definitive guide to using typography in your design and other visual communications.

Author and designer, Ellen Lupton, provides an engaging approach on introducing readers to all of the nuances of typography from choosing fonts to understanding layout.

Whether you’re a typography pro or a newbie just starting out in your design career, Thinking with Type deserves a spot on your shelf!

4. Now You See It and Other Essays on Design

The latest book of essays from author and designer Michael Bierut, Now You See It celebrates legendary figures in the graphic design world and his own mentor, Massimo Vignelli.

If you’re looking for essays on anything from the history of graphic design to its practices and processes, this is the book for you!

5. How to

Another offering from Michael Bierut, How to is all about “how to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world.”

What more could you ask for?

6. How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul

If only the life of a graphic designer could just be about … graphic design.

But it’s not! And author and designer, Adrian Shaughnessy knows it!

How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul is your practical guide to all of the extras, providing readers with advice about things like running a studio, setting pricing on your services, professional skills you need to have, and other no-nonsense strategies to help you survive in the design industry!

7. Work Hard & Be Nice to People

If it’s practical advice you need, it doesn’t get simpler than “work hard and be nice to people.”

Work Hard & Be Nice to People is full of author and graphic designer Anthony Burrill’s best advice on getting things done, success, creativity, making difficult decisions, collaboration, and other words of wisdom to get you through your day!

8. The Elements of Typographic Style

The cover to the graphic design book, "The Elements of Typographic Style."

The Elements of Typographic Style, written by Canadian typographer, poet, and translator, Robert Bringhurst, aims to bring clarity to the art of typography.

His masterful style guide combines practical, theoretical, and historical info about typographic style, making it a must-have for graphic designers, artists, editors, and anyone who works with the printed page!

9. Logo Modernism

Co-authored by Jens Müller and R. Roger Remington, Logo Modernism “brings together approximately 6,000 trademarks, focused on the period 1940–1980, to examine how modernist attitudes gave birth to corporate identity.”

If you’re into the history of logo design and branding in general, Logo Modernism makes a fascinating read about the persuasive power of image and form!

10. Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming

Here’s another gem by Ellen Lupton!

Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming explores a variety of techniques designed to get your creative juices flowing and stimulate the fresh thinking you need to get to solutions faster!

With a wide range of methods to use in any brainstorming scenario, this book is guaranteed to clear even the biggest creative roadblock and get you back on track once more!

11. Creative Confidence

Written by brothers David and Tom Kelley, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Potential Within Us All aims to show that each and every one of us is capable of creativity!

An entertaining and inspiring read, this book identifies the principles and strategies needed to tap into our creative potential at work, at home, and when solving problems.

12. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

If you want to make it as an artist, you’ve got to make yourself known and you’ve got to show your work!

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon shows artists how to be confident, open, generous, and brave about sharing their work with others. An inspiring read for any artist trying to make it in this digital age we live in!

13. Graphic Design: A User’s Manual

Another entry by Adrian Shaughnessy, Graphic Design: A User’s Manual, offers students, newbie designers, and professionals alike an “insider’s guide to the complexities of current graphic design practice and thinking.”

With everything you need to know to thrive in the world of graphic design, this book offers advice and words of wisdom about topics from kerning to presenting to budgeting to dealing with rejection. A must-have for any designer!

14. Work for Money, Design for Love

Looking for some advice before starting your own graphic design business?

Inspired by graphic designer’s questions on author David Airey’s successful blog site, Work for Money, Design for Love offers “answers to the most frequently asked questions about starting and running a successful design business” in today’s world.

If you’re just starting out, this is the book for you!

15. The Brand Gap

The Brand Gap, by Marty Neumeier, is all about how to bridge the gap between business strategy and design.

Tailored perfectly to marketing, design, branding, and business students, The Brand Gap offers valuable information about the disciples that let companies bridge the gap between strategy and branding.

It also makes a great read for anyone who is part of any branding effort!

16. Grid Systems in Graphic Design

Grid systems are helpful tools for graphic designers, providing you with a structured framework for organizing visual information on a page.

And now, inspired by typographical literature, author Josef Müller Brockmann has refined this system! Grid Systems in Graphic Design offers practical rules for using 8 grid systems for effective conceptual design!

17. The Designer’s Dictionary of Color

The cover to graphic design book, "The Designer's Dictionary of Color."

The Designer’s Dictionary of Color, created by award-winning educator Sean Adams, is an extremely useful source for any graphic designer!

With an in-depth look at 30 colors key to art and graphic design, this book helps you see each color’s individual range and palette variations!

18. Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Dos and Don’ts

Authors Peter Dawson, John Foster, Tony Seddon, and Sean Adams packed this book with practical advice presented in a fun, lighthearted way!

Featuring daily mantras from these four leading industry experts, Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Design Dos and Don’ts provides you with an entire years’ worth of valuable design dos and don’ts!

19. Oh, Sh*t … What Now?: Honest Advice for New Graphic Designers

If you’re new to graphic design, then you’ll appreciate Oh, Sh*t … What Now?, a brutally honest and “brilliantly BS-free guide to getting into the industry.”

Author Craig Oldham offers up refreshingly honest advice for new graphic designers by sharing experiences, ideas, interviews, encouragement, and anything of use to you as you get started in your career!

20. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team

This book, written by Alina Wheeler, offers brand managers, marketers, and designers a proven 5-phase process for creating a strong and effective brand identity.

Complete with case studies showcasing successful big-name brands, Designing Brand Identity brings graphic designers a detailed look at the latest trends in branding!

21. Powered by Design: An Introduction to Problem Solving with Graphic Design

The world is changing, graphic design included, and the trends and techniques that might have worked 10 years ago don’t exactly work now.

So, if you’re a new graphic designer looking for a book to teach you the foundations and theories you need to get started in your career, then Powered by Design is “a truly up-to-date and thoughtful approach to an introduction to graphic design.”

Perfect for students, novice designers, and anyone looking to build up a solid foundation of skills!

22. Interaction of Color

Josef Alber’s Interaction of Color has been a valuable and popular handbook and teaching aid for artists and instructors for over 50 years now!

If you’re looking for a great explanation of complex color theory principles and demonstrations of color relativity, intensity, and temperature, then this is the book for you. Pick up the 50th-anniversary edition of this masterwork by linking the link above!

23. Ways of Seeing

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking read, Ways of Seeing is it!

Based on the BBC television series of the same name, author John Berger challenges traditional art criticism and invites readers to both explore and reconsider the unique way we view art.

Considered one of the most stimulating and influential books on the subject, Ways of Seeing is definitely one book you want on your shelf!

24. Graphic Design: A History

The OG of two editions, Graphic Design: A History, by Stephen Eskilson, offers an accessible account of the history of graphic design from the nineteenth century to today.

If you’re into the evolution of graphic design, then don’t miss this one! And if you want the updated version, then click here for Graphic Design: A New History!

25. Just My Type

Just My Type is, you guessed it, a book about fonts.

Written by Simon Garfield, this book unravels our age-old obsession with the way our words look and takes a closer look at the trends that have shaped the way we look at the printed word!

A must-have for the design-conscious or typography enthusiast!

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Need a Place to Put Your Expertise to Use?

Did we miss your favorite graphic design book?

Let us know!

And if you’ve just read up on your favorite topic and find yourself in need of a place to put your newfound skills and strategies to good use, then we have a suggestion to make.

Join the Designity community!

Designity is made up of the top 3% of US-based creative talent and we’re always looking for fresh new faces to add to our creative community!

As a member of Designity, you’ll enjoy perks like:

  • Flexible work schedules
  • 100% remote work environment
  • A variety of fun and interesting projects
  • Consistent workload with competitive pay
  • The chance to work and learn from the best Creatives and Creative Directors around!

So, if Designity sounds like the place for you, then what are you waiting for?

Put your skills to the test with our one-of-a-kind application process and show us what you can do!

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Sara, a Designity content writer.
About the author:
Sara Lopez
Sara is a Texas-based copywriter.
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