The Best Graphic Design Books to Buy

I recently updated one of the more popular posts on the blog entitled the best books for Logo Designers and thought a corresponding page of the best Graphic Design books could be useful.

Logo Design is a niche, a specialist sub-section of design and I think there’s a lot of great books that didn’t make the cut – but are still must-haves for any graphic designer’s library.

The Best 8 Interior Design Ideas in...
The Best 8 Interior Design Ideas in 2022

The following, in no particular order, are what I would regard as the best Graphic Design books I would recommend to both creative students and professional designers alike.

100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design

100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design Books
100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design
  • Laurence King
  • Heller, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 216 Pages - 04/18/2012 (Publication Date) - Laurence King Publishing (Publisher)

Written by prolific design writer, Steven Heller, and design critic Veronique Vienne, “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design” provides readers with an inventory of abstract concepts that defined and shaped the world of graphic design.

Each idea, arranged broadly in chronological order, is illustrated with exemplary images and context, ranging from technical (overprinting, rub-on designs) to stylistic (loud typography and white space); to objects (dust jackets, design handbooks) and methods (paper cut-outs, pixelation).

“These ideas have become, through synthesis and continual application, the ambient language(s) of graphic design. They constitute the technological, philosophical, formal, and aesthetic constructs of graphic design,” Heller and Vienne state in the introduction.

“100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design” is an excellent source of inspiration and a record of the best examples of graphic design from the past 100 years. This book focuses not only on what design is and does but also on what it should be and do.

Know Your Onions: Graphic Design Book

Know Your Onions-Graphic Design Book Review
Know Your Onions: Graphic Design
  • BIS Publishers
  • de Soto, Drew (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 185 Pages - 02/03/2014 (Publication Date) - Laurence King Publishing (Publisher)

“After a 25-year career in graphic design, I have picked up a few things and turned them into ‘custom settings’. Read this book and save yourself 25 years,” states Drew de Soto in the introduction of his book “Know Your Onions: Graphic Design”.

What more do you need?

In this quick and practical book, de Soto gives away the secrets of graphic design.

A great read to have on hand while you design, it is designed cleverly like a notebook so you can add your notes as you work through it.

De Soto not only covers the entire creative process but also everything from excellent typography tweaking tips to the understanding of colour and printing techniques.

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In his own words, this amazing graphic design book is about “saving you time and giving the right principles as a starting point, to create excellent work.”

The whole belief is to take precautions, be conscientious, make back-ups and you know that de Soto must have learnt each of these lessons the hard way.

“Know Your Onions: Graphic Design” is both a fascinating insight into the specifics of graphic design and the perfect guide to success in the creative industry.

100 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers

100 Habits Of Successful Graphic Designers Books
100 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers: Insider Secrets on Working Smart and Staying Creative
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Plazm (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 10/01/2003 (Publication Date) - Rockport Pub (Publisher)

Do you often wonder how to deal with clients, create an efficient workflow and stay on top of your designing all at the same time?

Look no further than “100 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers”.

This book aims to give you advice about how to integrate the design process into the business world while staying sane.

Practical and straightforward, you are encouraged to learn from the masters of the design world, from Stefan Sagmeister to Margo Chase and Rudy VanderLans.

Their thoughts are boiled down into short quotes and one-liners that illustrate their character and exhibit their philosophy of the world around them.

From graphic design, fashion, typography to deadlines, inspiration and handling criticism, “100 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers” covers it all.

The A-Z of Visual Ideas: How to Solve any Creative Brief

The A - Z Of Visual Ideas

No products found.

“The A-Z of Visual Ideas aims to open doors that lead to adventures in the land of imagination and inspiration,” states author, John Ingledew, in the introduction of his book.

The book is structured in an easy-to-use, dynamic A-Z format.

Each of the 26 entries collected is aimed at unlocking the readers’ creativity and providing countless ways to solve creative briefs and design problems.

If you have been stumped for ideas on how to push your work further than you imagined, then this book is a must-read.

Ingledew’s visual novel makes you want to create and put the ideas you read about into use straight away.

He urges us to, “Feed and develop your imagination with all the many different ideas discussed in the A-Z, be inspired by them – then transform this inspiration into ideas of your own.”

Including hundreds of inspirational quotes and designs, this book is an essential guide to creativity that will stimulate readers to create great work.

A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design

A Smile In The Mind: Witty Thinking In Graphic Design
A Smile in the Mind - Revised and Expanded Edition: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design
  • Phaidon Press
  • McAlhone, Beryl (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 03/07/2016 (Publication Date) - Phaidon Press (Publisher)

Gathering together some of the best examples of graphic wit since the 1960s, “A Smile in the Mind” is an exploration of humour, irony and playfulness in graphic design .

“A Smile in the Mind” looks at the thought processes behind the images, highlights a case for witty solutions and also suggests how to gain ideas.

McAlhone and Stuart argue that ideas which happen in the mind, stay in the mind; opening by explaining what wit is and how it works.

With work from over 300 designers, this book offers an insight into their creative methods and answers the big question of where did a particular idea come from.

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Written with insight and a lightness of touch, it is a helpful sourcebook and a great trigger to keep the ideas flowing.

To put it simply, witty thinking in graphic design is smart thinking, not funny drawing.

How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul

How To Be A Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul
How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul (New Expanded Edition)
  • Princeton Architectural Press
  • Shaughnessy, Adrian (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 09/22/2010 (Publication Date) - Princeton Architectural Press (Publisher)

Design consultant and writer, Adrian Shaughnessy, has created a manual to guide graphic designers through their profession, thanks to his wealth of experience.

“How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul” combines philosophical guidance with practical advice to aid you to “become an effective and self-reliant graphic designer.”

This book offers clear, concise guidance along with focused, no-nonsense strategies for setting up, running, and promoting a studio; finding work and collaborating with clients.

Aimed at the independent-minded, the revised edition includes sections covering professional skills, the creative process and global trends.

At any stage in a career, finding new employment can often be difficult and stressful.

Allow Shaughnessy’s book to act as your career coach as you are guided through the process of finding a job.

“How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul” won’t teach you how to be a graphic designer, but it will show you how to survive as one.

Show Your Work!: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered

Show Your Work!: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Austin Kleon)
  • Binding: paperback
  • Workman publishing
  • Language: english
  • Kleon, Austin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Following his ‘New York Times’ bestseller, “Steal Like an Artist”, Austin Kleon returns with a must-read for anyone in the creative process in the form of “Show Your Work! 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered”.

Through the inclusion of 10 transformative rules for being open, generous, brave and productive, Kleon dances around the answer to the quintessential question of the creative life – how do you get discovered?

These ten chapters focus on ways to think about your work as a never-ending process and dealing with the ups and downs of putting your work on show for the world to see.

“Show Your Work!” tells us how to influence others by letting them steal from you, embracing the communal nature of creativity.

Described as a book for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion, it is filled with illustrations, quotes and stories, making it an incredibly useful and readable short novel.

Kleon encourages us to do what we love, stating, “The only way to find your voice is to use it.

It is hardwired, built into you.

Talk about the things you love.

Your voice will follow.”

Graphic Design: The New Basics

Graphic Design: The New Basics
Graphic Design: The New Basics
  • Princeton Architectural Press
  • Lupton, Ellen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 264 Pages - 07/14/2015 (Publication Date) - Princeton Architectural Press (Publisher)

For those seeking an inspiring and concise introduction to graphic design, look no further than “The New Basics”.

Best-selling author, Ellen Lupton, and design educator , Jennifer Cole Phillips, provide a guide to contemporary graphic design theory and practice for new designers.

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With visual demonstrations and concise commentary, the main ideas of visual language that inform any work of design (from a logo design or letterhead to a complex website) are explained.

Luton and Phillips said that this book was created because “we could not find anything like it available for today’s students and young designers.”

Illustrated with refreshing simplicity and creative examples, each chapter is broken into clearly defined subject areas, making it easy to find exactly what you are searching for.

The historical notion of “language of vision” is discussed alongside reconsidering principles from the Bauhaus legacy but in tune with today’s tools.

Students and professionals alike will find that “The New Basics” serves as an excellent, concise resource for the fundamentals of good design.

Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World’s Great Graphic Designers

Graphic: Inside The Sketchbooks Of The World's Great Graphic Designers
Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Heller, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 10/26/2010 (Publication Date) - The Monacelli Press (Publisher)

Whether it is print, design and branding , typography or interactive media, ideas and concepts are recorded in the journals of creators before the finished products are released to the world.

Within the pages of “Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World’s Greatest Graphic Designers”, we are privileged to see slivers of artists’ works not often seen in the final design.

The works of 110 different artists and designers make the book very random and the subjects varied, containing a range of photographic collages to scrappy sketches.

Heller and Talarico’s concise commentary lets us in on the artists’ creative development, their design philosophies, sketch-booking techniques and visual influences.

Each example is unique and provides us with an exclusive journey into the minds of some of the most significant visual creators.

Contributors include such world-renowned names as Stefan Sagmeister, Milton Glaser, Michael Beirut and Sara Fanelli.

“Inside the Sketchbooks” acts as a goldmine of inspiration for students, professionals and anyone else fascinated by the world of visual industries.

Popular Lies About Graphic Design

Popular Lies About Graphic Design Book
Popular Lies About Graphic Design
  • Ward, Craig (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 01/15/2013 (Publication Date) - Actar (Publisher)

An “attempt to debunk the various misconceptions, half-truths and, in some cases, outright lies which permeate the industry of design”, Craig Ward’s book “Popular Lies About Graphic Design” is one which few designers will want to be without.

The British designer and typographer states in the opening sentence, “This is not a book full of facts.

Nor is it a book full of advice.

It is a book full of opinions, and confusion between those three is how a lot of these problems begin…”

Pulling from his wealth of experience, Ward explores the prescriptions and truisms of the creative industry.

With contributions from the likes of Stefan Sagmeister, Milton Glaser and Christoph Niemann, there are many opinions of the graphic design world to pull apart.

The book discusses topics such as the neutrality of Helvetica , the validity of design education, the supposed death of print, client relationships and pitch planning.

From myths about work ethic to the cult of ideas, 35 such “lies” are tackled within the pages of “Popular Lies About Graphic Design”.

Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students

Thinking With Type: A Critical Guide For Designers, Writers, Editors, &Amp; Students
Thinking with Type, 2nd revised and expanded edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students
  • Lupton, Ellen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 10/06/2010 (Publication Date) - Princeton Architectural Press (Publisher)

Ellen Lupton’s welcoming introduction to the world of type is presented to us in “Thinking with Type”, a design book that in many respects opened up typography to a broader audience.

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Lupton’s handbook provides not only the how but also the why of basic typesetting practices for both print and screen.

Written for “anyone who regularly an enthusiastically commits acts of visual communication ”, the author has managed to bring the instruction of typography into the twenty-first century.

The book covers a vast amount of information and is divided into three main sections – Letter, Text and Grid – each beginning with a thought-provoking essay and followed by illustrations and how-to exercises.

Lupton casts even the oldest of typographic ideas in a new light, with her humorous and smart examples that are finely and carefully illustrated.

The range of reference images in the book is impressive, with contributions from Gutenberg to Paula Scher.

A book that should be on every creative’s shelf, “Thinking with Type” doesn’t just tell you the do’s and don’t’s of typography, it shows you.

The fantastic analysis of thinking with typography is perfect for everyone from first-year design student to seasoned professional.

Work for Money, Design for Love

Work For Money, Design For Love
Work for Money, Design for Love: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business (Voices That Matter)
  • Airey, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 11/12/2012 (Publication Date) - New Riders (Publisher)

Drawing on his own experience of building a successful freelance design business, David Airey reflects on what business should be about.

“Work for Money, Design for Love” delves into what it takes to start and run a successful design industry business, straight from seasoned professionals who have done so.

Inspired by the thousands of questions received daily by Airey on his blogs, he answers these questions through anecdotes and case studies, backed up by his ventures, as well as those of world-renowned designers such as Ivan Chermayeff, Jerry Kuyper and Eric Karajaluoto.

This book is an excellent resource for designers who wish to gain answers to some of the self-employment’s most oft-asked questions.

“Work for Money, Design for Love” is perfect for those who are starting out on their own and also for those who merely wish to gain a new direction or perspective regarding the design world.

From types of contracts to believing in yourself, David Airey provides us with concise answers to questions that you have more than likely asked or no doubt will ask at some point in your creative life.

Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005

Penguin By Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005
Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005
  • Baines, Phil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 03/28/2006 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

Founder of Penguin Books, Sir Allen Lane, famously said, that “good design is no more expensive than bad.”

Since 1935, Penguin paperbacks have become a constantly evolving part of Britain’s culture and design history.

Through studying the past seventy years of these jackets, Phil Baines traces the development of British publishing, book-cover design and the role of artists and designers in creating and defining the infamous Penguin look.

From cover to cover we are provided with incredible images, showing how “Penguin by Design” challenges us on the household phrase, “never judge a book by its cover”.

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Alongside Lucy Sisman, Baines has created a portfolio detailing how Penguin has consistently established its identity through its covers, influenced by the more extensive development of graphic design and its changing fashions.

Graphic designer, Phil Baines, organises Penguin’s story around five significant time periods, the first three of which bear the stamp of Allen Lane’s steady hand and impeccable taste.

The author believes the company “perfected the balance” of “price, the convenience of format, and excellence of scholarship… combining design and sound writing to such good effect that after only ten years the name Penguin and the word paperback… were synonymous.”

This book combines the history of publishing and design into one satisfying, memorable package.

What They Didn’t Teach You in Design School

What They Didn't Teach You In Design School
What They Didn't Teach You In Design School: What you actually need to know to make a success in the industry
  • Hardcover Book
  • Cleaver, Phil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 10/01/2019 (Publication Date) - Ilex Press (Publisher)

A must-read for new-designers, Phil Cleaver’s “What They Didn’t Teach You in Design School” helps design students make the transition from school to the big-bad-world of work.

This witty and useful publication fills you in on the subtler points of design education often skipped by professors and tutors.

The book is littered with humorous anecdotes from Cleaver’s students, seamlessly connecting their advice with his own experiences from over the years.

From learning how to get the all-important first job to create the best portfolio , Phil Cleaver passes on the lessons of a lifetime in graphic design practice and education.

Hoards of useful and practical information, essential to know in the design studio and when working for clients, is available to readers in Cleaver’s publication.

“What They Didn’t Teach You in Design School” is full of advice and quotes from the industry’s best, giving readers the ammunition they need to make a successful start in the world of design.

Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works

Stop Stealing Sheep And Find Out How Type Works
Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works (Graphic Design & Visual Communication Courses)
  • Spiekermann, Erik (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 213 Pages - 12/23/2013 (Publication Date) - Adobe Press (Publisher)

First published in 1993, Erik Spiekermann provides us with an elegant guide, for readers of all levels, from every aspect of typography, from the history and mechanics of type to training the eye to recognise and choose typefaces.

The internationally renowned graphic designer helps you understand how to look at type, work with typefaces, choose the best font for your message and express yourself more efficiently through design.

After two decades as one of the world’s best-selling books on designing with type, the third edition of “Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works” brings Spiekermann’s type classic fully up to date on mobile and web typography.

This book is full of anecdotes and illustrations, inviting exploration and ensuring you learn something new with every read.

Discover type’s roots and place within society while Spiekermann teaches how to use space and layout to improve overall communication.

Creative Anarchy: How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design for Creative Success

Creative Anarchy: How To Break The Rules Of Graphic Design For Creative Success
Creative Anarchy: How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design for Creative Success
  • Bosler, Denise (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 01/28/2015 (Publication Date) - HOW Books (Publisher)

Want to push the boundaries of creative graphic design?

Illustrator and graphic designer, Denise Bolser has created a book explaining and exploring both the rule-following and rule-breaking of design.

Put simply, “Creative Anarchy” is a book about great designs and ideas, letting the reader in on the fact that rules must first be understood to be broken.

With sections devoted to designing logos, posters, websites, publications, advertising, and more, this book mingles graphic design with advertising.

Not only are you given an insight into the industry, but also into why some advertising works and others do not.

In the introduction, Bolser explains why design matters, why design rules matter and why in some instances, resorting to creative anarchy is essential.

Divided into two sections, Part One details learning the rules, while Part Two then encourages you to break them.

Overall, this convenient book tells people how to break the rules correctly and efficiently, containing a goldmine of ideas for designers and entrepreneurs alike.

That I guess about wraps up my list, but I will try and keep this updated in conjunction with my creaking IKEA shelves.

What have I missed off the list?

What Graphic Design books do you recommend reading next, be it for information or inspiration?

What do you think are the best Graphic Design books to buy this year?

Last update on 2022-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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  • Once in a while Graphic Designers need to refuel their mind. Although there are a ton of great books out there that offer words of advice and wisdom, inspiration on design and refreshers on key design principles and techniques. This is the list of the top 8 books I think every graphic designer should read:1.) LOGO MODERNISM By: Jens Muller- This book brings together about 6,000 trade marks which were registered between 1940-1980, Jens Muller examines the modernism of graphic design and how imperatives have given birth to corporate identity. Jens Muller examines a wide variety of logos organized within 3 chapters, Geometry, Effect, and Typographic in order, to educate you but also provide you with an index of logo designs to help inform your own work. 2.) TWO DIMMENSIONAL MAN By: Paul Sahre- Paul Sahre which is one of the most influential Graphic Designers of his generation, In his book combines personal essays that discuss the reality of living creativity through out his 30 year graphic design career. 3.)- SHOW YOUR WORK: 10 THINGS NO BODY TOLD YOU ABOUT GETTING DISCOVERED By: Austin Kleon- In this book Austin Kleon gives a lot of helpful tips on how to get found as a graphic designer and how to network and be appealing to the community as a graphic designer. 4.)- THE GRAPHIC DESIGN IDEA BOOK:INSPIRATION FROM 50 MASTERS By: Steven Heller and Gail Anderson- This book covers what the key elements of great graphic design are featuring work from well known designers such as Paul Brand, Neville Brody and Gail Anderson and will refresh the knowledge you have about color, narrative, illusion, humour, simplicity and much more. 5.) HOW TO BE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL By: Adrian Shaughnessy- In this book Adrian Shaughnessy gives advice on getting employed, setting up as a freelancer. Building a company, dealing with clients and much more, about graphic design. 6.) JUST MY TYPE By: Simon Garfield- This book will get you to look at graphic design even closer past just the typefaces, giving you the history of fonts as well as looking at fonts powers. 7.) THE LITTLE KNOW-IT-ALL: COMMON SENSE FOR DESIGNERS By: Silja Bilz- This could be the most useful book as a graphic designer and covers everything from colour, perspective, law and marketing. 8.) ILLUSTRATION PLAY-By: Victionary- This book takes a closer look at new ideas and different ways to realise different concepts within contemporary illustration. Please fell free to contact me if you have any questions.

    • An exceptional list of books and a truly amazing comment from you, Christopher. I made a note of ALL these books. I own some of these already (and have ‘devoured’ them), the others are in my to-buy list. Thank you all, guys, for the contribution.

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