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10 Best Design Books for Design Students

Posted in User Experience Design, Books
best graphic design books

Graphic designers have many routes to learn their craft. They might attend a certification course, workshop, degree program, or conduct some other self-study. Books are a common method of self-study, where a prospective student takes the initiative in gaining knowledge about a particular field. Designers can easily conduct self-study through reading and applying the knowledge found in design books!

But what are the best graphic design books? We’ll cover a list of 10 best books for graphic designers that are informative, engaging, and useful in the graphic designer career path. 

Let’s get started!

10 Best Design Books 

You might read design books for various reasons. Maybe you’re a beginner designer that wants to learn about basic design concepts. Or, you’re well-versed in one specific method of design and wish to expand your knowledge of other methods. You might review different design books over time to keep your knowledge relevant and up to date. 

Here are the 10 best books on design for experienced or aspiring graphic designers:

1. Universal Principles of Design, Revised, and Updated

Image of Universal Principles book

Authors: William Lidwell, Kristina Holden, Jill Butler

Amazon Price: $17.75

This book is for designers, engineers, architects, and students who seek to broaden and improve their design expertise. It explains every major design concept is defined and illustrated to a reader’s delight.

The book is organized alphabetically, so you can easily reference principles and sections. Additionally, the book has a list of FAQs for designers like, “How can I help people learn from my design,” “How can I enhance the usability of a design,” and “How can I make better design decisions?”

Reasons to Buy:

  • Thoughtful discourse on what makes a design good or bad
  • Interesting “Psychology of Design” section

You can buy this book here.

2. Layout Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Using Grids

Image of the Layout Essentials book

Author: 1st Edition by Beth Tondreau

Amazon Price: $25.52 

This book demonstrates basic layout guidelines through 100 design principles such as choosing a typeface, striving for rhythm and balance with type, combining typefaces, using special characters, and kerning and legibility.

Whether you are creating brochures, annual reports, posters, websites, or publications — layouts are essential in presenting information and ensuring the reader easily digests that information. Unfortunately, some customer reviews cited disappointment with this book, referring to vague descriptions and redundancy. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Great for design beginners
  • Strong, vivid grid examples

You can buy this book here.

3. The Art of Looking Sideways 

Image of The Art of Looking Sideways

Author: Alan Fletcher

Amazon Price: $70.51

The Art of Looking Sideways is an artsy coffee table book at first glance. However, each page is a piece of art that displays the creative ways you can use type, space, imagery, and color. The book’s content is seemingly random, ranging from historical quotes, absurd images, bits of information and insights, and everything else you can think of, as long as it’s presented beautifully. 

Reviewers love the book’s inspirational feel and how it encourages them to think outside the box. The Library Journal cites the book as great for those with “short attention spans,” making it a great book to visit during home office work breaks or on lazy days in the living room. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Great for designers looking for inspiration
  • Lighthearted, for short spurts of reading
  • Lovely decor piece as a coffee table book

You can buy this book here.

4. The Design of Everyday Things

Image of The Design of Everyday Things book

Author: Don Norman

Amazon Price: $13.43

A practical take on design, The Design of Everyday Things explores the relationship between cognitive psychology considerations and strong product design. Norman describes common product design issues that lead to customer dissatisfaction, like hidden controls or unintuitive functions. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Great for those interested in UX design and human factors psychology, with concepts applicable to many other industries as well
  • Ideal for the pragmatic graphic designer

You can buy this book here.

5. Graphic Design School: The Principles and Practice of Graphic Design - Seventh Edition

Image of Graphic Design School book

Author: David Dabner, Sandra Stewart, Abbie Vickress

Amazon Price: $35.60

As the name implies, Graphic Design School is a great book for students that want a general introduction to design fundamentals, the design industry and profession, and printing techniques. The book also covers information about influential designers in the field.

After soaking up this book’s knowledge, students can apply what they’ve learned through the many activities and tutorials within the text. 

Unfortunately, some reviewers cite frustration with, ironically, the book’s poor design, as well as its small font that some may find difficult to read. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Great for students interested in graphic design, user experience, or user interface design
  • An introductory book that’s suitable for beginners

You can buy this book here.

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

Image of Designing Brand Identity book

Author: Alina Wheeler

Amazon Price: $24.17

Graphic design helps you communicate through visuals. For businesses, that means communicating their brand vision and values, which isn’t always an easy task. Words aren’t often sufficient, which is why so many businesses rely on graphic design to create and communicate branding identity. Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity covers branding case studies, helpful insights from industry professionals, and branding fundamentals. 

The book is specially tailored for marketing staff and designers within a company. However, aspiring freelancers could use these principles to impress a variety of clients. 

Customer reviews cite Wheeler’s excellent, accessible tone and voice, which makes the text digestible even for beginners. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Easy to understand
  • Comprehensive 

You can buy the book here.

7. Logo Modernism

Image of Logo Modernish book

Author: Jens Müller

Amazon Price: $64.91

Logo Modernism is one of the best books for designers that want to learn about how trademark design principles evolved over the course of a few decades. When you think about some of the world’s biggest companies — Apple, Nike, Tesla — what do you picture? It’s likely the little apple icon or smooth checkmark comes to mind. Logos are essential in helping potential customers become aware of your brand. 

Jens Müller’s Logo Modernism explores what came shortly before the biggest logos of the world, examining the modernist aesthetic from 1940-1980 on trademarks. The book covers logos from all sorts of companies, including newspapers, retail, airlines, and more. 

Reasons to Buy: 

  • Fun book to browse through without the expectation of reading heavy text
  • Relatable categories for graphic designers, like shapes, lines, monograms, and more. 

You can buy this book here.

8. How to Become a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul

Image of How to Become a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul book

Author: Adam Shaughnessy

Amazon Price: $19.20

Peppered with low salaries and long hours, the graphic design industry is known to be ruthless for those just starting out. The graphic design market is saturated and competitive, and success comes only to those who work hard and polish not only their technical skills but also their networking and soft skills. Shaughnessy’s book helps aspiring designers navigate the tumultuous job landscape, offering actionable steps and advice to ace job interviews, manage clients, build portfolios, polish resumes, apply for work, start a studio, and more.  

Reviewers especially liked the book’s coverage of integrity within the design field. 

Reasons to Buy: 

  • Practical advice for navigating a career in graphic design
  • Interviews from reputable graphic designers

You can buy this book here.

9. Design Elements, Color Fundamentals: A Graphic Style for Understanding How Color Affects Design

Image of Design Elements Colors book

Author: Aaris Sherin

Amazon Price: $24.74

Graphic designers have many tools at their disposal, including shapes, lines, images, and of course, color. Just through color, designers can influence a piece’s meaning and message, and this book teaches them exactly how to do that. Sherin covers color theory and its principles, and helps students understand the circumstances in which they can break the rules for the sake of an art piece. 

When it comes to color, this is one of the best books on graphic design. The book’s many visual examples also offer students plenty of inspiration. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Insightful sections about color theory and color fundamentals in design
  • Accessible for beginners

You can buy this book here.

10. The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters

Image of the Graphic Design Idea book

Author: Steven Heller and Gail Anderson

Amazon Price: $16.99

Heller and Anderson’s “idea” book is a great resource for beginners to the field. It offers a basic introduction to graphic design fundamentals, including themes like narrative, color, and form. 

The book also displays countless examples of work from the industry’s best talents, serving as a great inspiration for designers experiencing artists’ block. The two authors have impressive resumes. Heller was the New York Times Art Director for 33 years, and Anderson is an expert designer and illustrator with a few awards under her belt. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Inspiration for artist’s block
  • Accessible for beginners

You can buy this book here.

Closing Thoughts

Graphic designers are tasked with the difficult purpose of communicating with shapes, colors, lines, and everything in between. With a few tricks from the 10 above design books, you’ll be on your way to moving towards the next step of your graphic design career. 

Want to continue your learning? Consider checking out some web development courses to broaden your skills!

 Check Out Some Web Development Courses Today!

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Sindhuja Hari

Sindhuja Hari

Sindhuja Hari, a technology geek, content producer & writer brings over 20 years of experience. She builds and delivers best in class content for global audiences. Her favorite domains/ genres are IT, Manufacturing, Logistics & Supply Chain, and Travel & Leisure. View all posts by the Author

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Ted Brady
Ted Brady

How do you present a design concept?

Pete Patton
Pete Patton

Design thinking is a solution-based approach to find a solution to unknown problems. You can go through five stages to come to a final decision about any problem.
1. Empathize: you can get the empathic and deeper understanding of your problem with the consultation of experts. It allows you to get insights of your user and their needs.
2. Define: at this stage you will analyze the gathered information and define the actual problem in a more human-centered way.
3. Ideate: new solutions are identified or to find alternative view to the problem. This may include many brainstorm sessions to come to any conclusion.
4. Prototype: different cases are been tested to investigate the problem.
5. Test: designers will now test the complete product with best solution carried out at prototype stage.

Essie Fields
Essie Fields

What is an example of design thinking?

Rickey Griffin
Rickey Griffin

Design thinking has been highly practiced in each industry and they have gained a lot from merely including in their system for better returns. If we take the example of IBM, they use Enterprise Design thinking framework that allows collaborating, aligning the team and forming the base to solve user problems. It enhances customer experience and helps in delivering value to achieve business goals.

Noman
Noman

hi Sindhuja first of all I really appreciate your effort to doing this work am so grateful that you post it here. am learning design so it will really help me. as i was studying design for quit some so i can say it is very good collection of books. Thank you much. ♥LUWAMH.

BrandingBy8
BrandingBy8

Great! yes these books are useful to become a graphic designer.

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