Best Graphic Design Books: Details Every Designer Should Read

In today’s world, it’s never enough to complete your studies and then never pick up another book. Everything around us is changing so quickly, and we know that we need to keep up if we want to find and experience continued success.

Some industries require this more than others, but, at most, it just makes sense to stay up-to-date and inspired by the continued growth of the industry.

Graphic design is one industry where the tools, techniques, and principles used by working companies and designers are constantly evolving. At the intersection of art, marketing, and communication, graphic design has a complicated role to play.

The tools used by graphic designers, in particular, are being continuously changed by the growth of technology in parallel industries such as software, hardware, and marketing. If we don’t take the time to catch up, we’ll fall behind before we even realize it.

When I sat down to consider what topics the best books on graphic design might cover, I realized just how long that list is:

  • Brand identity
  • Logos
  • Elements of design
  • Typography
  • Current trends in graphic design
  • New technology guides
  • Design studios
  • Seeing art in graphic design
  • Design history
  • Design theory
  • Inspiration catalogs

Plus, several books about how to manage both a career and a life while working in such a busy and fast-paced industry are available.
With so many books to choose from, it can feel like an impossible task to ever catch up. How can continued success in such a rapidly changing industry be found if all of these books cannot be read?

As great as it would be to read all of the graphic design books, that’s not what’s needed, nor is it practical to try to read every book. Instead, focusing on the best graphic design books will bring success.

Best Graphic Design Books

Grid Systems in Graphic Design: A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers and Three Dimensional Designers

Grid Systems in Graphic Design: A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers and Three Dimensional Designers

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield
  • “Thinking with Type” by Ellen Lupton
  • “Don't Make Me Think” by Steve Krug
  • “Geometry of Design” by Kimberly Elam
  • “Grid Systems in Graphic Design” by Josef Müller-Brockmann
  • “ReWork” by Jason Fried

These titles should be a good start, I think.

Marius Ciuchete Paun
Web designer
Introducing Culture Identities: Design for Museums, Theaters and Cultural Institutions

Introducing Culture Identities: Design for Museums, Theaters and Cultural Institutions

I find Museums and institutions in Singapore are generally very safe in design. This book opens up a whole new world of how western graphic designers are experimenting with new systems of design and the works created are very fascinating. You also get to hear from both the designers and clients view of the design. It inspires me to keep pushing the current standards of Singapore further as the shape of design grows in Singapore. This book is very inspiring for young designers as it will push them to think out of the box. It will let them understand how the designers and clients think about design (like why it is designed in a certain way) and they can learn tips and lessons from them.
Ella Zheng
Partner & Art Director/The Workbench
Poster Graphics

Poster Graphics

Posters are mostly used to present information. This book showcases experimental poster design. The works are very free form, very abstract and shows how information can be presented in a very unique manner. This book will show how graphic design can translate information in a very fun and expressive manner​ -​ Information can be translated into pictograms and patterns​; ​Texts can be expressive and unique. Loosen up and let your senses take charge.
Ella Zheng
Partner & Art Director/The Workbench
Geometry of Design

Geometry of Design

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield
  • “Thinking with Type” by Ellen Lupton
  • “Don't Make Me Think” by Steve Krug
  • “Geometry of Design” by Kimberly Elam
  • “Grid Systems in Graphic Design” by Josef Müller-Brockmann
  • “ReWork” by Jason Fried

These titles should be a good start, I think.

Marius Ciuchete Paun
Web designer
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield
  • “Thinking with Type” by Ellen Lupton
  • “Don't Make Me Think” by Steve Krug
  • “Geometry of Design” by Kimberly Elam
  • “Grid Systems in Graphic Design” by Josef Müller-Brockmann
  • “ReWork” by Jason Fried

These titles should be a good start, I think.

Marius Ciuchete Paun
Web designer
Brandjam: Humanizing Brands Through Emotional Design

Brandjam: Humanizing Brands Through Emotional Design

A powerful new concept from renowned designer and business guru Marc Gobe.I’ve always known that I’ll be working for designing or art-related job fields. And branding has been fascinating to me, now I look back and realise how much advertising and branding books I’ve been crazily reading during my teen days. It changed my creative thinking of how impactful branding is to a company, how emotion is tied to designing and business, to manipulating.
Kimberly Gloria Choi
Founder/Marchbaby Collective
The Laws of Simplicity

The Laws of Simplicity

There are just way too many books that impacted the way I live and see things. One of them is The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda.
Ryan Len
Founder & Design Director/The Workbench
How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery

How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery

Ed runs one of the most straightforward sites dedicated to demystifying and discussing various aspects of the art world. Now, in How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery, he's packed–in understandable terms–information I wish I had known before starting my gallery.
Zach Feuer
Owner/Zach Feuer Gallery
Building a Big Small Business Brand: How to Turn Your Brand into Your Most Valuable Asset

Building a Big Small Business Brand: How to Turn Your Brand into Your Most Valuable Asset

This book belongs in the hands of every small business owner serious about beating their competition and becoming more successful than ever imagined. Building a Big Small Business Brand shows how with real-world examples and plenty of eye-candy to make it worth reading over and over again. It also belongs in the hands of every graphic designer, providing tools to help communicate to their clients the ever increasing importance of branding.
Glenn Taylor
Owner/ChromaGraphics
Envisioning Information

Envisioning Information

The master when it comes to taking complicated data and turning it into beautiful charts and graphs that are easy to understand. If you’re into graphic design, print design, web design, you name it, you’re going to get some really good information and how tos out of these books. He has a whole series of these books.
Kevin Rose
Co-founder/Digg
Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006

Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006

  • Tibor, Tibor Kalman
  • Chip Kidd Book One, Chip Kidd
  • Once Upon a Time, Slim Aarons
  • Our True Intent is for Your Delight, Martin Parr
These are a selection of my favorite creative minds who visually inspire me like no one else.
Karen Pfaff Manganillo
Co-Founder/By Karen and Jess
Arbitrary Stupid Goal

Arbitrary Stupid Goal

Certainly my favorite book cover of the year, the graphic designer’s memoir drops you right into a kid’s eye view of 1970s Greenwich Village. With it’s chunked sections and hand-drawn illustrations, it gave me the same kind of quick, skippy joy I get when reading Vonnegut.
Austin Kleon
Writer, artist
The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web

These three books are about how people actually use design in their lives. They helped me understand this very basic idea: There are no dumb users, only bad designers. Take the time to create based on how your design will be interacted with. Test it. Iterate. That's how you become a good designer.
Kaci Lambe Kai
Writer, Photographer, Designer
Graphic Guide to Frame Construction

Graphic Guide to Frame Construction

This book has it all when it comes to modern era wood framing and is a fantastic guide for anyone who wants to get into construction or engineering.
Alan Pierce
CEO/Ansuz Balder Magni Investments
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

I thought I might put my money where my mouth is. I keep whining that young people are not in touch with some essential books on advertising that have helped me shape the way I practise my trade today, but I never did anything about it. So I am starting here the ultimate books to read list. I will add to it as I get suggestions and as more good books get written.
Bogdana Butnar
Head of Strategy/Poke
Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design

Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design

Question: What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.

Answer:

  • “Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design” By Laurence Boldt
  • “Horse Sense: The Key to Success Is Finding a Horse to Ride” by Al Ries and Jack Trout
  • “What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School” by Mark McCormack
Christopher Lochhead
Host/Legends and Losers Podcast
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Part of ambition is modeling yourself after those you’d like to be like. Austin’s philosophy of ruthlessly stealing and remixing the greats might sound appalling at first but it is actually the essence of art. You learn by stealing, you become creative by stealing, you push yourself to be better by working with these materials. Austin is a fantastic artist, but most importantly he communicates the essence of writing and creating art better than anyone else I can think of. It is a manifesto for any young, creative person looking to make his mark. Pair up with Show Your Work which is also excellent.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check