Many experienced graphic designers somehow regret their time in design school. After ten years in the industry, a routine slowly sets up, you often work on the same projects and it makes it hard to feel as excited as you were when studying graphic design. For me, grabbing a graphic design book is one of the ways I use to re-create some of this initial enthusiasm. If you are still in a university, or any other design school, you should try to make the most of this enthusiasm and learn beyond what is taught to you in school.
For that, there are basically two major ways: experiment with your own designs or read good graphic design books. In this post, we will not talk about the experiments you can work on and concentrate on some books that are worth reading, but hopefully those books should motivate you to experiment.
By Friedrich Friedl – 592 pages – On Amazon
Despite the title, this book is more a history of graphic design than a book solely on typography. Unfortunately a bit expensive for students, but well worth the price. Typography is probably the most comprehensive book about the history of graphic design. It covers every style and movement, talking about notable designers for each with many amazing illustrations. Think of it as the must-have encyclopedia (it’s huge) that you will occasionally re-read throughout your graphic design career.
2. The Design of Everyday Things
By Donald A. Norman – 272 pages – On Amazon
One way to improve your graphic design skills is oddly to read about other design industries. The design of everyday things is not your typical industrial design book, it focuses on the little issues that make us feel a little dumb everyday, like not being able to open a building’s door right away, or using the sink faucet wrong. The author, Donald A. Norman, argues that these issues are not related to how dumb you are, but to how poorly the problematic item is designed. An excellent book to think on what your attitude and goals should be as a graphic designer.
3. Typography: Macro and Microaesthetics
By Willi Kunz – 171 pages – On Amazon
Most books dedicated to typography tend to forget to present a global picture of the topic. This book is just perfect for that matter, it presents both the big picture and the necessary explanations about typographic details. This well-illustrated book provides technical and artistic information that will teach you a lot as a graphic design student.
4. The Little Black Book of Design
By Adam Judge – 228 pages -On Amazon
The little black book of design is a little collection of design thoughts and quotes. This book contains some guidance that will help young designers, but also some inspiration and reassurance for those who lack the confidence to fully explore their design potential. The Kindle edition is ultra-cheap, so if you own Amazon’s device you shouldn’t hesitate to buy it.
5. Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
By David Sherwin – 256 pages – On Amazon
As I mention in the introduction of this article, one way to progress as a designer is by experimenting. By that I mean that you should create stuff, work hard on some design project. If you don’t know what to work on, this book will give you many very tough challenges that will drastically improve your design skills if you go through. Try these exercises and they will push you to focus and work hard to try to solve the problems that are presented to you.
6. Grid Systems in Graphic Design
By Joseph Müller-Brockmann – 176 pages – On Amazon
If you want to become a professional graphic designer, you have to know what grid systems are and how to use the grid in your layouts. To learn that, Müller-Brockmann’s book is the best you can read. The Swiss graphic designer has made his mark in graphic design history by being the man who advocated the use of grids in layouts. This book will teach you everything you need to know about grids, proving to you that grid systems do not restrain creativity, but actually gives you more freedom designing.
7. How To Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul
By Adrian Shaughnessy – 176 pages – On Amazon
Ethics is a topic that design schools overlook a little too much. In my opinion, graphic design students should have some philosophy class, giving them some food for thought on how philosophical movements can be applied to graphic design. In the book, learn about ethics and social responsibility for a designer while getting some guidance on setting up your studio and promoting it.
8. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team
By Alina Wheeler – 320 pages – On Amazon
A book more business oriented, but a necessary read for graphic designers who will have to work with marketers. Understanding the language of your working partners and the needs of your clients in terms of branding is important, this book will answer all your questions and more. It reviews the traits of successful branding firms, thus giving you the keys to create great branding yourself.
9. Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design
By Kristin Cullen – 240 pages – On Amazon
Learn how to create a layout that works, think of this book as a giant step-by-step tutorial. Not simply a theoretical book, but an in-depth guide that will make you become much better at layout data. By the end of the book you will know how to structure the information, organize and interconnect it.
10. Adrian Frutiger Typefaces: The Complete Works
By Heidrun Osterer & Philipp Stamm – 460 pages – On Amazon
Reading the biography of a great man can be an amazing source of knowledge, most of us already know it. Same goes for this book on Adrian Frutiger’s work, it is a tremending source if you want to see what makes a great designer. Frutiger is mostly famous for his Univers typeface, but he created many other typefaces that changed typography, for example OCR B. In this book you will also get the chance to discover Frutiger’s awesome graphic design work, like the signaling system for the Paris airport.
Obviously, this book list is not comprehensive and many other books would deserve to be in it. Choices for books to include were made to make the list more useful and more complete in terms of topics. But what about you? What are the books that you would recommend to a graphic design student?