Best Graphic Design Books

John Kopischke
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Graphic Design is an art and craft that with more than a 100 years of history behind.

If you are working in the field or you want to learn how this professional discipline works, it is important to have a good guide to work with.

In this article, I will put together a list of the most interesting and best graphic design books that can make your skills grow.

NameCategoryProduct
Non-Designer's Design BookBest OverallNon-Designer's Design Book
Graphic Design Play Book: An Exploration of Visual ThinkingBudget PickGraphic Design Play Book: An Exploration of Visual Thinking
The History of Graphic Design. Vol. 2Upgrade PickThe History of Graphic Design. Vol. 2

1. Non-Designer's Design Book

Our rating: 9 / 10

Non-Designer's Design Book

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Pros:

  • Step-By-Step Process
  • Simple, Easy To Understand Information
  • Easy To Read Layout
  • Aligns With Current Industry Trends

The Non-Designer's Design Book is one of the best graphic design books out there.

It provides layout as well as design guidelines which help beginners at graphic design. Even though it's not a very expensive book, it's still popular with a lot of graphic designers because it's really useful and does exactly what it says it does.

The Non-Designer's Design Book is practical, with explanations of basic design principles, tricks of the trade, and insider secrets. It's designed to teach readers what they need to know and get them producing good design.

2. Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

Our rating: 7 / 10

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

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Pros:

  • Great resource for starter logo companies, freelancers, and small business owners
  • Covers everything you need to know about designing a good logo and the logo design life cycle
  • Comprehensive book that covers huge variety of logos
  • Offers great information for logo of any kind, including logos for non-profits, cities, sports teams, etc.
  • A good read for those interested in graphic design, branding, and entrepreneurship
  • Features various logos from all over the world, plus rejects and redesigns
  • New chapters on rebranding and working with illustrators and designers

3. Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills

Our rating: 7 / 10

Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills

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Pros:

  • 300 fantastic ideas
  • Bestsellers on Amazon
  • Picture-based
  • Can be used as reference
  • Allows you to think outside the box
  • Creates a platform for mess-free drawing
  • Sharpens your skills
  • Thousands of positive reviews
  • Great for any kind of designer
  • Encourages positive psychology

Cons:

  • You have to think outside the box
  • Doesn’t contain the book
  • Not for those who are not artistically inclined
  • Use a marker if you decide to color the pieces

This wonderful book helps you get your artistic juices flowing again. The illustrations/figures are ready for filling in with you or your kids favorite colors and are too cute to resist.

It’s a creative book that will test your imagination and keep you busy for a while.

4. The History of Graphic Design. Vol. 2

Our rating: 7 / 10

The History of Graphic Design. Vol. 2

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Pros:

  • Wide Coverage Aspect
  • Comprehensive Informative Value
  • Large Size and Impressive Content
  • Detailed yet not Over-Factual

5. Graphic Design: The New Basics

Our rating: 6 / 10

Graphic Design: The New Basics

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Pros:

  • Lots of useful quotes from famous designers
  • In-depth information from various designers
  • Get an online content subscription
  • Great for beginners to professionals

Cons:

  • Some info is outdated
  • Some info is too basic for more advanced designers

This book is not only useful for graphic designers, but it is also an interesting read for anyone that has an interest in how languages, culture, and politics affects design.

While not specifically about web design, the book provides a brief overview of website design, the visual and graphic design elements which make a website effective, and methods of designing websites including mobile devices and app design.

The chapters are broken into short sections which contain practical information perfect for the busy designer.

6. Graphic Design Play Book: An Exploration of Visual Thinking

Our rating: 6 / 10

Graphic Design Play Book: An Exploration of Visual Thinking

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Pros:

  • Teach basic and intermediate design concepts
  • Well laid out
  • Plenty of Design Examples for Reference
  • Smaller and Portable
  • Well organized
  • Easy to follow
  • Hardcover

Cons:

  • Does not go in-depth in a lot of topics
  • Writing is a bit dry and technical
  • Some readers may want a book with more information

This little book is great as it gives a good introduction to some basic design concepts. The author, John Vargo, is a talented designer and branding expert, and his book doesn’t disappoint.

You start out learning about different typographics and the different categories that include Practical, Functional, Graphic, Corporate, Events, Emotional, Interpersonal, Product, Website, Media, Miscellaneous, Evaluative, and Artsy.

Each category is then broken down into the various kinds of typography used in it. Each kind is explained in depth through Vargo’s clear writing. You also get his tips on how to use them effectively.

7. Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff They Don't Teach You in Design School

Our rating: 6 / 10

Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff They Don't Teach You in Design School

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Pros:

  • A short, sharp read with enough detailed info to give you an upper hand
  • A must for Graphic Designers
  • Would make a great Christmas present for a Creative Professional

Though I'm a self-taught, amateur graphic designer, I've always found that the books I read are a valuable source of information and inspiration. Not that long ago, I stumbled across a title that had me chuckling, because it so perfectly captured how I feel about the design industry in the year 2014. It's called, Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff They Don't Teach You in Design School, But Should.

Burn Your Portfolio is the brainchild of an American digital designer named Joel Holland. Joel is an experienced Creative Director and has worked with some big organisations like IBM, Nike, Yahoo and Philips.

Burn Your Portfolio is a short, sharp read, only 15 pages; Joel has clearly kept his advice short and succinct in order to get on with the job of making you a better graphic designer. This book is designed to be read in a few minutes, but will give you enough detailed information to get you an upper hand in your profession.

8. Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming

Our rating: 6 / 10

Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming

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Pros:

  • Principles of design
  • Thorough examination of basic design principles

I must admit, I haven’t finished this book because I got sidetracked by a sequel, but the book is great so far.

Graphic Design Thinking condenses and summarizes strategies for creative thinking in design. It is unique in that it examines so many different types of design (graphic design, interactions design, service design, product design), and explores different viewpoints on design thinking: some designers are very conceptual, some analytical, and some practical. Lupton provides good answers for engaging audiences, maintaining flexibility, and sustaining a personal connection and rapport in each different creative act.

This is a book that is more useful for people who are already practicing designers who want to improve their design thinking skills with practical exercises.

9. Vintage Graphic Design: Type

Our rating: 6 / 10

Vintage Graphic Design: Type

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Pros:

  • An encyclopedia of graphic design
  • Vintage designs that have been out-of-print for years
  • Everything is charted and categorized

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

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters

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Pros:

  • Helps you develop a good library of design ideas
  • Quality paper
  • Each spreads has a different concept

This book is my top choice for graphic design books about inspiration because you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

It’s inexpensive and there are tons of great content, each spread focusing on a different concept and most of them are concepts that you can apply in your own work. The book even has a section about the process of creating graphic design and another that covers different aspects of designing.

I’ve noticed that many graphic designers are creating their own books. I think there are several reasons for this trend but the main one is that there is a lot of market out there that is hungry to buy content from graphic designers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I learn graphic design by myself?

Yes! There are many tutorials online that will walk you through all of the steps. There are also some really good e-learning sites with video tutorials to help you dive into design concepts.

The best way to learn is by doing, so start small. Find a tutorial on something like how to adjust or modify the HEX color values (usually on the “Components and Colors” screen in Photoshop) to do something like change the color of a product in your design. You may even want to try some of the more basic concepts from Photoshop 101 to get yourself started.

Adobe offers some e-learning courses as a part of Creative Cloud. Most of these are only available as CS3 or older, but there are a few which can be helpful to beginners:

Who is the best graphic designer?

I couldn’t possibly name just one!

Best-selling graphic design books are launched all the time and they always offer new, creative, and thoughtful approaches to graphic design. But the best way to learn is by trying it yourself or learning from the best by taking classes at a local college or evening course.

What do professional graphic designers use?

The truth is most graphic designers use either Photoshop or, if they are a bit more of the traditional type, Illustrator. Both are used by design professionals in a wide variety of disciplines, including packaging, typography, print media and multimedia.

Graphic design students are typically not taught to use just one piece of software, but rather a variety that includes these two programs, as well as Adobe’s InDesign and Acrobat programs, and perhaps lesser-known applications.

The goal is to learn how to use the full suite of tools available to you, rather than learning just one. Then you can switch between programs depending on what is needed.

How much should graphic designers charge?

When determining how much you should charge per hour for graphic design services, be sure to take your client into consideration. You may be reproducing a logo on a simple pamphlet or designing a complex company update.

There are different rates for small businesses and big businesses, non-profits and corporations, and even young designers and more experienced designers.

Conclusion

No one knows exactly how many books about design are published every year, but I’d estimate somewhere around 100,000. I don’t know about you but I don’t have time to read all of those. So I’ve done the work for you. I hope this book list will be one of the most helpful things you’ll read. It will help you choose the best books for your interests.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Non-Designer's Design BookBest OverallNon-Designer's Design Book
Graphic Design Play Book: An Exploration of Visual ThinkingBudget PickGraphic Design Play Book: An Exploration of Visual Thinking
The History of Graphic Design. Vol. 2Upgrade PickThe History of Graphic Design. Vol. 2