Best Graphic Design Books


Are you a graphic designer looking for inspiration in all the wrong places? Need to get those creative juices flowing? Or just simply looking for a beautiful book to display on your shelf? Here are my top ten of the best graphic design books to get you started.


100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design

Author: Steven Heller & Veronique ViennePages: 216Publisher: Laurence King Publishersthumbnail

A book that should have a firm place on any aspiring graphic designer’s shelf, 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design takes you on a whistle-stop tour through the defining moments in the industry putting them in historical context and illustrated through a collection of beautiful images. The chronologically ordered list of abstract concepts ranges from various types of typography to ideas such as the use of the colours red and black, visual puns, pixelation and the sociological impact of propaganda. Being limited to just 100 concepts means that some things are not covered in as much detail but this is a brilliant starting point for reference.


The Graphic Design Exercise Book: Creative Briefs to Enhance Your Skills and Develop Your Portfolio

Author: Carolyn Knight & Jessica GlaserPages: 256Publisher: HOW Booksthumbnail

This collection of creative briefs is intended to inspire both up and coming and experienced designers. This book teaches new techniques through practical exercises whereby readers are asked to produce designs for different clients from different sectors with tasks ranging from packaging to web design. The book is brimming with useful tips, suggestions and solutions to the various briefs. A perfect book to carry around with you and pull out for a quick doodle on the move.


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

Author: Steven Heller & Lita TelericoPages: 352Publisher: The Monacelli Pressthumbnail

A rare treat for readers as 100 of the world’s top graphic designers open up their sketchbooks and offer a peep into their design philosophies, methods and inspirations. The contributions range from rough sketches to collages and are accompanied by commentaries describing the design processes. This is a fascinating insight into the origin of commercial designs since we can usually only see the finished product. Designers featured include Uwe Loesch, Bruce Mau and Sara Fanelli.


A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design

Author: Beryl McAlhone & David StuartPages: 240Publisher: Phaidon Pressthumbnail

A Smile in the Mind is dedicated to one of the most paramount features of graphic design- humour. A witty design has the incredible ability to engage an audience and leave a lasting impression. This is a celebration of clever ideas over computer skills and showcases the best designs of the last 30 years. Although discussing humour can often be the death of it, this book remains playful and informative.


The Complete Guide to Digital Graphic Design

Author: Bob Gordon & Maggie GordonPages: 224Publisher: Watson-Guptillthumbnail

Approaching the midway point in this best graphic design books list is another essential one for graphic design students, this takes you through the fundamental basics of the latest design theory and practice. Although it is bursting with Technicolor photographs, experienced designers may find the commentaries a little sparse. Print, multimedia and online design are all covered in this hefty book. It may perhaps be targeted more at Mac users than PC users but is nevertheless an extremely useful textbook.


Know Your Onions: Graphic Design

Author: Drew de SotoPages: 185Publisher: BIS Publishersthumbnail

The subtitle of this book is particularly striking and appealed to me straight away when I came across this book. “How to think like a creative, act like businessman and design like a God,” is a very bold claim for such a little book. Whilst being a beautiful example of a book design in its own right, de Soto imparts his wisdom, experience of the industry and tricks of the trade in an easily digestible and captivating manner.


The Encyclopaedia of Type Faces

Author: Jaspert, Berry & JohnsonPages: 440Publisher: Cassellthumbnail

The perfect reference book for anyone working in the world of design, publishing or printing who is seeking out a fitting font for their work, but equally as fascinating to have a flick through out of personal interest or mere curiosity. The book is divided into sections for Roman, Lineal and Script fonts and the examples are accompanied by the story of their origin, date of introduction and specific applications to tickle your fancy.


Notes on Book Design

Author: Derek BirdsallPages: 248Publisher: Yale University Pressthumbnail

Celebrated book designer Derek Birdsall showcases a varied selection of books he has created over the course of his lengthy career, from traditional Penguin paperbacks to thick coffee table art books. For anyone who has taken the look and feel of books for granted, this book illuminates the many facets of the design process and the incredible preparation and attention to detail that is required. Birdsall also provides some extra tips in the appendix, where you will find sample text settings and book grids to whet your own appetite for design.


How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul

Author: Adrian ShaughnessyPages: 160Publisher: Princeton Architectural Pressthumbnail

An earnest guide to starting out as a graphic designer for graduates and beginners worried about consolidating success with an ethical approach. Is it possible to create commercially successful work and maintain your artistic integrity? This book focuses less on design tips and more about how to handle the practical world of work such as how to find clients and keep them happy and how to set up your own studio. This is a wonderful guide to how to make the most of your creativity, a worthy runner-up in this best graphic design books list.


The Art of Looking Sideways

Author: Alan FletcherPages: 534Publisher: Phaidon Pressthumbnail

Coming in at number one in my list of the best graphic design books, is a book described as “the ultimate guide to visual awareness”, this glorious collection of Fletcher’s work encourages us to look at the world around us with fresh eyes and advocates lateral thinking. This isn’t a book that has to be read cover to cover by any means since each page has a unique layout and something different to offer. With 72 different chapters stuffed full of graphics, photographs, calligraphy and inspirational quotes and centred on different “slices” of life there really is something that will appeal to everyone. The relationship between typography and imagery, space and colour are all presented in a challenging way to the reader. Guaranteed to give you the odd light bulb moment, this is a book to return to again and again.

About the author

Emma Pressley

Emma Pressley

is a 23 year old modern languages graduate and translator in training. A lover of all things Scandinavian, black and white films and vintage knick knacks.

3 Responses

  1. Leroy McKane

    Awesome article. I’ll look back and reference this when I’m out of ideas haha.

  2. Rorrrr

    Fantastic books, particularly a Smile in The Mind – mind blowing must-have for every Graphic Designer wishing to learn more about the art!