A Guide to the Best Books for Creative Designers

A Guide to the Best Books for Creative Designers

One of the things that has most helped me progress as a designer, is that I try to continually educate myself. I absolutely love to read, and I have found that by research and study, my skills have increased dramatically over the years. In my opinion, good design comes from a few key things: education (which can be self taught or self directed), motivation, research, practice, and hard work!

I often get questions from my students about my favorite design books, and to be honest, the list is continually expanding. But I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my absolute favorites. You’ll want to add these to your holiday wish list, and I promise you won’t regret it!  So here is my gift guide, and down below, I have added a few details about why I like the book, so that you can pick out which one would be best for you!

A. Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, Graphic Arts Guild

This book is a MUST for those who are freelancing or starting their own business. It is a great starting point for how to price out your services, and a good gauge of what other creatives and designers across the board are charging. I open this book at least once a month for reference. 

B. Thinking with Type, 2nd revised and expanded edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, by Ellen Lupton

If you love typography, this is hands down my favorite resource for good information about typography. It is a good blend of simple and complex and the information is presented elegantly and in the most helpful way. This has been one of my favorite books for about 7 years now, so I guarantee if you love typography, you will be obsessed with this book too. 

C. Graphic Design: The New Basics, by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips

Another awesome resource from the talented author Ellen Lupton, this book delves into some basic principles of graphic design that are helpful no matter your level of design. This is such a great resource to have if you’re looking to push yourself and improve as a designer. 

D. Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business, by Joy Deangdeelert Cho & Meg Mateo Ilasco

I love this book! It’s a hands on approach to running a creative business, and has lots of insightful information from artists everywhere. It’s simple and a quick read, but chalk full of information. It’s a great one if you are just getting started on your own business. 

E. Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design’s Golden Age, by Steven Heller & Louise Fili

Can you tell I am type obsessed? I absolutely adore this book! This is a great resource for those who love hand lettering or using a more classical style of type. It has been a HUGE resource for me, and I have opened it up so many times since buying it for help and ideas in my design work. One of my favorites for sure!

F. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, by Philip B. Meggs & Alston W. Purvis

This is one of those books that I consider a MUST to own. I believe that you have to know about the “greats” of design to really progress as a designer, and this book really delves into the best artists and designers throughout history. I find that this book is a great resource for helping me progress, but in pushing myself for ideas and a fresh new take. So many designers focus on the current design trends, but it is equally important to surround yourself with past, classic design. If you do, I promise your design will improve, and you will be able to learn many things from the masters of design. This book has been an absolute favorite of mine for about 7 years now!

G. 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design, by Steven Heller

Steven Heller is one of my favorite authors on design, and this is another great book that is full of historical design, as well as current design. It’s a great resource to pull out and review, to help you get ideas, as well as to learn about design practices that you should be using in your work!

H. Communication Arts Subscription 

It doesn’t cost very much to subscribe to this magazine, and receiving this magazine every few months is like candy to me! The magazine is filled to the brim with the best design that is out there. I have been subscribing to this magazine for over 6 years now, and I keep and treasure EVERY magazine. I pull them out at least weekly for ideas and inspiration, and to me, these magazines are about a hundred times better than Pinterest! They help me see what is professionally considered the best work, and have really elevated me as a designer over the years. 

I. Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, by David Airey

If you are working with brands or creating logos, this book is another must have. It does a great job  of going through the work process of logo design, and is full of fantastic ideas on how to work with a client. I discovered this book just this year, but it is already a go to!

J. Elegantissima: The Design and Typography of Louise Fili, by Louise Fili

I have to admit, that I don’t have this book yet, but it is on my wish list for this holiday season. However, I feel confident in putting it on the list because Louise Fili is one of my all time favorite designers. Her design sense and talent is breathtaking, and it makes me so excited to know that she has compiled a book full of her work, as well as her inspiration. I know this book will become a huge resource for me!

K. Don’t Make me Think, by Steve Krug

If you are designing blogs or websites, or interested in how people behave online, this book is a needed resource. No other book does as well in describing the user experience online. Reading this book was life changing for me as a web designer, because it helped me grasp how I needed to change my design based on how people interact with design. I think this book should be a staple for all designers — at some level or another, all of your design and art will be online, even your portfolio, and this book will really help you understand how to make the most of it!

L. The Power of Starting Something Stupid, by Richie Norton

This book is absolutely fabulous. Not only is it inspiring, but it is really motivational and empowering. This is a perfect book for those of you starting, or currently running your own business. It is great for all types of creatives — not just designers. It really helps motivate you to set your priorities, and then to just make it happen. This is a book that will be sure to set a good foundation in your business, and motivate you time and time again. 

I hope this guide to my favorite books helps you! As I have noted after each book, I use these resources at different times for different uses, so before buying any, please research and decide what would be best for you! Every designer and artists is different,  and I would love to know what books have helped you since I am always looking for new inspiring reads. Are there any that I am missing on this list? Let me know!

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