It’s tough to make a list of books that every designer absolutely needs to own, mainly because the field of design itself is so widely defined. That being said, there are several books that I believe both practicing professionals and students should read at least once. Several of these are already used in college level graphic design courses, but I’ve also added a couple of my own picks. If you see one you want, just click the title to view it on Amazon! This is also an ongoing list, so expect more to come.
Work for Money, Design for Love by David Airey
Freelancing is tough, and starting up your own design business is even tougher. David Airey has been there, though, and he shares all of his knowledge in this book. This was the book that inspired me to become more than just a freelancer, but an independent contractor. Airey has laid bare his knowledge of the business side of design, and he’s also collaborated with other active, well known designers to assemble one of the best collections of advice for designers. Whether you’re younger, older, a seasoned professional, or just getting started, if you want to further your design career, this book needs to be on your shelf.
What is Graphic Design? by Quentin Newark
This one is pretty basic, and was actually my first book on the subject. It’s relatively recent (2007), and provides a comprehensive explanation of the foundations of design. The book is also fairly all inclusive, touching on color, typography, hierarchy, signage, branding, packaging, and so on. The only topic not discussed is designing online content, but that’s a totally different beast. Newark’s book certainly won’t be the only resource you’ll ever need, but it’s an excellent primer for somebody who wants to get into the business. It’s also ideal for teachers, and makes the perfect first step for new graphic design students.
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter byJames Gurney
One of my favorite books by one of my favorite artists, this one is a must-have for anybody even remotely connected to an artistic discipline. James Gurney is a masterful painter, and this book is one of the definitive modern texts on color theory. Also, don’t be fooled by the title; this book may be targeting painters and more traditional artists, but every artist alive can benefit from Gurney’s fantastic and intuitive explanation of how color works. Color use was always one aspect of design that I had difficulty with as a student, but after reading Gurney’s down-to-earth approach to using color and depicting light and shadow, everything made a lot more sense.
HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett
If your work is primarily print-oriented, then this one may not have quite as much to offer, but if your work touches the internet in any fashion, then Jon Duckett’s book is an indispensable resource. Scripting is tough for artistically-minded people like myself, but as soon as I picked up this book it all began to click. It’s geared towards people like me, who don’t think quite as mathematically as developers, and the information is simple and easy to digest. The book is also quite beautifully designed, which is always a huge plus for those in the creative fields. As for the content, Duckett gives a very natural progression to the lessons, making this my favorite resource for learning code.
Interactive Design by Andy Pratt & Jason Nunes
Another good one for any designers who work online in any capacity. This one is a pretty quick read, but it’s a nice introduction to the principles of designing for interactivity, and how they differ from those of traditional design. When I was in school we didn’t have many classes that touched on how to design for a more interactive medium, but I was able to learn quite a bit from this book, since the authors use numerous examples that I’m familiar with. The book is tastefully laid out and has plenty of examples to illustrate the concepts, so if you’re interested in learning more about designing for web & mobile applications, then this is a great place to start.