The best graphic design books: 15 essential reads for every designer!
Is it time to stock up on the best graphic design books?
The best graphic design books aren’t just a must-have during your college education. The right books can also be an excellent source of inspiration when you’re working on projects, or just brushing up on skills.
The great news is there’s no shortage of excellent options out there.
Written by design experts and innovators across the globe, these top graphic design books are perfect to keep on your shelf as you pursue your career.
Crucially, these are just some of the must have graphic design books we’ve discovered and read ourselves. If you really want to expand your horizons with graphic design literature, don’t be afraid to do a little research yourself.
Written by the phenomenal Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, 100 Ideas is a must-have purchase for any serious designer. This wonderful book chronicles some of the most amazing ideas that have shaped the design industry over the years.
Originally, it was published in 2012, and it covers events from the early design movements of the 19th and 20th century.
For those keen to learn about the impact graphic design can really have, this book is a must-have purchase. You’ll learn about everything from technical design, like overprinting, to stylistic choices like white space and loud typography.
We love this book for its deep-dive approach to all the amazing things design has done for the world. It’s an amazing overview of how far we’ve come, and a great way to shake up your perspective when searching for a muse.
Written in 2013 by Josef Albers, the Interaction of Color is widely regarded one of the most important books on color ever published.
More than just an overview of how different shades work together, the Interaction of Color comes with various wonderful exercises designed to change the way your mind works when viewing design opportunities.
This stunning book is custom-made for creatives and artists keen to expand their horizons. You can dive deeper into the realities of color, and why different pigments have a major impact on the way we feel and think.
Interaction of color dives into the way color changes everything about a design project, whether you’re making a piece of art, or creating a brand for a client. This is one of the best books on graphic design you should read before pursuing the next stage in your career.
Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color is a masterwork in art education. Conceived as a handbook and teaching aid, this influential book presents Albers’s singular explanation of complex color theory principles.
Josef Muller Brockmann is the creator behind Grid Systems in Graphic Design. We’ve skipped the longer version of the title for this review. Essentially Grid Systems in Graphic Design covers things like typography, three-dimensional design, and graphical creativity.
Initially published in 1999, it’s currently in its 3rd edition, as the author frequently updates what the book covers.
For designers keen to explore the technical parts of creating meaningful pieces of work, the Grid Systems book addresses one of the most logical and consistent aspects of design.
Written for professionals by experts in the field, the book addresses everything you might need to know about working with grid-based systems – including the challenges designers face.
One of the things making Grid Systems so compelling is its use of real-world examples, which make it much easier for designers from every background to explore what grid system technical design is all about.
Rudimentary versions of grid systems existed since the medieval times, but a group of Swiss graphic designers, mostly inspired in ideas from typographical literature started building a more rigid and coherent system for page layout.
Following up from the much more “traditional” approach to Grid Systems above, Making and Breaking the Grid is another choice among must-have graphic design books.
This narrative by Timothy Samara comes from 2017, and guides beginners through the fundamental concepts of things like page structure – perfect if you’re creating books or websites.
The book shows professionals what it means to distribute content in a grid environment, and why it’s so important to think about where elements are placed to draw the eye. There are various exhibits and real-life examples to check out in the book if you’re looking for inspiration or guidance.
Making and Breaking the Grid also comes with a guide to “responsive” grids for the digital world.
If you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes introduction to the challenges and benefits of working with grid environments, Samara has you covered. You’ll have no problem tackling all kinds of environments after reading this.
Michael Bierut published one of the best graphic design books for beginners in 2015. This sensational book shows people from all backgrounds how graphic design is a crucial element not just in selling things, but explaining concepts, making people feel things, and even changing the world.
This book is the first manifesto and design manual published by Bierut, who also stands out as one of the more iconic graphic designers in the world today.
The innovator has worked on various graphic design projects over the years, including designing for Harley-Davidson, Saks Fifth Avenue, and even Princeton University.
How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things isn’t just a deep dive into Bierut’s history as a graphic designer, it’s also an instructional and educational piece which walks beginners through ideas behind some of the biggest projects in Michael’s world.
We’re also particularly fond of this book because of the uniquely entertaining voice Michael brings into the mix.
Featuring more than thirty-five of Bierut’s projects, this book reveals his philosophy of graphic design—how to use it to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world.
Typography is a major part of the graphic design world, and something many great graphic design books cover. Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton is just one of the many examples of some of amazing typography-focused books on the market today.
This beautiful book is excellent if you’re in the early stages of your design career, and you’re ready to expand your knowledge.
Ellen discusses how different fonts work together, and how you can experiment with different kinds of font design to create unique experiences for your audience. This is only one of the many books by Ellen Lupton worth checking out if you’re stocking your bookshelf.
Other books like Graphic Design Thinking and Graphic Design: The New Basics are definitely worth an investment too.
Thinking with Type is a behind-the-scenes adventure into what’s possible with typography choices in any industry. If you’re planning on working on logos, websites, and other projects demanding type in the future, you should definitely give this a read.
Created by Alina Wheeler, Designing Brand Identity is a wonderful and informative book intended to inspire and impress the entire branding team. This unique book covers everything you need to know about things like creating brand fundamentals, such as colors and logos.
There are chapters on things like rebranding companies, and when it’s important to refresh brand designs too.
If you’re looking for a book to educate your entire team on how branding elements work, process basics for design projects, and you want to share some inspiring best practices, this is the book for you.
The more recent fifth edition of the book includes various new concepts for the modern age, including how to handle graphic design in a world of SEO and social media.
Alina is excellent at addressing things like cross-channel synergy, and how you can make a brand personality stand out in all aspects of the digital and physical world. If you want to get behind the curtain of graphic design, this is a great place to start.
This is one of the more essential graphic design books on the market today, covering all kinds of logo design elements, and how important it is to find the right image for your client in a competitive landscape.
David Airey’s book covers things like how different kinds of logo make an impact on different audiences. There are great case studies to explore which teach beginners how to begin brainstorming ideas for a logo creation, and practical tips for how to work with clients more effectively.
If you’re looking for graphic design books for beginners, this is an excellent guide.
You’ll find a range of insider stories in this book too, which is excellent if you want to discover what it’s really like to work as a graphic designer in a world where branding is becoming increasingly important in company development.
A widely recommended book among graphic design circles, Branding in Five and a Half Steps is an excellent investment.
Whether purchased as one of your graphic design books PDF collection, or added to your bookshelf, this amazing publication will introduce you to dozens of useful tips and insights on how to improve your graphic design knowledge.
Michael Johnson provides a complete step-by-step overview of many of the most important steps in branding. Case studies explain why people end up choosing one service or product over another based on the design choices the company might make.
Michael has worked on countless brands like Virgin Atlantic and More Than in the past, so he knows his stuff.
Branding helps to strip brands down to the most basic elements, with case studies to enable users to understand why people might select a single product or service over another.
The first part of the book even shows you why it’s valuable to answer the right questions before you jump into a branding project.
In Branding, Johnson strips everyday brands down to their basic components, enabling us to understand why we select one product or service over another and allow us to comprehend how subtle influences can affect key life decisions.
Another top choice for designers interested in creating stunning logos, Logo Modernism focuses on a specific kind of design – and something we’re seeing more frequently in the digital world.
Modernist logos are becoming more popular at a time where companies need simple representations of their brand identities. The Logo Modernism book by Roger Remington and Jens Muller takes a deep dive into some of the most impressive modern trademarks in the world.
This book, created by Taschen (GmbH) covers a huge selection of brandmarks registered all the way up to the 1980s, and discusses how the concept of modernism can make a significant impact on brand identity.
There are various logos to explore, categorized into sections like typographic, and geometric.
If you want inspiration, or you’re looking for an education into the history of modernist logos, then you’ll love this book. It’s definitely a great investment to have by your desk.
For those in search of a muse for their next graphic design project, Pretty Much Everything is one of the best graphic design books around. The Draplin Design Company and Aaron James Draplin use this book to look at a huge selection of amazing brands, from Ford Motors to Esquire.
Draplin is one of the most influential designers in the world, so there’s no shortage of case studies and examples for him to provide.
Pretty Much Everything is a unique book often overlooked in lists of graphic design books for beginners. Although the novel covers some of the work Draplin has produced over the years, it also looks into how-to guides on creating your own iconic brand images.
You’ll learn about the concepts of design from one of the most iconic creators in history.
It’s also worth noting there are a lot of funny bits in this book, making it a lot more engaging and entertaining to read overall. Draplin’s unique humor and observations on the contemporary design scene make this novel a must-have product for the current age.
Pretty Much Everything is a mid-career survey of Aaron James Draplin's work, case studies, inspiration, road stories, lists, maps, how-tos, and advice. Presenting example of his work, and the process behind his designs.
12. How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul
From company logo design to web design elements, there are a lot of concepts to explore in graphic design. As you begin your career, it’s easy to allow inspiration and excitement to take you in a lot of different directions.
So, what happens when you feel like you’re no longer designing for the companies you really want to work with?
Adrian Shaughnessy’s book, How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing your Soul is a credible and compelling resource for designers around the world. The book combines philosophical guidance and practical advice to support creators as they embark on new professional journeys.
We love this book for its ability to cover not just the creative process and developing professional skills, but how you can consider ethics and social responsibility in design.
There’s plenty of concise guidance for setting up and promoting your business, collaborating with clients, and even finding work in a changing landscape.
How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul is a trusted resource for graphic designers around the world, combining practical advice with philosophical guidance to help young professionals embark on their careers.
Now in its seventh edition, Graphic Design School is a comprehensive book by David Dabner and Sandra Stewart.
This guide is one of the ultimate graphic design books for beginners, promising everything from insights on how to develop original concepts, to how you can create finished designs. Graphic Design School developers core competencies for students and discusses new media too.
The seventh edition of the book looks at things like app and web design, social media brand development, websites, and books. There’s also plenty of examples to inspire you, and guidance on how to use the latest techniques and software.
If you’re looking for graphic design books covering the best of everything, Graphic Design School is a comprehensive choice. Topics include everything from typographic choices to color psychology, social media, and even SEO. There’s also illustrations and case studies throughout.
From understanding graphic design fundamentals, to developing original concepts, to creating finished designs―this publication develops design students' core competencies and provides practical advice and tips for how these fundamentals translate into new and evolving media.
Wonderfully beautiful and engaging, the Graphic Design Play Book by Barbara Seggio and Sophie Cure encourages new ways of thinking for creative professionals.
Among the top graphic design books for beginners, this novel is an exploration of visual thinking, and how you can use it for the development of websites, logos and more.
One of the more interesting introductions to the graphic design world, this Play Book encourages designers to get their hands dirty through a series of activities and games.
The idea is you push your mind to discover new visual connections while you’re learning about typefaces, pictograms, and poster design elements.
If you’re looking for something a little less serious, but still excellent for inspiration and motivation, this could be the perfect book for you. There’s so much to do within this book as you’re learning how to hone and improve your design skills. It’s definitely worth a closer look.
An entertaining and highly original introduction to graphic design, the Graphic Design Play Book uses puzzles and visual challenges to demonstrate how typography, signage, logo design, posters and branding work.
Another excellent choice by both Jennifer Cole Phillips and Ellen Lupton, Graphic Design the New Basics is a discovery of all the new fundamental elements of graphic design any designer should be aware of.
If you’re looking for things like explorations of visual language, discoveries of color, rhythm and balance in website design and more, this is the book for you.
Both Phillips and Lupton work together to explore formal elements of design through visual demonstrations and commentaries. From letterheads and grids to layers and website hierarchy, there’s no limit to what you can discover within this comprehensive guide.
If you’re looking for graphic design books for beginners, or you’re keen to brush up your skills, this is a great place to start.
The latest updated version of the book comes with no less than 16 new pages of professional and student case studies covering things like working with grids and designing different creations with color combinations.
Graphic Design: The New Basics explains the key concepts of visual language that inform any work of design. A foundational graphic design book for students to explore formal elements of design through visual demonstrations and concise commentary.
As mentioned above, this is just an introduction to some of the best graphic design books for beginners, intermediates and professionals alike. We’ve covered some of our top choices here, picked for their inspirational content, amazing case studies, and unique activities.
However, we’ll always recommend budding designers should check out any book catching their eye.
Plus, remember you can learn all about graphic design elements on the Fabrik website if you’re looking for a more digital source of inspiration.