The Calculated Creative

Best Graphic Design Books

Essential graphic design books that can provide knowledge, inspiration, and practical skills to designers of all levels.

Graphic design books can help designers of all skill levels improve their skills and learn new techniques.

Here are some of the best graphic design books to consider adding to your library:

Beginner Graphic Design Books

  • Graphic Design for Beginners by Lisa Graham - This book is a comprehensive introduction to the key principles and techniques in graphic design. It covers core topics like typography, color theory, layout, branding, and more. The book uses visual examples and clear explanations that make it very approachable for beginners. It's a great first graphic design book.
  • Graphic Design Thinking by Ellen Lupton - This book explores graphic design as a way of thinking and solving problems visually. It looks at the concepts and ideas behind effective visual communication. Lupton examines how typography, color, layout, and imagery work together to convey messages. The book stresses the importance of concept over just aesthetics in design. It's a thought-provoking read for any designer starting out.
  • Layout Essentials by Beth Tondreau - As the name suggests, this book focuses heavily on page layout principles and techniques. It gives detailed explanations and visual examples on topics like typography, color, positioning, grid systems, and composition. The book has a very practical approach, with tips, techniques, and best practices throughout. It's a useful reference for anyone wanting to improve their layout skills.

Typography Books

  • Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton - This is one of the classic essential guides to typography. It covers topics like letterforms, fonts, sizes, alignment, hierarchy, design styles, and more. Lupton looks at both the mechanics and expressive potential of type. The book stresses typography as a tool for communication. It's full of useful guidelines on font selection, expressive type, and how to make type dynamic.
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst - This book takes a very detailed look at typography and the design of letterforms. Bringhurst goes in-depth on the history, anatomy, classification, and aesthetics of type. The book covers everything from the basics of type to fine details like kerning, leading, and ligatures. It's a deep dive into typography that rewards patient and careful reading.
  • Type Matters! by Jim Williams - This typography handbook has a fun, conversational tone that makes it very readable. The book covers all the key terminology around type and fonts. It looks at the visual effect of making different typographical choices. There are practical tips throughout on issues like selecting fonts and pairing typefaces. It's an accessible primer that beginners will find useful and enjoyable.

Design Theory/History Books

  • Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman - This book looks at how design shapes the form and function of objects we use every day. Norman examines how the design of doors, handles, stoves, and many other things impacts their ease of use. The book provides insights into how design principles can produce good experiences. Any designer will benefit from thinking more deeply about improving usability through design.
  • History of Graphic Design by Philip Meggs - This book is the classic comprehensive reference on the history of graphic design. It chronicles the evolution of graphic arts and design from prehistory and early writing systems to the digital age. Meggs looks at major design movements and influential figures. The book helps designers understand their place in a historical continuum. It's the standard text for any graphic design student.
  • A Designer's Art by Paul Rand - As one of the preeminent designers of the 20th century, Paul Rand provides great insights in this book. He explores the principles, problem-solving methods, and unwritten rules that shape effective design. The book stresses the designer's responsibility to create work that communicates clearly and aesthetically. It's a classic to read for timeless design wisdom.

Creativity Books

  • Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon - This fun little book aims to help readers build their own artistic identity by gleaning inspiration from the work of others. Kleon offers tips on how to gather ideas and shape them into original work by collecting, remixing, and recombining existing creative material. The book is a great manifesto on how imitation and influence lead to innovation.
  • Creative Workshop by David Sherwin - This book contains 80 challenges and exercises to stretch creative muscles and foster design thinking. Sherwin offers prompts like visual brainstorming, reinventing existing products, improv techniques, and drawing ideas quickly. It's a interactive workbook that pushes readers to solve problems in original ways. The exercises can build essential creative skills over time.
  • Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon - Kleon makes the case that sharing your creative process is key to success. The book gives advice on documenting work, getting feedback, collaborating, and building an audience. Kleon wants creators to open up their methods to inspire others. The book makes some counterintuitive arguments for how showing unfinished and imperfect work can build meaningful connections.

This expanded list covers some essential graphic design books that can provide knowledge, inspiration, and practical skills to designers of all levels. Building a personal library of books like these is one of the best ways for any designer to keep learning and improving their craft.

Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:

1-on-1 Creative Career Coaching: A 90 minute call to help you get unstuck in your creative career and reach new heights. Think of it like a therapy session...only we're working to turn your passion into an even more successful profession.

Make Your Work
Suck Less

Pulling back the curtain on the creative process to help make your work a little less terrible. A 3-minute read delivered each week on Monday morning.

The Calculated Creative

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to The Calculated Creative.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.