After being around the design block for a few years, I’ve come across some really great resources, usually in the form of books. And after years of reading, collecting, buying, and even returning some, I think I have a pretty solid collection now, of which there are 15 that I consider share-worthy.
These 15 books are the crème de la crème of design reads; whether they are the most useful, the most inspirational, or most applicable, I’ve found them priceless in my entrepreneurial journey. Enjoy!
by David Airey
Even though every single one of you should own several copies of this book, I’d be remiss for not mentioning the Bible of logo design. Written in easy-to-understand language, David Airey comes full circle in explaining what logos are, why they’re important, as well as what a healthy logo process should look like. Whether it’s for inspiration or a refresher, I always go back to this when designing a new logo, and the process never fails.
Logo Design Love is the Bible of logo design. Click To Tweet
by Timothy Samara
This is a great hands-on how-to book chock full of beautiful design examples, all based on the concept of organizing layouts along a grid pattern. While a grid may sound boring and restraining to some, the truth is that a strong grid system sets loose creativity, and reigns in chaos. Like any other rule, grid systems are meant to be broken once they’re learned, and this book shows you how to do it properly so that each and every design you do is successful.
by John McWade
Although a little dated, the design principals are still applicable in this hands-on read that helps you take ordinary jobs to the next level. Filled with great examples of before and after, this book offers real-world situations and provides answers as to why a certain design works…or doesn’t.
the Essential Guide to Typography
by James Craig and Irene Korol Scala
Besides being beautifully laid out (and utilizing superb typography), this book covers all the basics of type and clearly explains how to use it. It’s not only a great book for beginners, but also serves as a fantastic refresher. Designing With Type covers everything from serifs to how our eyes read text, to how to use type itself as a graphic element.
The Designer’s Guide to Professional Typography
by Ilene Strizver
Yes, another typography book. But I think having at least several in your collection is vital to your success as a graphic designer, because the fact is, you really can’t be a good designer without being a typographer to some extent.
You can’t be a good designer without being a typographer to some extent. Click To Tweet
And by that I mean knowing and using good typography, which this book will show you how to do. Also covering many of the basics, this is more hands on and provides vibrant examples while challenging the reader with creative projects.
80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
by David Sherwin
I love this book, and I’ve only gotten to exercise 9 or so. This is a great skill-sharpener/creative outlet for designers. The author shows the reader how to tap into creativity on demand, as well as how to brainstorm more efficiently. There are 80 exercises in the book, each given as a “real-world” problem, with time and project constraints. All in all, it’s a fun hands-on tool that strengthens skills and provides a much needed creative release.
by Susan M. Weinschenk
Many designers gloss over the psychological aspects of designing for humans, which is a big mistake. Dr. Susan Weinschenk draws from a wide variety of research to demonstrate different approaches of getting your message across, whether it’s dividing information into manageable visual chunks, how to select a font size, or what colors influence someone’s buying decisions. Overall, 100 Things is a fascinating read presented in an engaging format.
by Marty Neumeier
Marty Neumeier does a spectacular job taking something as complicated as branding and compacting it into a pocketbook read. Those who are not familiar with branding will quickly “get it,” and the rest of us will finally have something concrete to explain to clients. After reading this book, you will understand what a brand is and isn’t, and, more importantly, how to bridge that gap between strategy and execution where all the magic takes place.
by Blair Enns
Reader beware, this little ominous book is not for the weak at heart. Other than the creepy cover, Win Without Pitching is a gem among stones. Written in the spirit of the manifesto, the author takes the reader through 12 mantras that every designer should consider if they want to be successful and enjoy doing so. Blair Enns covers topics such as the importance of specializing, talking about money early on, and becoming an expert in your field, among 9 other goodies.
Business Secrets for Designers
by Shel Perkins
“Why didn’t they teach this in design school?” is probably what every reader of this book exclaims in enlightened frustration. Talent aside, no designer wants to become the starving artist, which is precisely what Shel Perkins sets out to prevent. You will learn how to find a job, how to do taxes as a freelancer, the legal issues of running your own business, marketing, pricing, and much more.
Talent alone is not enough to succeed in graphic design. Click To Tweet
How to Win Clients and What to Charge Them
by Ilise Benum and Peleg Top
This was my go-to book as I was starting my own freelance business. Just as Logo Design Love is the Bible for logo design, this could very well be considered the Holy Grail for freelancers. Offering extremely practical advice, this book walks the reader through hands-on exercises and real-world problems. At the end, you will have a defined market, strategies to get clients, and the know-how to write proposals and contracts.
How to Think About It, How to Talk About It, How to Manage It
by Ilise Benum
Ilise Benum does it again! I have found her other books to be so helpful and chock full of good advice, I decided to buy her book dedicated solely to money, since it is my least favorite aspect of freelancing. Ms. Benum does not disappoint. Besides giving creatives a much-needed dose of confidence, the Guide to Money offers practical approaches and easy-to-follow exercises, and introduces how to respond to requests for proposals as well as how to qualify prospects.
Teaching Your Business How to Market Itself
by John Jantsch
I don’t know about you, but I get most of my business from referrals and/or word of mouth. John Jantsch argues that not only are referrals the least expensive form of marketing (it’s free), it’s also the easiest and most effective. He explains how and why referrals work so well, and outlines strategies to capitalize on that method. The advice offered in this book is simple, easy to follow, and always results in more clients.
Now, there are lots of logo/letterhead compilation books out there, and this collection by MINE isn’t the only one or even necessarily the best, but it’s one of my favorites that I keep going back to. Drawing from thousands of entries, this San Francisco based firm has put together an amazing collection of identity design to draw inspiration and awe from. At the very least, every designer should have one or two of these types of books in their collection.
by Olga Gutierrez de la Roza
For some reason, color has always been tricky for me. And by that, I mean choosing any type of solid color, whether it’s for a logo or a font. This book takes the guesswork out of selecting amazing color combinations. The author extracts solid colors from a number of sources, including photographs, fine art, and design, and arranges them into complimentary palettes complete with the RGB and CYMK numbers, ready for use. This has come in handy more times than I can count, and also doubles as swatch samples to show clients.