Must-Read Books on Graphic Design

There are fundamentals, skills, and techniques that every designer should know. The books on this list are a great place to start learning.

Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton (2010)

Designers need to be able to “see” type not just as words, but as a graphic element. Thinking With Type explores typography at three levels — Letter, Text, and Grid — and reveals how designers can manipulate these elements to create a cohesive layout. It also includes insight on considerations like choosing a typeface, size, alignment, spacing, and creating a hierarchy. An excellent guide that can help build a deep understanding of typography. 

Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Dos and Don’ts by Sean Adams, Peter Dawson, John Foster, and Tony Seddon (2020)

Fun and informative, this book is a perfect read for designers and nondesigners alike. Focusing on the basics, each entry starts with a Thou Shall or Thou Shall Not rule, followed by commentary from an experienced designer. Covering topics like creative thinking, typography, layout, and production, GDR: 365 is a useful reference for anyone interested in better design. 

Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte (1990)

Today’s readers need content to be engaging, easy to understand — and visual. Long considered the authority on data visualization, Tufte’s book is essential reading. Its central tenet is that “good design is clear thinking made visible,” and it’s packed with both practical advice and fascinating examples, including maps, diagrams, and courtroom exhibits.

Powered by Design: An Introduction to Problem Solving with Graphic Design by Renée Stevens (2020)

Problem solving is an essential (and underrated) skill all designers need to cultivate. In Powered by Design, Stevens addresses relevant topics such as ethics and accessibility, coupled with practical tips on design fundamentals. Approaching design from a uniquely human perspective, this book can help designers foster a sense of curiosity and purpose in their work.

The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett (2010)

With the explosion of digital content, UX design has become a critical skill. In this book, Garrett helps UX designers navigate considerations like “clean code,” engaging graphics, and usability to create seamless, user-centered experiences.

Designing For Emotion by Aaron Walter (2011)

A quick, to-the-point read, Designing for Emotion is full of great information on how to infuse design “with personality.” Walter considers design a true craft, and discusses how designers can combine the visual and the practical to create unique visuals and user experiences.

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