21 design books you must own

With so many new books hitting the shelves, how do you sort the library-worthy from the waste paper? These are the titles no designer should be without.

1. Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far
Author:
Stefan Sagmeister
Publisher: Harry N Abrams
ISBN: 9780810995291
Price: £19.99
Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far is a format that surprises: 15 individual pamphlets showcasing the design work to date of the seminal Sagmeister Inc. Once you get past the novelty of swapping the pamphlets around inside the die-cut, portrait-led cover, you'll find some inspiring and touching maxims. A brilliant approach, incredibly well executed.

2. Non-Format - Love Song
Authors:
Kjell Ekhorn and Jon Forss
Publisher: DGV
ISBN: 9783899551853
Price: £35
The design duo behind CA 163's cover have a truly brilliant body of work. We guarantee that on every page you'll find something that amazes, delights or inspires. From Non-Format's stunning type work for Nike to the slick art direction for The Wire magazine, this is a collection of work you need to have near you at all times. Our only complaint: where's the next part? This book only covers the duo's work from 1999 to 2003.

3. Tangible: High Touch Visuals
Author:
Uleshka
Editors: R Klanten, S Ehmann and M Hubner
Publisher: DGV
ISBN: 9783899552324
Price: £40
We love the cover, the content! in fact, we love the whole idea behind Tangible. Although some of the work featured is bordering on bizarre, for the most part you'll find a glorious exploration of a contemporary art form that's as technically brilliant as it is thought provoking.

4. The Little Know-It-All: Common Sense for Designers
Author:
Silja Bilz
Editors: R Klanten, M Mischler, S Bilz
Publisher: DGV
ISBN: 9783899551679
Price: £23.99
Don't judge this by its cover or size - it's possibly the most useful book you'll own as a designer. Everything from light, colour and perspective to law and marketing are covered in succinct, beautifully carved chapters. It's the kind of book that you never stop reading once you start; the kind you'll always refer back to, making it a winner on pretty much every level.

5. Illustration - Play
Author:
viction:workshop ltd
Publisher: Viction:ary
ISBN: 9789889822934
Price: £25
First up, Illustration - Play has one of the most beautiful, special and intriguing covers you'll see, each one being individually stickered by hand. This is to echo the explorative approach taken by all of the illustrators featured in the book - looking at new ideas and ways to realise concepts within contemporary illustration. A lovely object.

6. How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul
Author:
Adrian Shaughnessy
Publisher: Lawrence King
ISBN: 9781856694100
Price: £17.95
Sound advice from Shaughnessy on gaining employment, setting up as a freelancer, forming a company, dealing with clients, pitching and loads more. It's insightful, intelligent, accessible and simply full of great advice, with the author calling on such luminaries as Neville Brody, Natalie Hunter, John Warwicker and Andy Cruz to help pull together his ideas. A book you'll come back to again and again.

7. The Art of Looking Sideways
Author:
Alan Fletcher
Publisher: Phaidon
ISBN: 9780714834498
Price: £24.95
By exploring how we think and how we understand things, the late Alan Fletcher created a tome that ultimately challenges how you think as a designer. Colour, proportion, style and aesthetic are covered in witty, entertaining nuggets that constantly whirr in the mind. You should also check out Beware Wet Paint, one of Fletcher's other remarkable titles.

8. Left to Right
Author:
David Crow
Publisher: AVA Academia
ISBN: 9782940373369
Price: £24.95
Visual communication rests on the power of semiotics, a concept that Crow examines in expert detail within this seminal text. Dealing with the principles of written communication and its relationship to imagery, and rounded-off with an examination of audience understanding, Left to Right is a valuable assessment of academic yet essential design theory.

9. Graphics Alive
Author:
viction:workshop ltd
Publisher: Viction:ary
ISBN: 9789889822828
Price: £24
Exploring the omnipresent power of graphic design and illustration in today's society, Graphics Alive is not only beautifully designed in itself, but also packed full of highly inspirational T-shirt graphics, shoes, signs, wallpaper and other everyday objects and ephemera that top designers have lent their eye to. An intense, head-hurting experience.

10. The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson
Authors:
Lewis Blackwell and David Carson
Publisher: Chronicle Books/Lawrence King
ISBN: 9781856692168
Price: £25
How could you not have this book in your collection? Carson's exploration of type and visuals may feel a little dated, but there's no denying his revolutionary approach to page design. In terms of pure eye candy and insight into the work of a groundbreaking designer, it's one book you simply must have.

11. Designed by Peter Saville
Editor:
Emily King
Publisher: Frieze
ISBN: 9780952741428
Price: £19.95
Peter Saville is about as iconic as they come. This book, originally published in 2003, was the first to document his incredible career, with a significant focus on his Factory Records work. It's an inspiring, nostalgic and personal discussion of Saville's body of work.

12. Stereo Graphics: Graphics in New Dimensions
Author:
viction:workshop ltd
Publisher: Viction:ary
ISBN: 9789889822903
Price: £25
With work from the likes of Chrissie Macdonald, Hort, Jean Jullien and Mejdej, Stereo Graphics is a stunning showcase of illustrators using construction methods in their work. From paper to wool to warehouse installations, it's a highly organised, intelligent and fascinating tome.

13. Rookledge's Classic International Typefinder
Author:
Christopher Perfect and Gordon Rookledge
Publisher: Lawrence King
ISBN: 9781856694063
Price: £17.95
The web makes it easy to find new and exciting faces, so it's refreshing to get your head stuck in a book full of classic type. That's what Rookledge's definitive tome is: a reference guide to faces that you're always going to want to use, with some clever cross-referencing so you can choose a font based on a special earmark, serif or other detail.

14. Neubau Welt
Authors:
Stefan Gandl, Neubau
Publisher: DGV
ISBN: 9783899550726
Price: £35
Just how many designers have used Neubau's collection of royalty-free vectors? We don't know exactly, but we suspect it's a lot. Crammed full of cars, planes, lamps, people and all sorts of other stuff, it acts as a great resource - particularly for mock-ups and the like when time and budget are tight. At £35, it's something of a bargain.

15. Perverse Optimist
Author:
Tibor Kalman
Editors: Peter Hall and Michael Bierut
Publisher: Booth-Clibborn Editions
ISBN: 9781861540928
Price: Out of print
If you can get your hands on a copy of this for a reasonable price, do. Colors magazine editor-in-chief and creative director of Interview, Kalman was a true visionary. In this heavy (both in form and content) book, his genius is realised. A collection of hard-hitting, powerful, awe-inspiring imagery.

16. Kelvin: Colour Today
Editors:
R Klanten, S Ehmann and B Brumnjak
Publisher: DGV
ISBN: 9783899551969
Price: £45
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, and Kelvin is the perfect example. What do you do when you create a book looking at how colour is used in contemporary design and illustration? You section it by colours, of course. It's a wonderfully executed idea, with the large format perfectly showcasing the colour-coded work. At £45 it's expensive, but worth every penny.

17. Design, Form and Chaos
Author:
Paul Rand
Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 9780300055535
Price: Out of print
Like Perverse Optimist, you may have a few problems finding this, but if you can, it's worth the spend. Rand was the master of simplicity, and for the main part this is an insightful, often funny investigation of some big brand identities (this was published in the early 1990s, though) that rams his point home. Eye Bee M is an example of his work you may be familiar with.

18. It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be
Author:
Paul Arden
Publisher: Phaidon
ISBN: 9780714843377
Price: £4.95
Okay, it's not strictly a design book, but we just couldn't ignore it. Ad man Paul Arden was, frankly, a genius, and this is his finest tome: a bite-sized book of advice offering simple yet inspirational ways to trigger ideas and thought processes. A classic and essential for any creative professional in any field.

19. Sizes May Vary
Author:
Mark Boyce
Publisher: Lawrence King
ISBN: 9781856695435
Price: £14.95
This book and CD (full of templates for designing stationery) isn't as plain as it sounds. There are thumbnail illustrations for composing and visualising layouts, plain and graph paper for sketching, plus notepaper and a poster of international paper sizes. The idea is that you use it as a kind of templated sketchbook. For under £15, it's a lovely book to have.

20. The Graphic Language of Neville Brody
Author:
Neville Brody/Jon Wozencroft
Publisher: Thames and Hudson
ISBN: 9780500274965
Price: £24.95
Like Carson's End of Print, The Graphic Language of Neville Brody is one of those books that you're bound to be familiar with. Documenting his work for The Face and his output during the 1980s, this is a collection that continues to inspire and teach, with some of the captions giving great insight into Brody's thought process.

21. Designing Pornotopia
Author:
Rick Poynor
Publisher: Lawrence King
ISBN: 9781856694896
Price: £17.95
Eye founder Rick Poyner always has a lot to say on design, and Designing Pornotopia is no exception. Within this collection of essays - some short, some long - there are a few real gems. 'Taste-Free Zone' and 'Baring It All' are wonderfully frank, opinionated views on the mediocrity of modern design.