We've done some extensive research and found these brilliant free ebooks for you to download and read – but let us know in the comments if you've come across a good book we've missed!
There has always been a healthy market for commercial books written by experts, and this isn't likely to change any time soon: sometimes there's just no substitute for splashing your cash and getting high quality content in return. That said, there's a growing movement towards free and freemium content on the web, and the quality of the content is often on a par with the books you'd part cash for.
Obviously nobody can afford to print and distribute free books (with the exception of the excellent World Book Night movement), but in this age of tablets, smartphones and laptops the electronic book offers a fantastic, and very cheap, way to spread this content.
So, with all that in mind, what content can you get for free in the field of graphic and web design? You could check out this list of free books for web designers, but if it's ebooks covering a broader design remit that you're after a quick search on your favourite search engine will reveal hundreds of offerings, making it difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff. But we've saved you the trouble, so here goes...
Let's start at the very beginning with this guide to the industry standard graphics package. If, somehow, you've never set eyes on Photoshop before, this free ebook by Steve Bark will explain the fundamentals for you, from panels and tools to layers and basic printing.
If it's just a little too basic for you, never fear; there's also an intermediate guide available that covers more advanced subjects such as vector tools, smart objects and clipping masks.
If you're designing for the web and want your layouts and interfaces to be accessible and visually intuitive, this free ebook from UXPin is an invaluable resource. It explains how size, colours, space, layout, and style affect visual understanding, provides tips for designing clear visual hierarchies, and includes 18 examples of great sites including MailChimp and RelateIQ.
Whether you're already freelance or thinking of making the jump, this ebook from Route One Print is full of useful freelance advice, with tips on how to market your business, find your USP, licence your work, manage client relationships, complete tax returns and much more.
You won't learn much about how to design from Frank Chimero's book, but it'll make you think about why you design. It's a short, accessible book about the creative process and the intersection of storytelling, craft and improvisation that, hopes Chimero, will inspire you to look at what you do in a whole new light.
The free ebook Flat Design & Colors by UXPin dives deep into the most powerful techniques for creating highly usable yet visually interesting web designs. Their design team compiled advice from experts and illustrated their points using examples from 40 companies like Google, Squarespace, and others.
In this report, Jonathan Follett from Involution Studios examines from a designer's perspective the ways emerging technologies are affecting the product lifecycle, and explores various options for companies looking at new ways of approaching product design and development. Even if you're not specifically in the business of product design, this freebie is an eye-opener.
Whether you're new to logo design or just want to swat up on some tips and tricks, the 'Everything There is to Know About Logo Design' e-book is a great little guide to get you going. In this 25-page guide, you’ll learn the basics of what a logo is, rules for creating a logo and other things to consider like colours and typography.
Jarrod Drysdale is a designer writer who focuses his articles on getting the best out of your work. This is a sort of continuation of sis previous book 'Bootstrapping Design', in which he collects all of his previous essays into one, free e-book. Topics such as 'Think like a designer' and 'Get out of a creative rut' are just some of the titles on offer.
The Pixel Perfect Precision (PPP) Handbook from leading digital design agency ustwo has come a long way since it was first released four years ago. What started as 108-page simple guide to best practice with pixels and Photoshop, has grown into PPP3 - a whopping 214-page designer bible.
Co-founders Nicole Smith and Richard Tapp explain the concept: "It's a mini resource for your creative projects and food for your creative thoughts. We’ve included our own valuable references and resources we know and trust as a means to help you get your projects done. We want to give you the creative push from a direction you may not have thought of, be it informative, inspirational, or simply entertaining."
Iconic designer Massimo Vignelli, who sadly died in May after a long illness, didn't just like to create good design: he was also passionate about sharing its principles, rules and criteria so others could do the same. His landmark book The Vignelli Canon uses numerous examples to convey applications in practice from product design via signaletics and graphic design to corporate design. And best of all, in 2009 he made it available for free as a PDF.
This excellent 27-page ebook details the 10 key classifications for typography, providing the basic understanding you'll need to gain a grasp of the fundamentals of type selection. The book covers a brief history for each of the classifications, as well as the core characteristics of the style.
Over the course of 149 pages the different tools and options within each package are broken down, illustrating how to produce files for print that will provide accurate colour reproduction, pixel-perfect transparency matting and sharp lines.
More of a manifesto than a traditional book, 'How to be Creative' offers a useful set of headline approaches to maximising your creativity, with the author Hugh MacLeod offering some insight into his own personal experience of why each is a useful and/or important technique or lesson to spur you on.
This ebook tells a parable, using a semi-fictional scenario to illustrate the importance of pricing your work at the right level. The book itself will take an hour or two to read, and really focuses only one core message, but it's a valuable lesson for designers starting out in business for themselves.
The book focuses mainly on design and best practices for non-profit organizations, but the content is a great resource in general and the teachings can be applied pretty much anywhere.
You may be insanely creative, but that doesn't translate into success if you're not getting things done effectively. Luckily business coach and trainer Mark McGuinness has distilled his knowledge of what it takes to get original work done in the midst of the demands and distractions of the 21st century workplace into a free 32-page ebook.
It's full of practical advice aimed to help you achieve your artistic and professional goals, with subjects including finding the method in your creative madness, identifying and prioritising your most important work, and getting in the right state of mind for focused work.
Another manifesto from the ChangeThis.com website, this offering from author Stephen Hay - one of the speakers at our Generate conference - provides a methodology for converting client input (which may often be extremely vague!) into a meaningful design approach. As with Hugh MacLeod's book, this free PDF offers a personal insight into the process, demonstrating its value.
Matthew Butterick is a designer who's also a lawyer (or perhaps a lawyer who's also a designer), and his free typography volume (if you find it useful he offers a few suggestions on ways to pay him) is a suitably thorough collection of all the things you always wanted to know about typography but were afraid to ask. The 'Typography in ten minutes' opening chapter is as good a typographical primer as you'll find anywhere, and from there it goes on to cover pretty much everything with the right mix of detail and clear language.
Inspiration from the best celebrity, fashion, and street photographers in LA. Curator Freddy Martinez says: "The creative work that is made in Los Angeles is unrivaled. We created the Los Angeles collective to teach you how to shoot like the best." And, indeed, you don't have to be a photographer to get design inspiration from this book.
This is an updated version of an article that previously appeared on Creative Bloq.