26 books every graphic designer should read

Every now and then, graphic designers need to recharge their creative batteries – and there are loads of fantastic books out there that offer words of wisdom, design inspiration and refreshers on key principles and techniques.

There are, of course, classic books from the great names of graphic design, but there are also plenty of books you might be less familiar with. Whether you'd like to know more about logos, go further with type, or get to know more about your favourite graphic designers, this list of great books for graphic designers has something for you.

01. Logo Modernism by Jens Müller

Jens Müller compiles the greatest logo designs of the last century and their modernist influence

Taschen produce some truly spectacular books, and this one is no different. Bringing together approximately 6000 trademarks, registered between 1940-80, Jens Müller examines the distillation of modernism in graphic design and how these attitudes and imperatives gave birth to corporate identity.

Müller includes a variety of logos, organised into three chapters: geometric, effect and typographic in order to both educate you as well as provide a comprehensive index of inspirational logo designs to inform your own work.

02.  Two-Dimensional Man by Paul Sahre

Paul Sahre tracks his exceptional 30-year career with a personal touch and plenty of humour

Paul Sahre is one of the most influencial graphic designers of his generation and has operated his own design consultancy since 1997. Working out of his office in New York City, his clients have included The New York Times, Google and Marvel Comics and he lectures graphic design all over the world.

His book, Two-Dimensional Man is part monograph, part autobiography, part art book and part reflection on creativity; combining personal essays discussing the realities of living creativity during his 30 year career and proving that throughout highs and lows, humour can be a saving grace.

03. Show Your Work!: 10 things nobody told you about getting discovered by Austin Kleon

Kleon manages to condense all his helpful tips and tricks into one pocket sized manual

In his follow up to New York Times best-seller, Steal Like An Artist (another must-read), author and writer, Austin Kleon reveals what can be the most challenging part of your career as a designer - how to get your work seen. 

Kleon is full of helpful hints and tips on how to become findable, how to appeal to the community and use the network to sell your work. If nothing else, it's a useful little pocket guide to remind you to be open, generous, brave and productive!

04. The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson

A visual design bible to inspire and refresh your fundamental knowledge

This book covers all the key elements of great design, featuring seminal works from acclaimed designers such as Paul Brand, Neville Brody and Stefan Sagmeister it's sure to spark inspiration and keep those creative juices flowing.

Honing in on those professional techniques, author Steven Hiller and graphic designer Gail Anderson refresh your knowledge on colour, narrative, illusion, humour, simplicity, ornaments and more. 

05. How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

Big names are featured in this packed book

Sound advice from Adrian Shaughnessy on gaining employment, setting up as a freelancer, forming a company, dealing with clients, pitching and loads more.

As graphic design books go, this is 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.

06. Just My Type by Simon Garfield

The history and power of typography

Graphic designers are trained to look at type faces, but Simon Garfield's book will encourage you to look even closer, taking in the rich history of fonts, as well as looking at their powers. A well chosen font communicates to the reader on an almost subliminal level and it can make (or break) a design.

07. The Little Know-It-All: Common Sense for Designers by Silja Bilz

Perhaps the most useful book a designer can own

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.

08. Illustration Play by Victionary

The cover is gorgeous – and actually a good indication of what's inside

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.

09. Graphics Alive 2 by Viction:ary

Graphics Alive is full of inspiration

Exploring the omnipresent power of graphic design and illustration in today’s society, Graphics Alive 2 (the first book also being great) 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 graphic language of Neville Brody

Designer monographs The graphic language of Neville Brody

Neville Brody's book is on the reading list of every self-respecting design course

You'll find this book on the must-read list on every self-respecting graphic design course, and with good reason. Neville Brody may now be president of D&AD and head up Research Studios' global studio network, but it was arguably his 1980s heyday that had the biggest impact on contemporary graphic design.

First published in 1988, The Graphic Language of Neville Brody explores the thought process behind some of his best-known work, including his genre-defining art direction of The Face magazine.

11. Designed by Peter Saville

Designer monographs Designed by Peter Saville

Peter Saville's monograph covers The Factory era in detail

Like Brody, Peter Saville famously built his reputation in the 1980s with iconic album artwork for Factory Records-signed bands such as Joy Division and New Order - but this 2003 publication was the first to chronicle his career.

Starting in 1978, it inevitably covers the Factory era in detail but also explores Saville's design and art direction for the fashion and advertising industries, taking in brands such as Dior, Stella McCartney and London's Whitechapel gallery.

12. Love Song by Non-Format

Designer monographs Love Song

Modern Studio Non-Format's 2007 monograph is packed with imagery and insight

An iconic studio for the modern age, Non-Format is a fruitful transatlantic collaboration between Oslo-based Kjell Ekhorn and US-based Brit Jon Forss. 

This 2007 monograph is packed with awe-inspiring imagery and insight into the duo's creative process over five years between 1999 and 2003, from advertising work for Coke and Nike to stunning art direction for The Wire magazine.

13. Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far by Stefan Sagmeister

Designer monographs Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far by Stephan Sagmeister

Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far revolves around 21 thought-provoking phrases

Austria-born, New York-based designer Stefan Sagmeister has hit the headlines a couple of times in the few years with his nude promotional shenanigans, but his two monographs, published in 2008 and 2009, are all about his creative approach and output.

Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far revolves around 21 thought-provoking phrases, transformed into typographic works for various clients around the world and has been since updated. His second text, Made You Look, is fully illustrated with a red PVC slipcase and spans 20 years of his graphic design in depth. The two complement each other excellently.

14. The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

Designer monographs The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

The Art of Looking Sideways questions the way designers think

Alan Fletcher, the legendary co-founder of Pentagram, penned various thought-provoking tomes during his illustrious graphic design career, but The Art of Looking Sideways is perhaps the best known - questioning the way designers think about everything from colour to composition.

Once you've digested his seminal text, give Picturing and Poeting a go, exploring the link between imagery and meaning through a series of visual mind-teasers, games and visual puns, assembled from his personal notebooks and diaries. Another great work by Fletcher, Beware Wet Paint, is a more conventional monograph, looking back over 35 years of inspiring work and putting it all in the context of Fletcher's remarkable thought process.

15. A Designer's Art by Paul Rand

Designer monographs A Designer s Art by Paul Rand

A Designer's Art probes the process of graphic design

Heralded by many as one of the fathers of modern branding, Paul Rand has several inspiring books to his name. Design, Form and Chaos is unfortunately out of print, but if you can track down a copy it's worth it to immerse yourself in his talent for simplicity, and to explore the thinking behind some of his best-known identities.

A Designer's Art, meanwhile, probes more deeply into the process of graphic design in general: why it's important; the impact it can have on society; what works, what doesn't, and most importantly, why.

16. Perverse Optimist by Tibor Kalman

Designer monographs Perverse Optimist by Tibor Kalman

Perverse Optimist is a weighty tome

Written by Tibor Kalman and edited by Peter Hall and Michael Bierut, this is another notoriously hard-to-obtain volume which, like Rand’s Design, Form and Chaos, is sadly out of print. Dedicated to the visionary editor-in-chief of Colors magazine and creative director of Interview, Perverse Optimist is a weighty tome by any standards, and packed with high-impact images and insightful analysis of the art direction process behind them.

17. Pentagram: Marks

Designer monographs Pentagram Marks

Pentagram: Marks reproduces 400 identities the agency has created

Unsurprisingly, given its status as arguably the world's most famous design agency, Pentagram has attracted its fair share of monographs over the decades: seven so far and still counting Marks simply reproduces four hundred of the hugely diverse identities that the agency has created since 1972. An incredible cross-section of design history.

18. M to M of M/M (Paris)

Designer monographs M to M of M M Paris

M to M of M/M (Paris) chronicles two decades of stunning work

It was a long time coming, but this definitive 528-page monograph of the iconic Parisian duo Michaël Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak, aka M/M (Paris), was worth the wait.

Chronicling two decades of stunning work spanning the worlds of music, fashion and fine art, it's presented as a reshuffled alphabetical dictionary, starting and ending with M. The studio's highly distinctive, unique approach to type, print design, drawing and photography shines throughout.

19. Palette No 4: Neon, New Fluorescent Graphics by Victionary

flourescent colours in print

An ode to the neon colour palette

Picking the right colour palette for your design work is always a difficult decision. Whilst some favour the more understated, others opt for the bold and bright. This beautiful 296-page book showcases the applications of fluorescent colours in the design world, examining where they work best. 

Including branding, interior design, and fashion, a total of 110 loud and colourful projects, by designers across the globe, are featured.

20. A Logo for London by David Lawrence

All about the London tube logo

London's Underground system is over 150 years old, and this book tells you all you need to know about the famous London Transport logo design. A Logo for London celebrates the instantly recognisable bar and circle, also known as the bullseye. 

With 250 colour illustrations, this charming and informative tome charts the history and development of the symbol from the early 20th century to the present day.

21. Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong

super graphic A visual guide to the comic book universe

Your comic book questions are answered with an array of infographics

What is the Joker's favourite question for Batman? Are there more deaths by human or by zombie in The Walking Dead? Those are just some of the questions answered in this book via an array of inspirational infographics. 

Even if you're not a comic book fan, the variety of infographic styles on offer will bring you tons of inspiration.

22. Geometric Two by Kapitza

Geometric Two

Geometric Two is another book in Kapitza's inspiration bow

Kapitza is a multi-disciplinary design studio run by sisters Nicole and Petra Kapitza who share a passion for print, pattern, nature, minimalism and colour. Geometric Two is a pattern book that showcases their love of all things bold, bright and symmetrical.

It's a treasure trove of new ideas for the colour and pattern enthusiast - ideal for print and pattern fans, art book lovers, students and professionals alike.

23. ExtraBold by Serial Cut

ExtraBold book cover

There's even AR content with this book

Established in 1999, Spanish design studio Serial Cut has become renowned for creating slick, bold, homogenous artworks from seemingly opposing aesthetics. And these are beautifully presented in this attractive tome. The agency persuaded nine internationally renowned artists and studios to create exclusive work for this release - special remixes of Serial Cut's playful and energetic creative work.

Ever-trailblazing, the studio has paired this, its first monograph, with a special augmented reality app. The ExtraBold app provides easy access to additional multimedia content for the 150 Serial Cut projects featured in the book, including 3D virtual figures, 'making of' videos, commercial videos, zoom images, and navigable websites.

24. Tangible: High Touch Visuals

Exciting spatial and visual work by young creatives

We love the cover, the content… in fact, we love the whole idea behind Tangible, which is: "Graphic-inspired design, objects and spaces by creatives that are producing striking visual and spatial work". 

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.

25. Left to Right by David Crow

Visual communication rests on the power of semiotics, a concept that David 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.

26. The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson by Lewis Blackwell

Designer monographs The End of Print The Grafik Design of David Carson

The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson provides great insight into the iconic designer's process

If Brody and Saville defined the 1980s, Carson conquered the 1990s with his unconventional approach to page design, using distorted type and fragmented imagery that played with notions of legibility - particularly during his tenure as art director of Ray Gun.

He went on to work with a stellar client list that includes Pepsi, Nike, Armani, Levi's, Sony and MTV. While the approach outlined in The End of Print is very much of its time, the insight that the book provides into the iconic surfer/designer's process is unrivalled.

Liked that? Then read these next: