There's always been a healthy market for design 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 with cash for. Clearly nobody can afford to print and distribute free physical books, but in this age of tablets, smartphones and laptops the electronic book offers a fantastic, and very cheap, way to spread this content. If you do have some cash to spare, take a minute to browse our guide to the best graphic design books – you can be sure you won't be wasting your money.
If you are inspired by these ebooks, and in need of other incredible freebies to get your project started, check out our selections of the best free graphic design software and the best free fonts for designers.
So, what content can you get for free in the field of design? A quick search on your favourite search engine will reveal hundreds of ebook offerings, making it difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff. But we've saved you the trouble, so here goes...
01. Pay Me or Else!
Sooner or later, every designer is going to come up against a client who, for whatever reason, won't pay up come invoice time. Lior Frenkel from nuSchool has been in this situation plenty of times, so he's written a book on how to deal with such clients. It's broken up into three parts: the first is about the best tactics for getting clients to pay up, the second looks into why clients don't pay, and the third part covers strategies for avoiding bad clients and working in a way that covers you in almost every situation.
Attention, says Oli Gardner, is a limited resource; every link and banner you add to a web page, while serving a purpose, also serves to distract your users and deplete their mental energy. If you want to eliminate unwanted distractions from your websites, this book hopes to help you out. Gardner outlines techniques for achieving visual simplicity through psychology and interaction design, with plenty of real-life examples to help you ramp up your conversion rate.
Starting life as a talk in 2010, Frank Chimero's self-published The Shape of Design was an early design community Kickstarter success, getting funded on its first day, and has since become essential foundational reading, not just in design education but in other creative practices, too.
Focusing on the mindset of making rather than tools and methods, it asks: what are the opportunities, problems and possibilities of the creative practice? And once the work is done, what happens when it is released into the world?
Why settle for just one free ebook when you can have three? The DesignBetter.co library from InVision aims to help you build a strong design practice.
This collection of definitive books, written by Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery, explores how the best companies approach product design, design thinking, design leadership and more.
As the title suggests, this free ebook from Route One Print brings together key pieces of advice from experienced graphic designers – including Jacob Cass (aka Just Creative) and Brent Galloway – to make your life easier. "From client management to typography, brand identity to finding alternative textures in Photoshop, this ebook offers practical tips for designers and showcases new ways to think about design," says the blurb.
It also promises to reveal which fonts the designers never use. Is it Comic Sans? Helvetica? We guess you'll have to download it to find out. Route 1 offers a whole range of ebooks for designers in fact, including The Freelancer’s Bible (below) and The Design Comedy: How to deal with the 9 stages of client hell.
06. Brand House Book
If you're having problems getting to grips with the world of branding, this free ebook by Roger Lindeback can help you out by taking away all the jargon and relating it to everyday experience.
In the Brand House Book, Lindeback aims to make branding tangible by comparing it to building a house. He breaks it down into six manageable stages – dreaming, planning, starting work, designing, building and finally getting the details right – with a branding summary at the end of each stage, setting out all the important issues to think through in your brand building process.
Not one but three free ebooks in one handy bundle, The Practical Interaction Design Bundle consists of three free volumes from UXPin, comprising over 250 pages of design best practices and with over 60 examples of the best UX design.
Volumes 1 and 2 of Interaction Design Best Practices will take you through techniques, theories and best practices relating to the tangibles of interaction design - words, visuals and space - while volume 2 tackles the intangibles: time, responsiveness and behaviour.
Topping off the bundle is Consistency in UI Design, covering how and when to maintain consistency in your design, and when to break it to draw attention to elements - without suffering the drawbacks.
If you're after a beginner-friendly guide to getting started with Photoshop, 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. It includes tips on how to market your business, find your USP, licence your work, manage client relationships, complete tax returns and much more.
The free ebook Flat Design & Colors by UXPin dives deep into the most powerful techniques for creating highly usable yet visually interesting web designs.
The design team compiled advice from experts and illustrated their points using examples from 40 companies such as Google, Squarespace, and others.
If you're looking to add a touch of 3D art to your designs, this free ebook on Houdini will help get you started. Learn all about the tools and techniques you will use as a Houdini artists then run through three lessons that teach you how to build simple projects from scratch.
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 his previous book Bootstrapping Design (now discontinued), in which he collects all of his previous essays into one, free ebook.
Topics such as 'Think like a designer' and 'Get out of a creative rut' are just some of the titles on offer in this selection.
The Pixel Perfect Precision (PPP) Handbook from leading digital design agency ustwo has come a long way since it was first released. What started as a 108-page simple guide to best practice with pixels and Photoshop has grown into handbook number 3 - a whopping 214-page designer bible.
Created by Kooroo Kooroo, The Creative Aid is a free book jam packed full of inspiration and available to download today.
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."
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.
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.
Another manifesto from the ChangeThis.com website, this offering from author Stephen Hay 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.