The best graphic design books can help designers at any stage of their career. To curate this list, we've used our own knowledge over 10 years reporting on design, and asked our industry-specialist contributors to pitch in. We’ve included both classics and new titles, and have selected informative, insightful, and enjoyable books. For each title, you'll find direct links to retailers near you that have the best price.
Whether you’re a newbie wanting to read the essentials, an experienced pro seeking inspiration and developing critical skills, or just buying a gift for the graphic designer in your life, we’ve got you covered. You may also want to check out our guides to the best branding books, the best drawing books, and the best illustration books.
The best graphic design books
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Logo and branding books
The best book on brand identity
+ Outstanding resource
+ Engaging writing
Alina Wheeler’s best-selling guide is a design classic still relevant to a modern audience, given its five updates. It’s split into three sections, providing in-depth guidance for designers and entire branding teams. This latest version includes expanded coverage of contemporary tools including social media, SEO, experience branding, phones, and more.
A visual guide to building a brand
+ Opens up process
+ Genuinely useful
Famed designer Michael Johnson divides the branding process into five steps in this must-read guide. But he doesn't oversimplify: he acknowledges its non-linear nature with a crucial half-step, marking the fluid relationship between strategy and design. A no-nonsense, six-question model structures the first half; the second analyses the design process.
A fascinating look at logos from the past
+ Thousands of historic logos
+ Fantastic overview
Jens Müller’s book is even more fascinating, observing the history of logo design from 1870 to 1940 with a treasure trove of examples. Themes include symbols with people or landscapes and geometric shapes, and it's a fascinating overview of evolving trends and how logos have (generally) become more simplified.
General graphic design
Smart career advice from a design great
+ Very engaging
+ Useful tips
We found Anthony Burrill's Work Hard & Be Nice to People to be sharp and concise, with Burrill's heart and lack of pretension make for an enthralling read. This inspiring account of what Burrill values in creatives is a re-worked version of his previous book Make it Now, with added material.
How to build your name in the profession
+ Important lessons
+ Useful ideas
+ Imaginatively written
Even the most talented designers won't get anywhere if no one sees their work. From the author of the bestselling Steal Like an Artist, this book offers some pointers on how to reach an audience and build a name. It's filled with illustrations, pointers and examples, and is great for dipping in and out of.
How to thrive as a designer
+ Great infographics
+ Funny and clear
+ Helpful sections
At university, you learn a lot of theory, but less about how things work in practice. This book offers practical pointers on navigating agency life in a highly amusing and irreverent manner, and we found its infographics and flow diagrams brought creative processes like pitching and giving feedback to life.
Expert advice on being successful
+ Top practical advice
+ Philosophical guidance
+ Intelligent writing
Full of honesty and plain speaking, and low on waffle and jargon, How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul is full of sound advice on getting a design job, setting yourself up as a freelancer, founding your own company, dealing with clients, pitching and more.
A guide to how studios think and work
+ Great insights
+ Beautiful design
+ Bang up to date
This book demonstrates theory in action through branding campaigns by major design studios, accompanied by illuminating interviews with many of the creatives involved. With an emphasis on collaboration and working across multiple touchpoints, this is an inspiring and informative guide to modern design. See our full review for more details.
How to run a design business
+ Sound advice
+ Great case studies
+ Refreshingly written
David Airey, author of Logo Design Love, gets a lot of questions about running a design business, and he answers them in this refreshingly straightforward guide. Touching on everything from the mindset needed to taking your first steps in business, this is a must-read for any entrepreneurial designer.
A witty primer on the design industry
+ Honest and witty
+ Great for graduates
- Poor binding
This book is fantastic for graduates. Craig Oldham takes a frank, often irreverent, approach, tackling big questions around jobseeking and making money from graphic design through his own experiences. There are sections on education, portfolios, jobs, working processes and personal development.
Iconic designer’s must-read manifesto
+ Incredible resource
+ Insightful essays
+ Steven Heller afterword
Known as the godfather of modern branding, this is the best of Paul Rand’s books. It probes deeply into the process of graphic design: why it's important; the impact it can have; what works, what doesn't, and most importantly, why. A book to be read thoroughly, rather than flipped through.
A revealing collection of essays
+ Engaging and witty
+ Wide-ranging insights
-Not many illustrations
This collection of short essays by graphic designer, critic and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut covers all kinds of design issues, from how to draw to tributes to designers and listicle-type articles, as well as Bierut’s own anecdotes. See our more in-depth review for more details.
How tech influences communication
+ Seminal text
+ Range of subjects
+ Academic and practical
Visual communication rests on the power of semiotics, a concept that David Crow examines in expert detail in this seminal book. Dealing with the principles of written communication and its relationship to imagery, and rounded off with an examination of audience understanding, this is a valuable assessment of design theory.
An insider’s guide to design practice
+ Wealth of insight
+ Wide-ranging topics
+ Career guidance
Another excellent book from Adrian Shaughnessy, this guide is an invaluable resource that covers everything you need to know to survive and prosper in the ever-shifting world of graphic design - and won’t have been taught at design school. Topics include annual reports, budgeting, kerning, presenting, dealing with rejection, and more.
Graphic design theory
The definitive guide to grids
+ Invaluable resource
+ Detailed examples
+ Very informative
This book remains the definitive word on using grid systems in graphic design. Written by legendary Swiss graphic designer Josef Mülller-Brockmann, this visual communication manual is packed with examples on how to work correctly at a conceptual level. It’s a must-read for any student or practising designer.
A design classic that never dates
+ Classic design book
To create successful work that's designed to be seen, you need to understand how people see things. That's where Ways of Seeing comes in. Written by art critic and painter John Berger and based on a BBC TV series, this bestseller explores the way we view art.
A classic title on colour theory
+ Must-read textbook
+ Insightful exercises
- Not user-friendly
This longstanding, essential classic comes from Josef Albers, a hugely influential artist-educator and member of the Bauhaus group in the 1920s. It’s not exactly user-friendly, and is rather lacking in visual engagement, but contains life-changing insight into how colours react when seen by the human eye.
Graphic design history
Interesting design history book
+ Very thorough
+ Beautiful visuals
+ New edition
This informative and engaging history of graphic design has been updated for the latest edition. Organised chronologically, the book traces the impact of historical events on graphic designers working in print and film, now including the latest web, multimedia and emerging digital technologies.
Comprehensive book on a key era
+ Beautifully illustrated
+ Comprehensive resource
This beautiful hardback book is a fascinating, comprehensive resource with over 300 gorgeous illustrations and covers a breadth of work from the golden age of graphic design. It features a series of profiles of designers whose work shaped the contemporary landscape. See our full review for more details.
A revisionist history of graphic design
+ Visual examples
In a world in which even rebellion and anti-consumerist strategies are appropriated, this is an illuminating read. Pater uses clear language and examples to show the links between graphic design and capitalism. We were pleased to find he has some suggestions about what can be done about it too.
Discover the history of 320 typefaces
+ Chronological survey
+ Very readable
+ Historic examples
Written by the artist Paul McNeil, this graphic design book is a treasure for understanding the evolution of typography. From the advent of printing in the fifteenth century right up to the present day, it chronologically examines 320 iconic typefaces to help us understand how they evolved.
Great for typography and its history
+ The ultimate manual
+ Covers basics
+ Wonderfully written
First published in 1992, this history and guide to typography from typographer Robert Bringhurst is a design industry classic. It's a beautifully written manual combining practical, theoretical, and historical information, but also shares a thoughtful philosophy and understanding of typography.
Invaluable inspiration for making type
+ Inspiring designs
+ Interviews and insight
- Not a “how-to”
Whether as a side project or in hopes of pursuing a career as a type designer, this part-inspiration, part-workbook title by Alex Fowkes provides a flying start. Featuring real-world projects and sketchbooks of well-known type designers, this isn't a 'how to' guide, but rather a mixture of insight and inspiration.
Delve into the history of type
+ Detailed history
+ Very engaging read
The right font choice can make or break a design. But to understand why certain typefaces resonate with people, you need to understand their history, which is exactly what Simon Garfield's Just My Type explores.
A tribute to the famous sans serif
+ Historical photos
- Quite expensive
This detailed, beautiful tribute to the world’s second-most famous sans serif is filled with interesting trivia. The book itself is a thing of beauty; embossed silvery type shimmers on the cover and chapters are divided by simple black shapes, creating a playful feel. See our full review for more details.
Illuminating book from Michael Gericke
+ Great photography
+ Very insightful
Pentagram's second longest-service partner Michael Gericke’s Graphic Life is a refreshing exception to generally dull monographs. His 519-page book is filled with photography, offering an almost architectural experience, with detail on the threads that connect the places, stories, and symbols in his work.
A fresh take on the monograph
+ Part memoir
+ Part art book
+ Part meditation
Influential designer Paul Sahre’s book, Two-Dimensional Man, is part monograph, part autobiography, part art book and part reflection on creativity. Combining personal essays that discuss the realities of his 30-year career, this book portrays the designer's life as one of constant questioning, inventing, failing, dreaming, and ultimately making.
Inspiration from a living legend
+ Brilliant insight
+ Fascinating projects
+ Very inspiring
Austria-born designer Stefan Sagmeister’s monograph 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, spans 20 years of his graphic design in depth and complements this book perfectly.
Meet "the designer's illustrator"
+ Great insights
+ Beautiful visuals
Malika Favre is very much a graphic designer's illustrator. Re-released in 2022 as an expanded edition, this large-format book is divided into some of Favre's most frequent themes, with a big focus on women. Showcasing work from across her career, it features some of her New Yorker covers and erotica.
A classic monograph, manual & manifesto
+ Pro industry insight
+ Beautifully written
+ Invaluable resource
Veteran designer and Pentagram New York partner Michael Bierut released this monograph, which also serves as a manual and manifesto, in 2015. Detailing 35 projects, Bierut – who’s a protégé of design legend Massimo Vignelli – illustrates the varied role that graphic design plays in the modern world.
A monograph from the world's leading firm
+ Detailed history
+ Biographies of partners
+ Lots of great work
This is a monograph of one of the world's leading design firms, and it provides a history lesson as well as a journey through visual design over the last 50 years. There are two books, The Directory and The Biography, each are equally fascinating. One for the Pentagram design nerds.
Ideas and inspiration
A hoard of tips and ideas
+ Bite-sized creative advice
+ Real examples
Michael Johnson's Now Try Something Weirder is chock-full of prompts and ideas (233 to be precise) based on his own experiences from over three decades in graphic design. It's very readable in a snappy, economical, and jargon-free way that makes it accessible to anyone, not only designers.
A guide to working in the creative industries
+ 3D illustration
+ Frank, useful advice
+ Real experiences
The second volume of Radim Malinic’s inspirational journal is packed with advice on succeeding in fast-paced creative industries. The designer, who works under the name Brand Nu, shares his musings on creativity and working in design, along with his career learnings. You can read our full review for more details.
An inspirational book on being creative
+ Bite-sized tips
+ Practical advice
+ Easy to follow
Want a book you can dip in and out of whenever you need inspiration? This short and sweet book is a great pick-me-up if you're stuck in a creative rut. With fun diagrams and drawings too, this is a lighthearted yet considerate look at how to be creative.
A look at the key elements of design
+ Ideas from experts
+ Prevents creative block
+ Very insightful
Featuring work by acclaimed designers such as Paul Brand, Neville Brody and Stefan Sagmeister, this book covers the key elements of great design. Authors Steven Hiller and Gail Anderson hone in on professional techniques in an accessible way and discuss colour, narrative, illusion, humour, simplicity, ornaments and more.