Design Principles

Books to help understand the fundamentals of design

Graphic Design — The New Basics

An excellent cover to cover collection of value for people who are starting out in graphic design.

Steal Like an Artist — 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Guidance and advice for the newbies. You want to become a creative person? Start to look within your own self.

The Art of Looking Sideways

This book is a goldmine for quotes, facts, and details on the use of typography and design. It's not full of lessons, but full of wisdom.

Dieter Rams — As Little Design As Possible

Get into the mind of this design legend and see detailed shots of work, sprinkled with a bunch of design philosophy.

Graphic Design Visionaries

This book showcases seventy-five of the most influential designers. A good look into the contributions of design legends in modern media and design.

The Design Process

Get a fresh picture of the design process by taking a look at the different areas of design and their application.

Art of the Book — Structure, Material, and Technique

When they say print is dead, they talk about what they go over in this book. It is a comprehensive guide to printed volumes, featuring not only finished projects but also the techniques and materials of bookmaking, as well as definitions of the terminology.

Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design

Josef Muller Brockman is one of the best designers with grid and typography.

The Shape of Design

The shape of design covers the areas about the creation of ideas with storytelling, craft, and improvisation.

How To — Michael Beirut

How to is a book that goes over design's impact in recent history over the last century. With titles on "how to" change things with graphic design, this gives vision into the things we do every day as a designer.

Design Strategy

Books about design thinking, design strategy, and applying the design process to your work.

Creative Strategy and the Business of Design

Hands down, this is the best book on translating all of the business terms and marketing jargon into actionable design strategy. This is important for anyone on teams, freelancers, agency owners. This gives you the ability to pare down intense marketing and business objectives and apply it to creative strategy.

Value Proposition Design — How to Create Products and Services Customers Want

Take what you know about designing products and services and pair that with what you need to learn about basing that work off of real-world data. This book is for helping you understand the patterns of great value propositions and the impact of your efforts as a designer.

Pricing Design

This e-book is a must-read for anyone who has to price design. You have no idea what you should charge? Use this book as a springboard to introduce yourself to the world of value based pricing. For the book, it's one of the most cost effective ways to increase your price in a way that's fair to both parties.

The Strategic Designer — Tools & Techniques for Managing the Design Process

How to keep on top of the design process and prove your value to businesses. Your process will help you deal with all the complexity of the real world.

Sprint — How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

The friends from Google Ventures put together an excellent book on design sprints and how to get from idea to MVP(minimum viable product)/prototype within 5 days. This is expanded upon if any of you follow AJ&Smart's design sprint process.

The Decision Book — 50 Models for Strategic Thinking

We're some of the most indecisive departments as designers when it comes to making decisions on important things. This book goes through summaries of popular strategies to choose directions.

Change by Design — How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation

A really holistic view of design thinking along with the design process and methods. It's a look into the reasons why every department should apply design thinking.

101 Things I Learned in Business School

Really interesting book on business terms and philosophy. This isn't necessarily design, but these are things you'll be designing for. It's best to get knowledge of these business terms, and this book can help you.

Freelancing and Agency work

Books to help you run your agency or freelance business better.

Run Studio Run: How to Operate and Grow a small creative studio

This book by Eli Altman was an excellent read. The book is beautifully designed and has a lot of actionable tips for people who want to run a small design studio. As a solo designer of my own studio, I found that there's still some excellent advice on growing your client list, how to bill, how to handle clients, and for the future, how to manage other creatives. This is one to check out for sure.

Designing Together — The collaboration and conflict management handbook for creative professionals

Sometimes if you're freelance, or the only person on a team, it can be pretty demanding trying to do large scale jobs. I hope this book helps you get the right amount of work and results that you can get being a solo-designer.

You're My Favorite Client

Client work can be tricky to navigate. Mike here goes over his ways to build connections with his clients.

Win without pitching manifesto

I cannot recommend this book enough. The book by Blair talks about how to treat your practice as a professional and be seen as a professional by whomever you do business with.

How to Win Friends & Influence People

I wish the title wasn't what it is because this book isn't malicious at all. It's understanding that in order for people to care what you do you have to treat them like people. You become interesting by being interested in others.

Show Your Work!

Learn to promote your work like a pro. Some people are naturals at this, but if you need to get work out there, use this book to get out of your comfort zone.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

I wish the title wasn't what it is because this book isn't malicious at all. It's understanding that in order for people to care what you do you have to treat them like people. You become interesting by being interested in others.

Design is a job

Design is not what you think it is. It's a culmination of the most work you'll do in your life. It's thankfully a very easy read, but highly valuable.

Delivering Happiness — A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Building company culture and building your business in a way most people probably don't. Definitely thinking outside the box with customer service and company culture.

Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!)

Mixed reviews on this one, but it's great for inspirational quotes and thoughts on the creative industry, getting yourself out there, and communicating what you do.

The Compound Effect

Every little thing you do becomes habitual. Those habits can compound on themselves to make or break you. Use this to use habits to your advantage.

How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul

It's okay be a designer, it's okay to be human. It's okay to be both. This book can help you figure out how to survive as a designer.

Branding and Marketing

Books on how brands and marketing affect every buying decision we make.

Identity Designed: The Definitive Guide to Visual Branding

I LOVE this book. It has a lot of in depth case studies from prominent brand identity and logo designs from the companies who designed them. David Airey who wrote it also wrote another book on this list. It's worth a read to see a bit into the process and the identities created.

Don't Call it that.

A book on branding names and the messages behind them. Make sure that you search the sellers because someone's trying to sell one for 900 and that's not the price of the book.

Designing Brand Identity — An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team

One of the better books on the visual aspects of brand identity design. This book has gone over several revisions and I don't think there is plans of stopping. Alina Wheeler's thoughts on this as a brand expert is great for those looking for practical application.

Branding In Five and a Half Steps

Another great book on bridging visual design with business strategy when working on branding and logo design.

Why We Buy— The Science of Shopping

Understanding the power that brands create and how they influence someone to choose them over a competitor.

The Brand Gap— How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design

The gap between designing a brand and the strategy behind it. Great read for brand identity designers.

Start with Why — How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

The entire basis of Simon Sinek's talk, "start with why." This book is really good to go over to learn about the true motivation behind decisions. Essentially instead of jumping straight to work from inquiry, you start by asking the right questions first.

Nice To Meet You Too, Visual Greetings from Business Cards to Identity Packages

This book is great for visual design, personal branding, and business card design.

Marketing for developers

This book is great for visual design, personal branding, and business card design.

Made to Stick— Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Thoughts on how ideas get stuck in your head. Very good read for communication and messaging in branding.


Sell more by standing out. Unconventional marketing tactics to help you get your name out there as a designer.


Books for applying illustration to the business world.

Thinking Visually for Illustrators (Basics Illustration)

A deep dive into visual language and practical applications to find your own voice as an illustrator.

Illustration Play

Exploring trends in the illustration world. Not so much digital as in hands on work, but it's a great look into what else is out there in the field.

Illustration Play 2

Another look at exploring trends in the illustration world. Experimental forms of illustration like papercraft, and other unconventional applications.

Design As Art

This book looks at how art, design, and human beings are intertwined. You'll see a lot of references from many areas of design and illustration and their applications in the real world.

Champagne and Wax Crayons — Riding the Madness of the Creative Industry

History of an illustrator named Ben Tallon and goes over the things that he dealt with during his journey. A way of looking at individuality and it's importance in your career.

Inside the Business of Illustration

This book goes over the things that you'll run into with authorship and promotion as an illustrator. This is a fresh perspective on illustration as art and illustration as a business.

Print Design

Books for learning how to design for print work.

Designing For Print

This by far is the best print design book out there. It's written as a very informative, highly relevant design book to reference for printing in today's era.

It's covering printing methods, how to work with printing companies, how your design decisions affect the printing process. Truly an important book for any designer looking for print guidelines.

Typography and Hand Lettering

Good type is the foundation for nearly every form of design. Here are some great typography books.

Designing Type

One of the most essential tools of graphic design, typography influences the appearance of visual print materials perhaps more than any other component. This essential book explains the processes behind creating and designing type. Every letter itself influences the rest of the design. This is a good look at composition and systems within typography.

The Golden Secrets of Lettering: Letter Design from First Sketch to Final Artwork

By Martina Flor, this book starts out with typography definitions which are very helpful for a good overview up front, especially with making well constructed letters. You'll get a lot of great helpful tips for working with color, becoming a professional lettering designer, pricing, and some good info for doing this full time.

Logo, Font & Lettering Bible

This book by Leslie Cabarga is a celebration almost for the making of type. There's a lot of history on type, guides on lettering basics for digital lettering, and understanding the bezier curves.

The ABC of Custom Lettering: A Practical Guide to Drawing Letters

This is a great step by step guide on how to get lettering styles down. You'll learn how to construct and mix variants of type forms like script, serif, sans-serif. A great book full of tips and guides on creating letters by hand.

Thinking with Type, 2nd revised and expanded edition

A really, really good guide to using typography. This book is a staple for any designer that has to use even a single word. It has terminology, history, (a really helpful guide to grids in design). Get this if you plan on getting into design.

Stop Stealing Sheep and Figure out how Type Works

Demonstrations on typography done the right way. It's well designed and informative. This might be a good starting point into using typography for new designers (or any designer for that matter.)

The Elements of Typographic Style

This book is for the type nerds like us who want to know everything there is to know about the elements of typography. Honestly, I couldn't finish this book because of how dense the information is in here. You learn the effects of rhythm and proportion, character alternatives in fonts and typefaces... really, get this book if you're somebody who builds letters from scratch and uses it in big designs.

Just My Type — A Book About Fonts

You'd probably think that this book goes over modern fonts... You might be surprised that a typeface (like a font) is over 500 years old. There's just so many great fonts that were designed centuries before you were here.

Typographic Design — Form and Communication

A deep dive into the form of letters, typography, and it's uses.

In Progress — See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook and Process from Pencil to Vector

Really good work book on taking sketches and moving them into vector programs to create beautiful hand lettering.

Jost Hochuli — Detail In Typography

A deep dive into letters, letterspacing, words, wordspacing, lines, and columns.

Elegantissima — The Design and Typography of Louise Fili

Very lavish hand lettering and it's application in modern day things. A good inspiration book of Louise Fili.

UI Design

Good books on UI design that focus on layout, grid, and user interaction design.

About Face — The Essentials of Interaction Design

Designing for the human interactions with technology, you need to have some understanding about interaction design principles. About Face is pretty much a really good guide on interaction design and the changes in the industry.

Making and Breaking the Grid — A Graphic Design Layout Workshop

Get good at using the grid. You have to learn the grid before you can break it.

100 things every designer needs to know about people

In order to understand the method of creating user interfaces for people, you need to understand people. Try this one on for size.

The Icon Handbook

Really in depth book on designing icons and the history of using icons in culture and interfaces.

Grid Systems in Graphic Design

Another great grid book. Practice by using the exact instructions on each type of grid.

Make It So — Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction

A look into the way we design interfaces and other things in the realm of science fiction.

Hooked, How to Build Habit-Forming Products

What we do with our time as

UX Design

User experience in everyday things. UX design books for both physical and digital products.

Practical Empathy — For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work

Empathy is something that we designers need to have in order to design products that are specifically meant for those who we intend to present it to.

The User Experience Team of One — A Research and Design Survival Guide

Sometimes if you're freelance, or the only person on a team, it can be pretty demanding trying to do large scale jobs. I hope this book helps you get the right amount of work and results that you can get being a solo-designer.

Evil by Design — Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation

We can design things to influence people's bad habits or use them to feed their good habits. Where you fall in that influence is up to you. I talk a lot about our power to change things and this is definitely one of those I'd recommend.

The Paradox of Choice — Why More Is Less, Revised Edition

How do you know if you've made the right choice? Let's dive into why choice may be less of a choice than you think. Have you noticed nearly all books use yellow and red to get your attention?

Observing the User Experience, Second Edition

This book will help you bridge that gap to understand what your users want and need from your product, and whether they'll be able to use what you've created.

Flow — The Psychology of Optimal Experience

This book will help you understand the psychology of the optimal user experience. Really, you'll get to see what puts people in their creative productive states.

Experience Required — How to become a UX leader regardless of your role

Read this, and you'll start being able to stand up for your choices. Help yourself get your own points across and move changes for the user to the forefront of the designs.

The Design of Everyday Things — Revised and Expanded Edition

You'd be surprised what goes into everyday things. You'd be even more surprised on how people are using those things.

Essentialism — The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Make sure that you aren't focused on having everything. Essentialism is focusing on the discipline of restraint. Something we need as designers.

Don't Make Me Think, Revisited — A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

This is kind of like the guide to making sure that your intended recipient of your design has the easiest way of getting what they want done.

Motion Graphics and Animation Design books

Books for Motion Graphics and the best practices of designing for animation.