The Best Graphic Design Books You Should Read

best graphic design books

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The Best Graphic Design Books

These are the best graphic design books you should read. We’re fans of lifelong learning at Nonstop Signs, so we thought we’d share books every graphic designer should read. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned veteran, you will hopefully find something to pique your curiosity on this list.

Best Graphic Design Books #1: 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design

This book is good to get a broad overview of the graphic design and also the ideas that have helped shape it. A hundred entries in the book are arranged chronologically and so as of cover a variety of topics. Expect to learn about overprinting, split fountain, and rub-on designs. The book is authored by Steven Heller, who is the co-founder of the MFA in Design Criticism program at SVA in New York.

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Best Graphic Design Books #2: Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

We have covered iconic logos on this blog before, and also there is a good reason for that. Logos not only help define the brands they represent but can also influence pop culture. Grab this book to read some interesting case studies from successful graphic designers that have worked with so big clients. The book also covers how to create a brief, what to charge for designs, and how to work with clients.

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Best Graphic Design Books #3: Survive The Corporate World And Go Freelance As A Creative Designer

The thought of freelancing can make even the most adventurous professional hesitate. It’s a cut-throat world out there, and far so many freelancers are living hand to mouth. This book is a handy guide on how to navigate the world of freelancing as a graphic designer. The book not only covers the mechanics of securing clients and making a living but also goes into the networking aspect of freelancing.

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Best Graphic Design Books #4: Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything

Aaron James Draplin has worked with huge brands from Ford Motors to The Obama Administration. Now in the middle of his career, Draplin has put together this book that details some of the most exciting lessons he has learned along the way. It includes case studies, tutorials, lists, inspirational quotes, and general life advice for graphic designers.

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Best Graphic Design Books #5: The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters

This book is neatly organized into sections covering different elements of graphic design. Each part is, in turn, showcasing examples from some of the most successful graphic designers. Some of the themes covered in the book concern type fonts, form, decorations, and also general narrative running through design. Grab this one and be inspired by fifty of the greats.

Best Graphic Design Books
The best graphic designers have read the best graphic design books — fact.

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Best Graphic Design Books #6: Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills

Staying competitive in the market requires you to sharpen your skills continuously. You better believe that your competitors are doing it. This book is designed to keep you focused by providing you with 80 different challenges to push your limits. The challenges include brainstorming techniques and timed tasks. Each challenge is also accompanied by examples from well-known graphic designers to inspire you.

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Best Graphic Design Books #7: The Non-Designer’s Design Book

It has never been easier to learn a new skill than it is today. All you have to do is pick from an infinite number of free courses and tutorials online. The lines between what constitutes a real designer and an amateur are becoming blurred. Robin Williams has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to design — without necessarily being ‘real’ designers.

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Best Graphic Design Books #8: How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World

Michael Bierut has worked with clients like the New York Times, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harley-Davidson, the New York Jets, the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, and the Yale School of Architecture. Bierut’s CV is near-endlessly impressive. If that isn’t reason enough to pick up his book on how he does his work — we don’t know what would compel you.

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Best Graphic Design Books #9: Graphic Design: The New Basics

Design educator Jennifer Cole Phillips and bestselling author Ellen Lupton have joined forces to write this excellent manual. In it, they explain the underlying techniques that are behind everything from logos to websites. The book also covers more in-depth examinations of typography, scale, hierarchy, transparency, layers, and many more elements.

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Best Graphic Design Books #10: The Typography Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters

Unlike the Graphic Design Idea Book described earlier, The Typography Idea Book is for those more interested in fonts and type. Like its counterpart, this book neatly divides into sections covering everything from typographic rebus to metaphoric construction. The book also features 50 different masters in each of the fields included in the individual articles.

Best Graphic Design Books
Have you found some inspiration among the best graphic design books?

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Best Graphic Design Books #11: Graphic Design School: The Principles and Practice of Graphic Design

Rather than delve into the history of graphic design, this book focuses exclusively on how to design for the modern media. It comes with some tutorials spanning a range of technical fields. Among these are for example User Experience and User Interface Design. Pick this book up to learn about how to designs for social media, and code websites.

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Best Graphic Design Books #12: The Moderns: Midcentury American Graphic Design

This book is for anyone interested in how the graphic design looked like in the middle of the century. In it, you will find profiles of 60 of the designers that helped shape the news, advertising, and entertainment industry of the time. You can see examples of the posters, product packaging, magazines, books, and music art that defined the bygone era.

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Best Graphic Design Books #13: How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul

Most graphic designers choose the trade because they love the design. However, just as musicians don’t like all kinds of music, specific jobs won’t appeal to all graphic designers. Unfortunately, the tasks you don’t want are the only ones that seem to pay. This books will help you avoid selling out, and instead find meaningful work that pays.

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Best Graphic Design Books #14: Logo Modernism

Logo Modernism is a great book to pick up if you want to understand the ideas that have shaped much of cultural as well as corporate history. The book includes over 6,000 designs from the decades of the 1940s through to the 1960s. Every industry from art galleries to retail stores is covered. You will learn about the journey of each brand and how it has changed over time.

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Best Graphic Design Books #15: Grid Systems in Graphic Design: A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers, and Three Dimensional Designers

If you are working in computer-assisted design, then Grid Systems in Graphic Design will be impressive. Muller-Brockman has been working with grid systems since the 1960s and has written this specific book for fellow professionals. The book includes examples on how to use the various methods and how to solve any problems that may arise during a job.

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Best Graphic Design Books #16: Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don’t teach you in design school, but should

Attending graphic design school is by no means a waste of time, but it won’t show you all the ins and outs of the industry. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way. Fortunately, you don’t have to if you pick up Burn Your Portfolio. The book contains real-world techniques for how to build a successful career in the graphic design industry.

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Best Graphic Design Books #17: Graphic Design Thinking (Design Briefs)

There are two schools of thought when it comes to creativity. Some say that creativity is an inborn talent, and others say that it is something that you can learn with enough effort. This book is of the latter school of thought and teaches you how to come up with ideas and execute them. The book is instructional, so you can refer to it as a manual while you work.

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Best Graphic Design Books #18: Know Your Onions

Know Your Onions might have a peculiar title, but the subtitle says it all: How to Think Like a Creative, Act like a Businessman and Design Like a God. The book packs two decades of experience in the field into a handy book that guides you through the steps to become successful. While comprehensive, the language used makes it easily digestible by not being too technical.

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Best Graphic Design Books #19: Logo: The Reference Guide to Symbols and Logotypes

This book is so as widely regarded to be the Bible of logos. It contains an impressive 1,300 grouped into 75 different categories. Whether you are looking for a reference point when designing people, animals, crosses, stars, or also handwriting, this book has it all. However, the catalog draws from the work of major design firms and well-known independent designers.

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Best Graphic Design Books #20: History of Graphic Design: Vol. 1, 1890-1959

Finally, it is always good to know a bit about graphic design history. In many past trends aren’t directly copied by contemporary designers, you also can be sure they have at least inspired them. This book will cover the period beginning at the closing of the 19th century, and work its way to the end of WW2. Landmark projects from this era are covered so comprehensively.

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Brandon Stapper
Brandon Stapper is an entrepreneur and investor. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Nonstop Signs, an industry leading graphic design, print, and sign business with multiple locations throughout the United States. At 20 years old, with no formal education and only a few hundred dollars, Stapper turned a $400 custom decal machine in a garage into an international printing powerhouse focused on helping businesses improve their marketing and branding with everything from retail signage to packaging, to trade show displays.
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