Top 10 Best Design Books Should Everyone Read

These Top 10 Design Books deserve a place on your shelf.

The designers come from different backgrounds, some have studied their craft in school, while others are self-taught.

Regardless of your training, it is critical that you understand the fundamentals of the field. These 10 books below will give you a solid foundation - helping you think differently about design and providing inspiration for your next design project.

1- Designing Design

Representing a new generation of designers in Japan, Kenya Hara (born 1958) pays tribute to his mentors, using long overlooked Japanese icons and images in much of his work. In Designing Design, he impresses upon the reader the importance of “emptiness” in both the visual and philosophical traditions of Japan, and its application to design, made visible by means of numerous examples from his own work: Hara for instance designed the opening and closing ceremony programs for the Nagano Winter Olympic games 1998. In 2001, he enrolled as a board member for the Japanese label MUJI and has considerably molded the identity of this successful corporation as a communication and design advisor ever since. Kenya Hara, among the leading design personalities in Japan, has also called attention to himself with exhibitions such as Re-Design: the Daily products of the 21st Century of 2000.

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2- Universal Principles of Design

Whether a marketing campaign or a museum exhibit, a video game or a complex control system, the design we see is the culmination of many concepts and practices brought together from a variety of disciplines. Because no one can be an expert on everything, designers have always had to scramble to find the information and know-how required to make a design work - until now.

Universal Principles of Design is the first cross-disciplinary reference of design. Richly illustrated and easy to navigate, this book pairs clear explanations of the design concepts featured with visual examples of those concepts applied in practice. From the 80/20 rule to chunking, from baby-face bias to Ockham's razor, and from self-similarity to storytelling, 100 design concepts are defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge.

This landmark reference will become the standard for designers, engineers, architects, and students who seek to broaden and improve their design expertise.

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3- Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field

The titles in our best-selling Design Brief series are highly praised by graphic design students, educators, and professionals worldwide as invaluable resources. Each beautifully designed, the affordable volume offers a concise overview of a design fundamentalthe hows of design. But as most seasoned designers will tell you, a comprehensive education also requires an understanding of the whys of design practice. Graphic Design Theory presents groundbreaking, primary texts from the most important historical and contemporary designthinkers. From Aleksandr Rodchenko's "Who We Are: Manifesto of the Constructivist Group" to Kenya Hara's "Computer Technology and Design," this essential volume provides the necessary foundation for contemporary critical vocabulary and thought.

Graphic Design Theory is organized in three sections: "Creating the Field" traces the evolution of graphic design over the course of the early 1900s, including influential avant-garde ideas of futurism, constructivism, and the Bauhaus; "Building on Success" covers the mid- to late twentieth century and considers the International Style, modernism, and postmodernism; and "Mapping the Future" opens at the end of the last century and includes current discussions on legibility, social responsibility, and new media. Striking color images illustrate each of the movements discussed and demonstrate the ongoing relationship between theory and practice. A brief commentary prefaces each text, providing a cultural and historical framework through which the work can be evaluated. Authors include such influential designers as Herbert Bayer, Lszl Moholy-Nagy, Karl Gerstner, Katherine McCoy, Michael Rock, Lev Manovich, Ellen Lupton, and Lorraine Wild. Additional features include a timeline, glossary, and bibliography for further reading. A must-have survey for graduate and undergraduate courses in design history, theory, and contemporary issues, Graphic Design Theory invites designers and interested readers of all levels to plunge into the world of design discourse.

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4- Interaction of Color

Josef Albers’s classic Interaction of Color is a masterwork in art education. Conceived as a handbook and teaching aid for artists, instructors, and students, this influential book presents Albers’s singular explanation of complex color theory principles.

Originally published by Yale University Press in 1963 as a limited silkscreen edition with 150 color plates, Interaction of Color first appeared in paperback in 1971, featuring ten color studies chosen by Albers, and has remained in print ever since. With over a quarter of a million copies sold in its various editions since 1963, Interaction of Color remains an essential resource on color, as pioneering today as when Albers first created it.

Fifty years after Interaction’s initial publication, this anniversary edition presents a significantly expanded selection of close to sixty color studies alongside Albers’s original text, demonstrating such principles as color relativity, intensity, and temperature; vibrating and vanishing boundaries; and the illusion of transparency and reversed grounds. A celebration of the longevity and unique authority of Albers’s contribution, this landmark edition will find new audiences in studios and classrooms around the world.

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5- Thinking with type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students

Thinking with Type is the definitive guide to using typography in visual communication. Ellen Lupton provides clear and focused guidance on how letters, words, and paragraphs should be aligned, spaced, ordered, and shaped. The book covers all typography essentials, from typefaces and type families, to kerning and tracking, to using a grid. Visual examples show how to be inventive within systems of typographic form, including what the rules are, and how to break them.

This revised edition includes forty-eight pages of new content with the latest information on:

• style sheets for print and the web
• the use of ornaments and captions
• lining and non-lining numerals
• the use of small caps and enlarged capitals
• mixing typefaces
• font formats and font licensing

Plus, new eye-opening demonstrations of basic typography design with letters, helpful exercises, and dozens of additional illustrations.

Thinking with Type is the typography book for everyone: designers, writers, editors, students, and anyone else who works with words. If you love font and lettering books, Ellen Lupton's guide reveals the way typefaces are constructed and how to use them most effectively.

Fans of Thinking with Type will love Ellen Lupton's new book Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers.

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6- The Secret Lives of Color

The Secret Lives of Color tells the unusual stories of seventy-five fascinating shades, dyes, and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history.

In this book, Kassia St. Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colors and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of color tell the vivid story of our culture.

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7- Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines

Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines, 14th Edition is an indispensable resource for people who create graphic art and those who buy it. As the graphic art marketplace continues to evolve to meet the needs of both digital and print media and as clients struggle with shrinking budgets in the current economy, the need for up-to-date information on the business, ethical, and legal issues is greater than ever.

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8- 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

We design to elicit responses from people. We want them to buy something, read more, or take action of some kind. Designing without understanding what makes people act the way they do is like exploring a new city without a map: results will be haphazard, confusing, and inefficient. This book combines real science and research with practical examples to deliver a guide every designer needs. With it you’ll be able to design more intuitive and engaging work for print, websites, applications, and products that matches the way people think, work, and play.

Learn to increase the effectiveness, conversion rates, and usability of your own design projects by finding the answers to questions such as:
What grabs and holds attention on a page or screen?
What makes memories stick?
What is more important, peripheral or central vision?
How can you predict the types of errors that people will make?
What is the limit to someone’s social circle?
How do you motivate people to continue on to (the next step?
What line length for text is best?
Are some fonts better than others?
These are just a few of the questions that the book answers in its deep-dive exploration of what makes people tick.

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9- Know Your Onions: Graphic Design: How to Think Like a Creative, Act Like a Businessman, and Design Like a God

This book is practical and immediate, without being condescending or overly technical. It is like having a graphic design mentor who will help you come up with ideas, develop your concepts, and implement them in a way that is engaging and humorous. It gives readers the experience and ability that normally comes from years of on-the-job training. All of the essential techniques of graphic design and its digital implementation are covered. Read this book and gain 25 years of experience in how to think like a creative, act like a businessman, and design like a god. This book is designed like a notebook, with all the authors’ tips and knowledge already inside. However, it also includes blank pages that allow the user to personalize this reference book with specific notes that are relevant to his or her studio, suppliers, or clients.

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10- How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul

How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul has become a trusted resource for graphic designers around the world, combining practical advice with philosophical guidance to help young professionals embark on their careers. This new, expanded edition brings this essential text up to date with new chapters on professional skills, the creative process, and global trends that include social responsibility, ethics, and the rise of digital culture. How to Be a Graphic Designer offers clear, concise guidance along with focused, no-nonsense strategies for setting up, running, and promoting a studio; finding work; and collaborating with clients. The book also includes inspiring new interviews with leading designers, including Jonathan Barnbrook, Sara De Bondt, Stephen Doyle, Ben Drury, Paul Share, Dmitri Siegel, Sophie Thomas, and Magnus Vol Mathiassen.

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You can learn a lot by watching great graphic designers and practicing their methods. You can also learn through your own trial and error. But to fully round out your graphic design talents and make an unmistakably amazing impact on the world, take the time to read these 10 books.