You only need to go as far as Amazon in your browser to find the best graphic design books. Some of the top titles major universities use as textbooks, but you can neatly avoid the textbook cost by buying the e-book. These titles either recently came out or just underwent an update, resulting in a new edition.
Since most of us lack an unlimited budget to spend on professional development, all of these titles cost $50 or less. Many offer an e-book version costing less than $25, meaning they fit nearly any budget.
By targeting titles frequently used for college courses, these top titles stand a better chance of landing in your local library. That lets you access them for free. You can't beat free.
The list includes two categories – beginner and professional. Some of the titles chosen help you get started from scratch in graphic design. This includes how-to books and those that explain starting and managing your graphic design business. For the advanced graphic artist, the list of best graphic design books includes titles on specialty areas, such as creating logos and brand identities. Other titles target improving your skill set in other ways, such as learning to conceptualize and where to find ideas. Graphic design is more than drawing or computer-assisted design. It requires creative thinking and coming up with original ideas for the project at hand.
Nab these books if you have just started in graphic design or think you want a career in the field. They offer introductions to the industry and essential how-tos.
1. Graphic Design School: The Principles and Practice of Graphic Design
Designers David Dabner, Sandra Stewart, and Abbie Vickress updated this venerable text now in its seventh edition. As the title infers, it teaches you the essentials. Most introductory college courses in graphic design use this book as the textbook and college professors use it as their go-to because it comprehensively covers everything from the best CAD software to potential jobs.
2. Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Dos and Don'ts
While the Dabner tome teaches industry essentials across the board, this book by designers Sean Adams, Peter Dawson, John Foster, and Tony Seddon focuses on art skills. You can study one rule per day to work through all 365 or work through them in a few months as you would do in a vocational school or college course. This lavishly illustrated publication will walk you through the most important things to know about creating commercial artwork.
Robin Landa's how-to tome provides a comprehensive reference on getting started in graphic design. The author, a professor at Kean College, has authored 20 other titles in advertising design and graphic design. Used as a textbook and written by a professor, this tome uses a teaching method, so you can use it as an introductory text. Landa includes essentials for print advertising and designing for interactive media. The title is in its sixth edition.
4. 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
You may think of creative arts as the only aspect of art that requires emotion, but designer Michael Bierut corrects that misunderstanding in his tome with an exceedingly long title. In commercial art, the graphic designer must bring together photos, drawings, logos, and fonts to communicate accurately and emotively. Bierut addresses the aspect most people consider talent, but which any person can learn – how to inject emotion into art. Pick up this illustrated text to learn how to conceptualize and communicate fact and emotion in one design.
5. Creating a Brand Identity: A Guide for Designers: (Graphic Design Books, Logo Design, Marketing)
Consider Catharine Slade-Brooking's book on creating brand identity, a transition book. You should make it through at least two of the first four books for a firm foundation on the basics before diving into this book. The concepts and techniques used to create brand identity build on the essentials of graphic design.
Turn to these tomes for a refresher course in design that updates your skills with the latest knowledge. Graphic design changes rapidly as new technologies develop to display ads or layouts.
6. Graphic Design: The New Basics
Let Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips help you update your design skills. This 2015 publication covers the age-old essentials of logo and letterhead but also tackles website design and data visualization. It uses a teaching voice to explain two-dimensional design. Those with experience in CAD might skip the chapter on points and lines, planes and scales, but you'll probably find the visualizing data sections, typography, Gestalt principles, representation modes, and portfolio sections useful. Use the 16-page section of professional and student portfolio work for inspiration.
7. Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities
The second edition of David Airey's loving text on logos doesn't just teach you how to design them but hones the concepts of creating and establishing a brand identity. The updates offer insights into running your business and getting started as a professional logo designer. Pick this up if you want to specialize in this area, but don't know how to get started.
8. The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters
This 2016 publication by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson reawakens your creative spirit. Everyone hits a dry spell where they need a jumpstart of ideas. Let this book provide you with the inspiration to create something new and different and fantastic with its lavish introduction to 50 of the artistic greats. Each chapter links the photos and drawings included to elements of graphic design.
9. Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don't teach you in design school, but should (Voices That Matter)
Michael Janda exhorts a need to burn portfolios in the title, but you shouldn't. Rather than taking the title literally, dive into this first edition to learn the inside skinny of graphic design. This tome provides vital information you need to go solo or start your own agency. If you work for an agency, but want to strike out on your own, read this to learn business management practices for graphic design, the rules of the creative business, and professional do's and don'ts.
10. Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
Hone your skill set with this book by David Sherwin. You should already have some design experience under your belt for this read. Work through it, tackling one or two challenges per week. Think of this as that master class you meant to take to learn a few new things, but really never have time to complete them. The book lets you work at your own pace and learn something new when you have a few minutes. Don't skip this one, since if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, it is free to read.
That's it for now. Stop by the CorelDRAW blog again for future updates on the best books in graphic design. Let these books help you grow and polish your skills in commercial art.
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