Whether you’re just graduating or have years in the industry, it’s important to constantly stimulate your mind and progress. It was tough narrowing the list down, but I’ve chosen 10 books that I found educational, inspiring, provoking and overall full of timeless insight.
It’s interesting to read about creating art from a designer’s perspective. We have clients to satisfy, creative briefs to fulfill and deadlines to meet. More about producing art than design, this book opens up the issues that many artists face, like that big blank canvas, sketchbook, or monitor that is staring you in the face. The creative struggle. Finding and developing your own voice. The relationship between talent and perseverance, vision and execution, discouragement and satisfaction, purpose and desire.
Although this is about creating great brand experience design for clients and their companies, I found myself reading it more critically of my own personal brand. Do I matter? Would the world be a darker place without me? What am I best at, and how to I own it?
Of course this includes case studies from the usual suspects–Apple, Nike, Harley—but it raised my awareness of how consumers, and even clients see us as their design studio or agency of record. So, as we preach to our clients about how important it is that every little experience shapes their brand in the mind of their consumers, perhaps we should examine our own processes as we guide our clients through their project.
Whaaa?! A graphic design book without pictures? Contrary to its title, this book is not about how to create design, let alone even showing any of it. Instead it is a conversation with some of our heroes and idols in the design world, who share their philosophies, trials, learnings, and blunders through their years of experience.
It’s refreshing to learn about another discipline of design. IDEO is a product development company that has designed seemingly everything. From computers to toothbrushes to kitchen tools. Throughout the book they share some of their creative processes– observation, brainstorms, hot groups, cross-pollination, and play– to generate innovative products. Sure, it’s arguably different from what a branding, interactive, or graphic design firm does, but I think there is cross-over to pick up on in the creative process. After all, design is design, right?
This has served as a handbook for me more than anything else. It covers some of the basics to review with clients who are going through the branding process for the first time, but also provides some essential items to consider while designing an identity system from the ground up. It’s a great reference when you’re considering what touch points and materials a client may benefit from.
Okay, this won’t be the most interesting read, but Robert Bringhurst sure knows his stuff. It’s more of a classic, covering the traditional origins of typographic forms, kerning and page proportions, down to the nitty gritty of hyphens, punctuation and other analphabetic symbols we love to use. You may not snuggle up with this next to the fire, but you’ll be glad you have it on your shelf when you’re trying to remember the difference between an em dash and an en dash.
Pure, awesome poster design. Period. There might be words in the book, but I didn’t notice them, ’cause the images are so rad. Just get it.
History of Graphic Design was one of my favorite classes in school, and this is the text book we studied. Starting from the earliest cave paintings, it works it way through the annals of design history, touching on all of the major influential designers, technologies and movements along the way. Although it covers a lot of territory very quickly, it does give you enough of a taste into each era to get the gist of it.
Explores “smart combinations” of graphic, product and social design and challenges the way we see the world. It touches on some meaningful design applications like the development of a wheelchair that can go up stairs, a better prescription bottle, a bicycle that transports and filters water while being ridden to a desert village, and inexpensive disaster-relief housing. But beware, it may have you question the social value of what you are currently doing.
This series showcases all things typography, but one of my favorite things about it is that each piece is accompanied by a list of typefaces used in the project. Throughout school, this was one of my most influential sources of type study–figuring if these guys could mix certain typefaces, it must be alright. Over the years I’ve begun collecting them, so if you have any old ones laying around, let me know.