8 Essential Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read

Reading about creativity is a great way to inspire yourself, learn about what others have done in your field and motivate yourself to do your best work yet.

While it’s good to pick up bits and pieces of knowledge from blog posts and YouTube, only the printed form is able to set out everything you need to know on a particular subject in an organised and comprehensive way that ensure that nothing vital gets missed.

And so, whether you’re interested in learning the fundamentals of graphic design or expanding your existing skills, it’s worth investing in some good books.

So here we’ve set out a list of 10 essential reads:

1. Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman


Lazy thinking is the bane of creativity. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman talks about how there are really two different thinking systems within the brain. System 1 lets us make fast decisions based on intuition, while system 2 is more deliberative and slower. Sometimes quick, emotional decisions are great for creativity but often we need to take a set back and reassess, bringing the second system into play. Kahneman explores different exercises you can do to make sure that for any creative decision you make, or any creative thinking you do, you are accessing the correct part of your brain.

2. How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul – Adrian Shaughnessy


If you’re looking for a career manual to guide you through the profession, Adrian Shaughnessy has the solution. The legendary graphic designer, offers his insights and wisdom through his book, How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul.

With straight-talking advice on how to establish your design career, insights into the creative process and tips on running your own business, this excellent text covers everything you need to know about becoming a graphic designer.

3. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality – Scott Belsky

Throughout this series on creativity, we have always said that tenacity and determination are just as important to creativity as that initial bright spark. In Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky takes this a step further and gives you concrete strategies for realizing your idea and developing the skills to make them happen time and time again.

4. The Elements of Style – Strunk and White

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is a style guide which will allow you to communicate your ideas and creativity most effectivity. The book contains lists of words that are often misused or misspelled, as well as information on punctuation and grammar. It also has some helpful principles of composition to help you write clearer, the most famous probably being number 17: omit needless words.

5. The Laws of Simplicity – John Maeda

John Maeda is one of the world’s top graphic designers and professor at the MIT Media Lab. In The Laws of Simplicity he lays down exactly that – ten laws of simple design that can be followed by creatives, designers, and businesses to find the right balance between simplicity and complexity in their creations.

6. Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson


Another book by creative great Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From looks at how certain individuals, certain societies, and certain companies come up with all the great ideas. He identifies seven patterns that are behind the greatest innovations of the ages.

7. Manage Your Day-to-Day – Jocelyn Glei

Like a few of the books on this list, Manage your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn Glei is a compendium of excellent advice from some of the world’s foremost creative minds.

The book focuses on how to build a workable routine to maximize your productivity and creativity during the day and to stay focused and make sure you have the time to create, whatever else needs to be done.

8. The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp has spent a lifetime trying to make creativity a habit, and in The Creative Habit she shares what she has learned through her years as a leading choreographer. The main thrust of her book is that you have to make the conscious decision to allow creativity to be an integral part of your life. Once you allow yourself to be a truly creative person then you can start to design rituals, routines, and exercises around it to become far more creative.

9. The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking – Roger Martin

Integrative thinking is the big idea in Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind. Instead of reading about how the greats of the past did it and trying to match them, instead you should look for the underlying cause of their creative thinking – the ability to integrate a number of great ideas and to ask the right questions.

10. Work for Money, Design for Love: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business (Voices That Matter) – David Airey

In Work for Money, Design for Love, David Airey sets out to answer all the questions that every designer and creative has when they decide that this is the career for them – how?



That’s a fair few books to be getting on with – the common thread in these books is that determination is key to success. You might worry about your talent, your ideas, and your abilities, but what will ultimately decide your fate is whether you have the determination to push through challenges that confront you to your true creative ability.




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