- The Typographic Desk Reference
- by Theodore Rosendorf
Just as the title suggests, this is a must to have sitting on your desk at all times. It may be thin, but it’s a densely packed visual glossary of type terms and design knowhow. Basically, a typographer’s manual of style.
- Graphic Design Theory
- by Helen Armstrong
This book offers a great primer on graphic design theory by collecting 24 essays from design luminaries like Jan Tschichold, Lorraine Wild, Paul Rand, El Lissitzky, Herbert Bayer, and more, culled from writings spanning more than a century on wide ranging topics from typography to the social responsibilities of a designer.
- The Form of the Book
- by Jan Tschichold
A collection of 23 essays compiled over 40 years on Tschichold’s thoughts on layout and design, primarily with type. While this work focuses mostly on concerns specific to book design, its presentation of topics is wonderfully approachable, and many of the guidelines are applicable to any medium. A true treasure from one of the father’s of modern book and system design.
- How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer
- by Debbie Millman
Interviewer extraordinaire, Debbie Millman, talks to 21 designers and the results are thoroughly enlightening. We all love to hear about how other designers work, their processes, and what drives them to want to create; and it’s for those reasons that I really connected with this book. My copy is bursting with marginalia, highlighted passages, and dog-eared pages. Tons of insight from many of our most celebrated and accomplished designers.
- The Art of Looking Sideways
- by Alan Fletcher
A seriously massive work from the late Alan Fletcher compiling tons of quotes, work, and nuggets of wisdom from designers, artists, writers, and more, all categorized by topic. One of the most diverse and densely packed sources of inspiration you can have on your shelf.
- Art Direction Explained, At Last!
- by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne
Defining “art direction” is a hard enough nut to crack on its own, but teaching it to someone can be a daunting task. It combines so many unknowns, so many gut feelings, and so much intuition, that it’s best learned from seasoned practitioners. Steve Heller and Veronique Vienne, two battle-hardened art directors in their own right, define and discuss just what art direction is and how to capture the best thoughts in your designs. This book compiles their take on the topic, and polls many of the world’s best art directors through case studies and interviews.
- Art As Experience
- by John Dewey
While the language can be dense at times, the rewards are wonderful. Art is an experience in itself, both as a practitioner and a viewer. Being able to tap into the reasons why something was created and its intent gives deeper meaning to a work and a deeper understanding of why it was made a particular way. Invaluable for thinking through aesthetics and engagement in what we make, and how they impact us as designers or our intended audience.
- How Buildings Learn
- by Stewart Brand
Buildings, like any of the things we design, don’t exist as static entities. They are shaped by their surroundings and the ways people interact with them, and because of this, they change. Some adapt peacefully, others, not so much. A great read on how the passage of time affects the things we make and how we can better understand designing for contingency.
- The ABC’s of Bauhaus
- by Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller
A thin but powerful book collecting essays of type and design based on the Bauhaus principles and theories edited by (and with contributions from) the indomitable husband and wife team of Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller. A perfect primer for learning all about The Bauhaus.
- Thinking with Type
- by Ellen Lupton
Building on her years of experience both as a designer and an educator, Lupton presents a sturdy primer on type and its use, charting a course through early forms of type and anatomy, to modern usage and common pitfalls (including some wonderful bits about crimes against typography). This is a great place for newcomers to typography to start, and a strong resource for experienced designers to brush up with. And it’s beautifully designed to boot.
- Understanding Comics
- by Scott McCloud
Though the main subject here is about comic books as an artistic medium and a vehicle for storytelling, all of its lessons are just as applicable to design problems. The entire book appears in the format it champions, a graphic novel, narrated by the comic book version of the author. This is a fantastic book to help you think about design from a different angle and gain deeper insight into the decisions you are tasked with making as a visual storyteller.
- Marks of Excellence
- by Per Mollerup
Mollerup presents a thorough history of the trademark, why we have them, why they resonate with us, and why they’re significant in our culture. This book also contains a comprehensive taxonomy of the types of symbols and signs that make up different kinds of trademarks, using a large selection of global brands as examples.
- Letter By Letter
- by Laurent Pflughaupt
Pflughaupt surveys the history of letterforms and their significance as marks and communication. Most of the book is made up of the history of individual letters of the Roman alphabet, taking each letter in turn to survey its roots, unique properties, and influence on language.
- Design Writing Research
- by Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller
A fabulous collection of critical essays on design, visual theory, and history, adding strong discourse to the medium by questioning the ways we practice, sell, learn and create in our profession. Worth it for the chapter “Period Styles” alone.
- Unjustified Texts: Perspectives on Typography
- by Robin Kinross
Lots of great essays and discourse on the value of socially minded design, with a focus on editorial design and the state of typography. Includes a good number of brief biographies on notable designers like Jan Tschicold, Adrian Frutiger, and Norman Potter.
- Type & Typography
- by Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam
Notable for its breadth of coverage in just about all aspects of typography. This book can serve as a great overview of topics, and makes a good reference for matters of type anatomy, type layout, grids and related terminology.
- Designing Interactions
- by Bill Moggridge
A thoroughly enjoyable history of interaction design, from the first glimmers of man and machine interfaces to modern day sci-fi, that describes not only how we interact but why we interact. The book centers around interviews with interaction design luminaries who all offer up their insightful experience in the field. Required reading for any designer. Also doubles as a hefty doorstop or burglar deterrent.
- From Lascaux to Brooklyn
- by Paul Rand
One of my favorites from Rand, who breaks down design principles to their most basic parts, arguing that some of the most beautiful visual communication can come from the most simple sources. He recounts a bit of history in the first half to get everyone up to speed (and to show how timeless visual communication is) before walking through a handful of his work from conception to final output.
- A History of Graphic Design
- by Philip Meggs
This should be required reading. A History of Graphic Design was my textbook in college for Historical Survey of Graphic Design. Sadly, I didn’t really care as much about design history and theory in school (I thought I was far too cool for it, and regardless, there were video games to be played). It wasn’t until after I graduated that I cursed myself for being such a damn fool, and read the darned thing cover to cover. While not a comprehensive guide to Design history, this book is a very broad overview of the different design movements and all of the big players. Above all, it is most useful as a basic groundwork in design history and a starting point to discover topics you want to learn more about.
- Type: The Secret History of Letters
- by Simon Loxley
History of Type! Wow, this is serious Typographic nerdery, and I loved every word of it. Don’t take your fonts for granted. Find out why they were made, who made them, what significance they had to the greater picture. Chock full of interesting history and type related trivia.