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When I was just getting started in design, I asked one of my favorite designers what single thing I could do to improve and expand my capabilities as a designer. His answer: “Read. Read everything you can get your hands on, empty your bank account, then read some more”. Looking back on 7 years of designing, I’d have to say that was the single greatest bit of advice I ever received. So, without further ado, here’s my list of recommendations.
Universal Principles of Design: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach Through Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler. Out of every book on my shelf, this is the one I find myself returning to time and again. This is an amazing little hardcover that breaks the entire world of design into 100 distinct, easy to follow concepts that will focus the way you think about anything that’s been designed (and that could be everything, but I’m not here to debate religion). If you’re to buy one book on this list, this is the one. Useful, practical, easy to read.
Soak, Wash, Rinse, Spin
by Tolleson Design. This was one of my first design books, and still one of my favorites. Chalk full of useful information about the process behind successful design projects.
Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture
by Jessica Helfand and John Maeda. For anyone who’s ever complained that there isn’t enough relevant, contemporary, erudite writing about modern design dillemas, I submit exhibit A. As one reviewer on amazon put it: “Things we all were thinking… only worded much better”. This tiny book packs a whallop of mind-bending analysis.
by Attik. Often called the “big white book” or “the design bible” (although I would disagree), this 5lb book is a visual feast of experimental design pieces. Great resource if you’re seeking a quick entry into modern experimental graphic design or just some inspiration to break up the monotony of cut and paste projects.
by Mario Pricken. Great analysis of the mental processes behind “visual imagination”. This book systematically breaks down different types of visual imagination and provides lots of great excercises that one can practice to enhance their own capacity to blow people’s minds. Oh, and it catagloues some of the greatest pieces of advertising in the last couple years on high quality glossy paper. Perfect coffee table fodder for the budding graphic artist.
by the Type Directors Club. Really, any book from this series is worth its weight in gold. If you’re going to follow one series of design annuals, this is it… phenomenal from every aspect.
Grid Systems in Graphic Design
by Josef Muller-Brockmann. THE definitive guide on grid systems in graphic design. A fantastic guide for solving just about any design problem with a grid. If you haven’t cracked into grid systems yet, this is the book; if you’ve backslidden in your ways, now’s the time to reaffirm your faith.
I’ll be adding lots more in the future… I pride myself on a library of great design books and magazines. For any budding designer looking for a way to go beyond the standard textbooks, books are a great way to get started (and I would argue that these are perhaps a better, more robust form of education than the textbook variety).YouWorkForThem.com
are great places to pick them up on the cheap too.