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6 books on design I couldn’t live without

As a designer, you probably spend most of your time not actually designing. Reading, learning, analysing and discussing leads to better ideas and better work, and although there is an unlimited flow of design inspiration online I really think you can’t beat a good book. So here’s a few of my go-to-books that are always there when I need a bit of inspiration or reminding of a few things.

How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul

By Adrian Shaughnessy


Being a graphic designer can simply be about creating something beautiful. It can be about creating something functional. It can also be about creating something beautiful, functional and have a positive impact on the world.

This book is reflective look on the role of the modern designer and reminds the reader that he/she is able to step out of the daily grind of ‘commercial gigs’ and consider using their skills for something more. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with commercial design, there are a growing number of ways in which we can all get involved in a good cause and do something right.

There are plenty of books that teach designers – young and seasoned professionals alike –  how to work as a designer, but not many that teach how to live as a designer. Design consultant and writer Adrian Shaughnessy draws on a wealth of experience to provide something of a career guide, with anecdotes, stories and advice from dealing with clients to running a successful business.

Just My Type

By Simon Garfield


“Most of us are type designers from birth. We begin scribbling as toddlers, the most freedom we will ever have.” Garfield is a journalist who loves his typography, as a wordsmith it’s good to know he is knowledgable about the type in which he sets his work.

Just My Type will not teach you how to kern, the tricks of leading or the anatomy of a letter; instead this book tells you stories about type, how certain typefaces came to be and the reasons for their popularity and notoriety. It’s a surprisingly witty book that is very well-written, recommended for typography fans and designers who want to learn more about the history of type – without the heavy how-to’s!

Know Your Onions

By Drew de Soto



Every designer should keep this book on their desk (if not with them at all times!). Packed full of every day tips, tricks and magic numbers that have been gleaned from years of professional design experience, Know Your Onions is a fantastic book that you’ll find yourself referencing again and again.

Drew de Soto comes from a traditional print design background and gives advice on everything from dealing with clients and creative thinking to preparing artwork and perfecting your type. If you found your graphic design degree lacking in real-world knowledge and fundamental design theory such as grid systems and nitty-gritty typography-perfecting-tips, then this book will fill any gaps you may have and more.

Logo Design Love

By David Airey


Acclaimed logo designer David Airey gives real-world anecdotes and shares his experiences working with clients. Full of logo design example and case studies, he gives advice on keeping the design simple and focussed and his tips on creating a strong, iconic design. There are no hard-and-fast rules, and sometimes doing the complete opposite of your training and logic can result in amazing work – but Airey offers some sage advice and a boat-load of inspiration to help you along the way in your logo design journey.

Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design

By Michael Bierut


To be a great designer is to be a great thinker – solving problems and avoiding unnecessary embellishments. Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design is kind of what you expect; a collection of short stories, anecdotes, observations and musings. However, it isn’t a book about design per se, it is simply a book written by a designer in a world (western society at least) that is so saturated and influenced by design. With each essay set in a different typeface – giving an individual tone-of-voice to each piece – Beirut tells stories of his early life and working in New York, personal experiences, and historical stories about products, design and the cultural/societal interactions they have.

An interesting read that reminds you that there is more to design than just sitting at a computer putting coloured shapes and letters on a page, a whole lot more.

Steal Like An Artist

By Austin Kleon


Steal Like An Artist tells you that it’s ok to “not be original”, Kleon echoes the words of the late great Paul Rand – “Don’t try to be original, just try to be good” and comments on the fact that everything ever created is an amalgamation of something else.

Known for his newspaper blackout poetry, Kleon talks about the creative process and finding inspiration. The phrase “steal like an artist” simply means to accept that you’re inspired by another’s work, and using that to create something of your own.

It’s a nice, short, and encouraging book that reminds you that it’s ok to make mistakes and inspires the reader to go and start making stuff before they feel “ready”.


What are your go-to books to keep you inspired, focussed and up-to-date? Let us know in the comments below.

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