15 Books Every Designer Needs to Read

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When looking for inspiration in the world of design, one of your best sources are your peers. The people who have been through the same and are willing to share their experience. However, everyone is brought up with a different background, and a designer must consider many aspects in order to create successful work. Reading about strategies, thoughts and process within a range of themes will only help a designer over designer’s block, but also expand their horizons.  

So when it comes to design what are the books you should be reading. Here at Freelancer.com we’ve compiled a list of the books that any designer should use to open their mind to greater possibilities.


1. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

This one’s not only good for designers, but anyone in the creative industry. Creativity in inbred in everyday life and should be embraced. Tharp provides the reader with thirty-two practical exercises based on the strategies she applied in her own life. As the creator of the Broadway show, Movin Out, Tharp shares her tips and techniques she’s gained by her personal success.


2. Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist by Tibor Kalman

Kalman, renowned for his work as editor-in-chief in COLORS magazine, a magazine about “the rest of the world”, shares his thoughts on magazines, advertising, sex, bookstores, food and the design industry. It makes for an easy read as designs, samples and storyboards from his projects are integrated throughout the book.


3. How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World by Michael Bierut

Michael Bierut, one of the world’s most famed designers has won hundreds of design awards and has work displayed in numerous permanent collections. So what better way to find inspiration in the world of design then read about how Bierut started in one of his first design manuals. This book features more than 35 of his projects and examines his mindset in his design practices.


4. 100 Ideas that changed Graphic Design by Steven Heller

As the title states, Heller provides 100 ideas on technical, stylistic and methodical process in the world of design. Heller has published more than 80 different titles and written articles in numerous magazines including Design Observer and New York Times Book Reviews. As a specialist in design topics and writing, he is a good source to turn to gain depth in the field.


5. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte

Design isn’t all about being creative. It’s also about clarity and coherently displaying information. Tufte, recognised as an American statistician and writer on information design, explains the theory and practice of statistical graphs, charts and tables. Tufte provides examples of the best and worst statistical graphs providing feedback on what works and what doesn’t.


6. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

A product is more than its appearance. Norman, regarded for his expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science promotes the importance of the needs of the users and their cognitive psychology. This book provides rules and goals on how good, usable design is possible.


7. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

Not only in the field of design, but in most aspects surrounding the human race, consideration on the design of functionality is important. Brown, CEO of IDEO, a global design company, applies design thinking to topics such as service design, system design and strategy in practical social sectors such as health and education. Brown leans on his experience in this field and provides ideas on infusing design into every level of social organisations and products.


8. Just my type: A book about fonts by Simon Garfield

Even the smallest things in society, such as font types, utilise the concepts of design. Garfield, an author and editor of nonfiction books, explores the meaning of fonts within this book. Intertwining history and design, Garfield examines 560 years of typographic history and invites the reader to consider fonts, a subtle, yet important detail surrounding our everyday life.


9. Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design by William Lidwell

Design is an amalgamation of concepts from all aspects of life. Lidwell, a professor of architecture and director of innovation, links explanations of design concepts with visual examples of the application of the practice. Every major design concept is defined and illustrated.


10. Designing Design by Kenya Hara

In our globalised world, design takes inspiration from a multitude of cultures. Hara, a Japanese graphic designer and curator and key designer in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games 1998, utilises Japanese inspiration. Like Japanese traditions, Hara emphasises the importance of emptiness in both the visual and philosophical.


11. Design Elements, Color Fundamentals: A Graphic Style Manual for Understanding How Color Affects Design by Aaris Sherin

Many aspects contribute to the success of design and colour should be a central consideration. Aaris Sherin, an educator, writer and designer, examines the importance of colour as a way to communicate with their audience. 


12. Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye by Rudolf Arnheim

This book is a classic. Originally published over 50 years ago, it has been revised and expanded. Arnheim, an author, art and film theorist and perceptual psychologist, intertwines science and art to better understand how one’s eye organises visual material. This will broaden a designer’s mindset and open up new psychological considerations with their design.


13. 100 Things Every Designer needs to know about People by Susan Weinschenk

Psychology plays a significant role in the success of a design. Weinschenk, a behavioural psychologist who has been working in the field of design and user experience for over 30 years brings together science and research with practical examples to demonstrate innovative works for websites, applications and products.


14. Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen your Design by David Sherwin

Sometimes a designer just needs a push in the right direction. Sherwin, is a design leader and writer who gives designers the push they need to solve problems, work in teams and ultimately create. In this book, Sherwin provides 80 creative challenges and exercise to get the motivation flowing. Each example is accompanied with visual solutions and stories from other designers.


15. Sustainable by Design: Explorations in Theory and Practice by Stuart Walker

Design needs to be sustainable. Walker, a Professor of Design for Sustainability, explores the design process in order to reach sustainability. He provides concepts and well-articulated bases to understand the complexities behind design.


Did we miss any? Comment below and let us know!


Publié 21 février, 2017

Jacinta Spies

Journalism and International Studies Student UTS

I was born in Sydney, Australia in a suburb out west, bursting with multiculturalism. I grew up with a love for travelling and learning new things. As part of my degree in International Studies, I spent one year abroad studying in Concepcion, Chile. I loved the experience so much I extended my stay in South America and found a PR internship in Medellin, Colombia, where I currently live. Convenie...

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