Books are brain food. And just as with any other profession or art form, design books can help you to excel at your craft.  

Whether you’re a student, graduate, creative director, or just a curious layman, there’s a design book out there for you. But of course, not all books are written equally. So we’ve compiled a list of 45 of the best design books out there to save you the trouble. 

This is a list we originally published a few years ago, but we’re back with an update for 2022. You’ll find some books here that are hot off the press, and others that (as of the time of writing) are due for release over the coming months. 

Note: these are not affiliate links, we don’t get paid if you purchase any of the books listed below.

The History of Graphic Design. Vol. 1. 1890–1959 – Jens Müller

Best for: anyone interested in the history of design, and how design movements developed alongside world events. 

The Art of Protest – Alain Bieber & Francesca Gavin 

Best for: designers interested in the connections between art, politics, and activism. 

The Women Who Changed Architecture – Amale Andraos

Best for: those interested in the triumphs, challenges, and impact of female architects in both a historical and contemporary context. 

Graphic Design For Everyone: Understand the Building Blocks so You can Do It Yourself – Cath Caldwell

Best for: non-designers and beginners who want to learn the basics of visual communication. 

Why Design Matters: Conversations with the World’s Most Creative People – Debbie Millman 

Best for: anyone who likes the Design Matters podcast, or anyone who enjoys interviews with creative minds. 

Design Emergency: Building a Better Future – Alice Rawsthorn & Paola Antonelli

Best for: those interested in the role of design in tackling modern challenges and forging a brighter future.

Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table – Vicky Lowry

Best for: fans of Scandinavian design and anyone keen to learn more about an iconic mid-century designer.

The Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture – Victor Papanek

Best for: designers seeking to address environmental and climate issues through ethical and ecologically-informed practises. 

Brutalism Reinvented – Agata Toromanoff

Best for: designers old and young with an interest in brutalism, and how it’s reinterpreted by modern architects.

LESS IS MORE: 20th Anniversary Edition: Limited Colour Graphics in Design

Best for: minimalist designers and those looking to deepen their understanding and practise of minimalistic design.

The Elements of Graphic Design – Alex White

Best for: beginners and anyone who wants to learn about space, unity, page architecture, and typography.

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul – Adrian Shaughnessy

Best for: design students/anyone interested in learning about forging a career in the graphic design industry.

The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color – Johannes Itten

Best for: understanding colour and how to use it.

Type and Color: How to Design and Use Multicolored Typefaces – Mark Van Wageningen

Best for: an in-depth exploration of font and colour, bridging the gap between colour theory and typography.

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities – David Airey

Best for: case studies and tips on how to develop a full brand identity.

Paul Rand: a Designer’s Art – Paul Rand

Best for: understanding the creative process of, and learning from, one of the world’s great designers.

Thoughts on Design – Paul Rand

Best for: people interested in better understanding the history of the graphic design industry.

Work for Money, Design for Love – David Airey

Best for: case studies and advice on running a successful design business, from choosing clients to pricing jobs. 

Stationary Design Now! – Julius Wiedemann 

Best for: getting back to basics and reaffirming the importance of business cards letterheads, and envelopes.

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 – Michael Bierut 

Best for: deep insight into the creative process; people who like long titles.

Know Your Onions: Graphic Design – Drew de Soto

Best for: practical design tips; those seeking a step-by-step guide to design processes. 

Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team – Alina Wheeler

Best for: those wanting to thoroughly understand what makes a brand.

Make Enemies & Gain Fans – Fredrick Öst

Best for: inspiration and motivation, and the story of how a top design firm rose to power.

Graphic Design: A User’s Manual – Adrian Shaughnessy 

Best for: those looking for a solid and easy to navigate reference book on all things graphic design.

Thinking With Type – Ellen Lupton

Best for: a more hands-on approach to typeface; learning how to use typography in visual communications across print and digital media.

Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles – Cees W D Jong

Best for: an historical overview of typeface design and graphic styles from the early-17th to mid-20th Century.  

The Elements of Typographic Style – Robert Bringhurst

Best for: an exploration of the philosophy and design of typography (great for typeface enthusiasts). 

The User Experience Team of One – Leah Buley

Best for: developing a working and applicable knowledge of UX.

100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design – Steven Heller 

Best for: inspiration; those interested in design history; examples of some of the best graphic design of the last 100 years.

Grid Systems in Graphic Design – Josef Müller-Brockmann 

Best for: anyone who uses/wants to learn how to use grid systems in graphic design.  

Square, Circle, Triangle – Bruno Munari

Best for: getting back to basics and understanding the intrinsic and timeless value of the world’s three most fundamental shapes.

Two-Dimensional Man – Paul Saher

Best for: inspiration, reassurance, and thoughts on creativity from a world-renowned designer. 

Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon

Best for: quick hits of inspiration; bite-sized pieces of creative wisdom to carry with you.

Interaction of Color – Josef Albers

Best for: exploring colour theory. 

Pentagram: Marks – Pentagram

Best for: design history; legacy of a world-leading agency. (Warning: this book is incredibly expensive.)

Sagmeister: Made You Look – Stefan Sagmeister

Best for: an insight into Stefan Sagmeister’s design.

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines – Graphic Artists Guild

Best for: pricing and salary guidelines graphic artists. 

A Smile in the Mind – Beryl McAlhone, David Stuart, Greg Quinton, Nick Asbury

Best for: learning how to employ wit and humour in graphic design.

House Industries: The Process is the Inspiration – Andy Cruz

Best for: finding creative inspiration through lessons, stories, and case studies.

Graphic Design: The New Basics – Ellen Lupton

Best for: student’s and beginners wanting to get to grips with the basics; seasoned veterans looking for a refresher.

Why Fonts Matter – Sarah Hyndman

Best for: those interested in understanding the design and usage of font.

The Big Book of Font Combinations – Douglas N Bonneville

Best for: designer’s who love to focus on fonts and are looking for inspiration and idea generation for font combinations.

The Secret Lives of Colour – Kassia St Clair

Best for: those looking to go beyond theory and learn more about the social, cultural, and historical story of colours (see the affiliated Instagram account for more inspiration).

Logo Modernism – Jens Müller

Best for: designer’s looking for an enormous resource on modernist logos and wellspring of creative inspiration.

The Vignelli Canon – Massimo Vignelli

Best for: learning the design rules and principles followed by one of Italy’s most famous designers.

Never go listless

We hope you enjoyed our recommendations for excellent graphic design books. And if you’re hungry for more lists, why not take a look at 22 Free Fonts To Spice Up Your Designs, and 10 Beautifully Eye-Catching Book Cover Designs.