Just as it's graduate season around the world, it's also time for freshers to soon head to university and start their graphic design degrees.
While new students will have recommended reading lists for their first year, it may not be a bad idea to supplement their course book list with extra reading for the summer. Whether you're a student or know one, or are looking to consolidate on existing knowledge, these books we've put together should be mandatory reading for all greenhorn creatives who are serious about their craft.
While there are more 'philosophical' design bibles out there from established veterans of the design scene, this round up of the best design books essentials concentrates on the nitty gritty: layouts, logos, and type for example.
There are also guides to software you may consider investing in at some point, along with introductions to branding identity and the increasingly dominant UX field.
Let's start with Logo Design Love by David Airey.
Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities
By David Airey
There are quite a few books on logo design, but most act as a catalogue of brand identities than anything else.
David Airey's 2009 tome though goes into the finer details behind logo creation, filled out with case studies, sketch work and tips and tricks to inspire your branding endeavours.
The author himself is clearly passionate about the world of logos, regularly keeping up a blog on the field on his lovely Logo Design Love website.
Buy the 2014 edition of Logo Design Love for £20.82 (Amazon UK)/$29.56 or rent for $17.54 (US).
Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students
By Ellen Lupton
Before you master logos, one should master type; look no further if you still feel like a novice when it comes to all things typeface (and who'd blame you).
Ellen Lupton's type bible was only released in the early 2000s but is already a design essential in our eyes, showing not only how to design fonts but also how to best utilise them in your work.
All things scale, grid and hierarchy are explored with a detailed and never overwhelming degree of attention, with plenty of tasters available on the book's equally well-presented website by the same name.
Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team
By Alina Wheeler
You may have mastered logos, but what about all the other areas of brand identity that you'll need to master as a graphic designer?
Enter Designing Brand Identity, a masterful guide providing in-depth guidance for the entire branding team, with a universal five-stage process for brand development and implementation. From research and analysis through launch and governance, this book provides expert insight on all aspects of the process, and describes the best practices that build better brands.
The updated fifth edition includes new and expanded coverage of social media cross channel synergy, crowdsourcing, SEO, experience branding, mobile devices, wayfinding, and placemaking, with 30 all-new case studies of top brands from various industries around the world.
By Beth Tondreau
Layout is an essential part of design foundation, but this book is essential for anyone who needs a refresher, had a dodgy design course in college/sixth form, or is an illustrator unsure on how to lay out an expansive scene for prints, picture books or editorial.
Adhering to certain layout and grids standards and principles is important for any job from brochures, to annual reports, to posters, to websites, to publications. Beth Tondreau's book outlines and demonstrates basic layout/grid guidelines and rules through 100 entries including choosing a typeface, striving for rhythm and balance with type, combining typefaces, using special characters and kerning and legibility.
In other words, all the essentials promised by its title. Highly recommended.
The Language of Graphic Design: An illustrated handbook for understanding fundamental design principles
By Richard Poulin
This essential provides graphic design students and practitioners with an in-depth understanding of the fundamental elements and principles of the language of graphic design — what they are, why they are important, and how to use them effectively.
Organised by the building blocks of the graphic design language, this reference includes work by some of the most successful and renowned practitioners from around the world and how they have applied these fundamental principles to their work. By examining both student and professional work, this comprehensive handbook is a more meaningful, memorable, and inspiring reference tool for novice design students, as well as young designers starting their careers.
Buy the 2018 edition of The Language of Graphic Design for £15.98 (Amazon UK)/$19.14 (US).
Affinity Designer Workbook
Put together and published by Serif, the software giants behind Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo, this book provides a nice supplement to the in-class learning and Youtube tutorials through which you can learn more about Adobe's main publishing rival.
For a start, it eschews the dry textbook style of the few books out there devoted to Adobe CC and Corel Graphics Suite by looking like something you could proudly leave out on the coffee table. With great spreads and even better guides to mastering the vector program Affinity Designer, the hardback remains relevant in spite of being published back in 2016. The app has of course been updated since then, but as a newcomer in design you'll be grateful for the comparative basics offered in the book.
Check out samples of the book on Behance and try Affinity Designer for free to see if it's the paid software you're looking for. Your current Adobe license may be coming to an end at home or in school, and as such Affinity is well worth a look if curious on what design software alternatives are out there (and to see how much better paid apps like Corel and Affinity are when compared to free ones).
The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide Paperback
By Leah Buley
The boundaries between graphic design and UX are slowly blurring, and arguably any designer looking to maintain a career in the 2020s will need to master user experience.
For those intimidated by graphic design let alone designing for apps and software, we find Leah's book to be a gentle introduction to all things UX, and one that can be appreciated by both new and seasoned creatives.
The author herself has spent over 15 years in the design field as a UX practitioner, and is one of the regular names on the UX conference talk thanks to her quirky yet informative presentations.
That style is writ large over this book, with down to earth language, insightful illustrations and template UX questionnaire and project plans making this the one essential UX book on our list. A must buy.
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.