Top 20 Design Books Beginning Designers Should Strive to Own!

I am resurrecting this from my archives and plan on doing an addendum soon!

As promised, here’s the list of the top 20 books that all beginning designers should look for when out and about in this world.  I’ve gathered what I consider to be a solid variety of topics, to give you insight on the technical side of the field as well as the historical side of our field.


~Prof. R.

(in no particular order, heads up!)

Design History:

Meggs’ History of Graphic Design
Philip B. Meggs

Meggs’ book is “the” go to for graphic design’s history. Pricey but it covers it all.

A History of Graphic Design for Rainy Days
Studio 3

(A condensed History)

Design Skills:

Creative Workshop:  80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
David Sherwin

Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming
Ellen Lupton, editor

Graphic Design: The New Basics
Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips

Design Software:

The Adobe Classroom in a Book series (InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, Photoshop CC, etc)

I have used this series in the past as classroom books, as they are geared to new users. If new to a program/software, I’d recommend this series (you can work along with the book, which helps)

The InDesign One:

Photoshop Bible
Lisa DaNae Dayley

When I was a student, I learned from the (photoshop, etc.) Bible series. They cover almost everything:


Thinking With Type
Ellen Lupton

Typography (Basics Design)
Gavin Ambrose

Just a good series in general (they cover the gamut)..their design thinking and layout ones (book 08 and 02, respectively) are pretty awesome too!

A Typographic Workbook: A Primer to History, Techniques and Artistry
Kate Clair

This is my go-to textbook for typography as it covers the history of type from ancient to contemporary times and has awesome hands on projects for you to explore type with.


Making and Breaking the Grid: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop
Timothy Samara

Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type
Kimberly Elam


Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design
Kristin Cullen

Just Generally Good to Have:

Design Basics Index
Jim Krause

I love these…they are a set and I have this one, the type, color and layout ones as well (they used to be sold as sets).  They were great to have around my cubicle at work for design inspirations.

Go: A Kidd’s Guide ot Graphic Design
Chip Kidd

Burn your Portfolio: Stuff they don’t teach you in design school but should
Michael Janda

Business-y Books:

Creative, Inc:  The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business
Joy Deangdeelert Cho and Meg Mateo Ilasco

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

Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers
Tad Crawford and Evan Doman Buck

The Designer’’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing (how to win clients and what to charge them)
Ilise Benun