Best Graphic Design Books

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best graphic design books

Last Updated July 2020

Many internet users and social media fans have learned how to communicate thoughts and emotions extraordinarily well through the images and quotes that they post. In essence, this is the job description of a graphic designer. With the right graphic design book, it is possible to turn an enjoyable hobby into a rewarding career.

However, there is an abundance of graphic design books available on the market, so it can seem overwhelming when you start searching for the one that will help you the most. The book that’s best for you will focus on the areas of graphic design that you either need help with or are the most fascinated by. These can range from design principles to thinking strategies to business practices.

If you'd like to learn more about how to find the right graphic design book for you, keep reading. If you're anxious to get started and would like some solid choices on where to begin your education, consider the highly rated books we spotlight in this article.

A thorough graphic design book will help you understand the business side as well as the creative approach to being a graphic designer.

Book focus

As with any book, in order to quench your thirst for knowledge, you will want to focus on finding the one that covers the topics that interest or intrigue you the most. Graphic design has a very broad scope. To help you quickly narrow down your search, we've divided graphic design books into six broad categories.

History

If you are fascinated by the timeline of events that has brought us to the present and how it all fits together, a graphic design book that focuses on history may be of greatest interest to you. This type of book may focus on specific individuals, pivotal innovations, and/or technology that revolutionized the industry.

Design principles

This is the broadest category, as it may focus on any number of elements. Consider these graphic design books more along the lines of “how-to” books. If you'd like to learn the fundamentals of eye-catching composition, why certain fonts are better than others, or how color can increase the depth of meaning, this is the type of graphic design book that you should consider.

Technology

This type of book is about the tools you will use. It can include a rundown of different apps or an introduction to the basic coding that may be needed for jobs involving web design. If you are already a skilled artist but want to learn about available options that can help you get the job done, a book like this would likely be a good choice.

A comprehensive primer

If you are thinking about entering the world of graphic design at the ground level, meaning you have no prior experience, this book will introduce you to everything from the four basic design principles to the essentials of typography. After providing you with the basics, the book moves into specific tips for designing items ranging from business cards to résumés.

Inspiration and thinking strategies

Artists can burn out or find themselves stuck in a going-through-the-motions phase. Books that focus on creative thinking and problem solving are structured to jump-start your imagination so you can create more robust designs.

Business elements

Many individuals may be highly gifted or knowledgeable in only the creative side of graphic design. A book that focuses on business practices can help turn those brilliant designs into a source of revenue.

Comprehensive

If you want to know it all — everything from which font to use to how much to charge for your services — look for a graphic design book that covers all of these elements.

DID YOU KNOW?

If you are a freelance graphic designer, you will need to learn how to accurately estimate the time needed to complete a project so you can provide quotes to potential clients.

Other considerations

Once you've zeroed in on a particular focus, there are a few other elements you'll want to consider before choosing a graphic design book.

Level

If you are an experienced graphic designer, you will quickly become annoyed by a book that speaks down to you. If you are a beginner, on the other hand, a book that assumes you already have a firm grasp of graphic design concepts and terminology may be a frustratingly hard read. The trick is to choose a book that is written for your current level of knowledge.

Depth

Some books only offer a quick wade in the waters of graphic design, while others take you on a deep dive. Look for a book that mirrors the depth of your interests.

A workbook for design professionals

At some point in every job, you reach a period where you can get the work done while on autopilot. This workbook is designed to help even the most seasoned graphic designer step up their game. The book includes 80 timed creative challenges that are separated into specific categories and can help with everything from brainstorming to revisions.

Personality

When some people talk, they have a way of making even the mundane seem utterly fascinating. Others can take the most glorious of topics and deliver them in an excruciating manner that makes listening a matter of endurance rather than enjoyment. The tone of the writing, the personality of a book, can have the same effect: it can make reading and learning a joy or a chore.

Extras

If you are a hands-on type of learner, you will want a graphic design book that goes beyond the page. A book that offers online examples, tests, exercises, or even mock assignments might be necessary for you to get the most out of the written word.

One of the most important skills of a graphic designer is the ability to listen to and understand what a client needs.

Graphic design book prices

Because there are hardcover, paperback, and digital books, pricing consistency can be hard to establish. For the purpose of this article, we'll target paperback versions of graphic design books.

Inexpensive: At the lower end, from about $7 to $15, you can find quick-read books — roughly 100 pages — that focus on one topic or cover a broad range in a cursory manner.

Mid-range: From roughly $15 to $25, you can find books that take a deeper dive or feature a unique perspective. These books may provide a thorough introduction or offer valuable insight into your approach or thinking strategies when it comes to graphic design.

High-end: As you move beyond $25, you're getting into books that can serve as a comprehensive guide and reference source. These books may discuss design principles, thinking strategies, creative exercises, and information on how to run a graphic design business.

DID YOU KNOW?

Individuals with a solid graphic design background have a wide variety of career options available to them. These options range from web design to film editing.

Seven traits that make a good graphic designer

Having an eye for design is only one element needed to be a successful graphic designer. Following is a list of other traits needed to excel in this field.

  • Creative: In order to fulfill assignments in a vibrant way that effectively communicates a message, a graphic designer must be able to think creatively.
  • Great communicator: In order to produce artwork that reaches people on a number of levels, a graphic designer must have excellent communication skills.
  • Problem solver: Often, a graphic designer may run into a situation that doesn't fall within the anticipated guidelines. In order to be successful, they must learn how to come up with solutions that may not be readily apparent.
  • Self-motivated: Unlike a typical 9-to-5 job that outlines clear expectations so the employee can stay on task, a graphic designer may often be left on their own without much guidance to complete an assignment.
  • Detail oriented: Getting the design right may come down to a seemingly insignificant detail like how large a particular font is. In order to be fully in control of the work, a graphic designer must be a detail-oriented individual.
  • Ability to take criticism: After spending hours or days on a project, a graphic artist may be told that the approach isn't working. They must be able to part with visions and ideas that do not align with the client's needs and continue working without taking anything personally.
  • Comfortable with technology: Often, a graphic designer will need to complete assignments from a distance. A graphic designer must not only be comfortable with the apps needed to design but also with the technology needed to telecommute.
The type of graphic designing you do helps determine whether you should use a desktop or laptop computer for your projects. Desktop computers tend to have an edge on speed and memory capacity.

FAQ

Q. Is a graphic designer an artist?
A.
It's easiest to think of it this way: all graphic designers can be considered artists, but not all artists work in the field of graphic design.
 

Q. Do I need to know how to draw if I want to be a graphic designer?
A.
Not necessarily. The key to being a great graphic designer is having a good eye. If you recognize a quality design but don’t have the ability to draw, that is okay; you can use a wide variety of apps and software to bring your ideas to life precisely as you imagine them.
 

Q. Do I need a degree to get a graphic design job?
A.
Yes and no. If you want to be a full-time graphic designer who works at an advertising agency, you will more than likely need a four-year degree. However, if you are a freelancer — about 25% of graphic artists are freelancers — you may likely only need to dazzle clients with your portfolio.

Other Products We Considered
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