Whether we realize it or not, the elements of design are all around us. When we look at the architecture of a storefront, the logo of a brand, or a cover of a best-selling novel, we are looking at design. 

Knowing how design influences audiences and customers are crucial to anyone involved in the business, marketing, fashion, and a wide array of industries. That’s why we’ve gathered up the best design books, so you can learn from the experts.

Best Design Books

To learn more about the impacts of design, how to make more money as a designer, and how to influence your customers through design, check out the top 12 design books below. 

1. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

In this guide to human-centered design, Don Norman shows that design doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, usability is just as important as aesthetics. Even the smartest among us can feel inept when we fail to open a door or turn on a light switch. The fault lies not in us, but the product design that ignores both the needs of users and cognitive psychology.

From ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, the problems of design are plentiful. Don Norman is here to show readers that usable design is possible. 

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2. Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Muller-Brockmann

 Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Muller-Brockmann

Grid Systems in Graphic Design is a visual communication manual for graphic designers, typographers, and three dimensional designers. A grid system is the rigid framework created to help designers stay organized and keep information on a page. The grid system has been established by both print and web designers to create well-structured, balanced designs.

Building a coherent system for page layout is necessary for any type of designer, making the grid system highly beneficial in a variety of ways. In this book, you’ll learn about the functions and rules of the grid system, as well as how to use each grid system presented to you. 

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3. Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

Thinking with Type is a critical guide for graphic designers, writers, and editors. As it turns out, all of these readers can benefit from learning the fundamentals of design. In this best-selling book, you’ll learn about how to use typography for visual communication purposes, from the printed page to the computer screen.

Furthermore, this book contains the most recent information about style sheets, ornaments, captions, and more. Not only does Lupton explain each element of graphic design, but provides visuals to help you better understand how to be inventive within systems of typographic form. 

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4. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug 

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

With over 100,000 copies sold from the minute it was published, it’s hard to imagine anyone in web design who doesn’t have Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. In this classic on web usability, Steve’s wry and entertaining tone will change the way you think about web design all together.

From making sites usable to surviving executive design whims, this book has all you need to know when it comes to usability and design. Although usability is often seen as the enemy of design, the two go hand in hand. 

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5. The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

 The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

The Elements of Typographic Style has been referred to as the solid foundation of typography for professional graphic designers. If you’re a graphic designer who’s looking to explore new fonts, this is the book for you. Perfect for both newspaper copyfitters or web graphic designers, this book is insightful and informative.

In this, Bringhurst explains the history of typesetting and spreads his enthusiasm for graphic design straight to the reader. This is a must-buy for anyone dealing with the printed or web page design.

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6. Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell 

Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell

Whether you’re looking at a marketing campaign or a museum exhibit, the design you see is the culmination of multiple concepts and practices brought together from a variety of disciplines. Since nobody can be an expert in every field, designers have often had to struggle to research and figure out which design works best for which occasion.

Now, the entire world of design is changing. In this cross-disciplinary reference of design, William Lidwell pairs clear explanations and visual examples to help you put the concepts of design in practice. 

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7. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

Designers create to elicit responses from people. Whether you want them to buy something, read something, or click a button, design is created to urge someone to take action. That being said, designing without understanding people is like exploring a new city without a map. This book combines real science and research to inform the reader about the ways people think, work, and play. 

In this, you’ll learn how to increase effectiveness, conversion rates, and the usability of your own design projects. What makes memories stick? Which type of vision is most important when it comes to design? What is the limit to someone’s social circle? By reading this book, you’ll have the answers to these questions and many more. 

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8. How to be a Graphic Designer by Adrian Shaughnessy

How to be a Graphic Designer by Adrian Shaughnessy

Since it was published in 2005, How to be a Graphic Designer (without losing your soul) became an instant best-seller. A now trusted resource for graphic designers around the globe, this book combines practical advice and philosophical guidance to help young graphic designers embark on their careers.

By reading this, you’ll learn how to cultivate the much-needed professional skills of design, how to enjoy the creative process, and what the rise of digital culture entails for graphic designers. Whether you’re looking to set up a studio, find more work, or collaborate with new clients, this book is the next go-to tool for designers everywhere. 

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9. Change by Design by Tim Brown 

Change by Design by Tim Brown

Change by Design explains how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. In this, Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO design firm, shows how the techniques of design have a place in each part of business.

Perfect for creative leaders seeking to infuse design thinking into every level of their organization, this book will help readers drive new alternatives to business and society. 

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10. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler

Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler

Designing Brand Identity is the best-selling toolkit for creating, building, and maintaining a strong brand. This book offers brand managers, digital marketers, and graphic designers a proven, five-phase process for creating an effective brand identity. Enriched with new case studies from world-class brands, this book teaches you how design influences audiences.

By reading this, you’ll learn about the latest design trends in global markets, social networks, apps, and more. Graphic design is one of the most important factors of marketing, making it useful for anyone in business to learn more. 

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11. How to by Michael Bierut

How to by Michael Bierut

How to is all about how to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things, look better, and change the world. In this design manual and manifesto, Michael Bierut, one of the world’s most famous graphic designers, explains his philosophy on graphic design. In this entertaining guide, you’ll explore how Bierut was able to complete projects for the New York Jets, Saks Fifth Avenue, and more.

If anyone has used design to change the world, it’s Michael Bierut. Each entry of this book illustrates his eclectic approach to his creative work. In this entertaining guide, you’ll gain insight on how graphic designers mix historic images, use working models, and more. 

This book is perfect for anyone interested in how design can put ideas together. Whether you’re a student, artist, or professional designer, learning about the impacts of visual communication will always motivate you to create more. 

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12. Logo Design Love by David Airey 

Logo Design Love by David Airey

Logo Design Love is a comprehensive guide for creating iconic brand identities. In this, David Airey shows you how to create an iconic brand image from start to finish. Using client case studies as examples, he teaches the reader how to generate ideas, charge for their work, and collaborate with clients. 

Furthermore, author David Airey shares his personal experience working on identity projects with well-known designers. 

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Learning About Design

Ultimately, whether you’re looking to do online graphic design or web designing, learning about the fundamentals of design can help you increase your conversion rate, stand out from competition, or gain more readers. The books above combine expert advice, psychological research, and the fundamentals of design to teach readers how to create designs that positively impact their viewers. 

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