The Best Design Books to Inspire You in 2020 and Beyond

Everyone needs to get inspiration from somewhere. Books are one of the best resources for any kind of designers and creatives. You’ll come across new ideas or find out a different way of thinking.

You may learn a new technique or glean some insight into the creative design process. In my own work as a 2D and 3D designer, books have never failed to inspire, enlighten, and motivate me.

There are hundreds of design books out there. So, knowing where to start can be a baffling question! To help you get started, I’ve created this guide to the best design books for 2020.

Looking for books for web designers or graphic designers? You’ll find something on my list! I’ve also rounded up the top books on product design, too!

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The Best Graphic Design Books

 

How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

 

How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

Without a doubt, this is one of the best books for graphic designers. It will show you how to thrive both professionally and personally in your chosen career. Shaughnessy walks you through the steps to start working as a graphic designer.

But this book also delves into deeper aspects, including ethics and social responsibility. Plus, get insights into world-class designers through fascinating interviews. A must-read! 

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Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

 

Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

 

If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to typography, grab this book. It explains every aspect of using type in any kind of design work. There are lots of visual examples to show how (and how not) to use type. You’ll learn about:

  • The use of captions
  • The use of small letters and capital letters
  • The rules of typography (and how to break them!)
  • And much more!

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Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann

 

Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann

This book is an essential guide to grid systems. It’s a helpful read to all graphic and web designers. It will demonstrate the best way to create page layouts in a clear and logical way. If you want to understand the psychology and how-to of layouts, you need to read this book. It shows you practical examples of both 2D and 3D grid layouts. You’ll be able to put the rules and information into practice straight away on your own projects!

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How to use graphic design to sell things… by Michael Bierut

How to use graphic design to sell things... by Michael Bierut

The power of graphic design is often underrated. This manifesto/graphic design manual reflects on the incredible career of Michael Bierut. At the same time, it offers plenty of pointers to new and experienced designers. It uses real projects from his career to show what you can achieve with graphic design. You’ll step inside the creative process of one of the world’s top graphic designers. You’ll come away with lots of new ideas and insights!

 

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The Design Process by Karl Aspelund

 

The Design Process by Karl Aspelund

This amazing book guides you through the design process from start to finish. Aspelund will show you how to progress from inspiration to conceptualization. It covers everything from graphic design to web design and clothing design. This makes it a vital read for all creative professionals. Plus, the practical exercises help you to put the lessons into action in your own work.

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The Best Books on Product Design

 

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

 

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

The aim of product design is to create a product that works well for the users. But this vital step is sometimes overlooked! The Design of Everyday Things shows you how to create products that are usable with a few simple rules. Reading this book will enlighten you on how to create meaningful products that work!

 

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As Little Design As Possible by Dieter Rams

 

As Little Design As Possible by Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams is a respected leader in the product design industry. His products, from radios to juicers, are used all over the world. In this book, he shares his take on the ten critical rules of product design. If you’re looking for some inspiration and guidance to create the best products, don’t miss this book!

10 principles of good design according to Dieter Rams.

  • Good Design Is Innovative
  • Good Design Makes A Product Useful
  • Is aesthetic
  • Good Design Makes A Product Understandable
  • Good Design Is Unobtrusive
  • Good Design Is Honest
  • Good Design Is Long-lasting
  • Good Design Is Thorough Down To The Last Detail
  • Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly
  • Good Design Involves As Little Design As Possible

 

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Designing Design by Kenya Hara

 

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

 

If you’ve never thought about how emptiness relates to design, pick this book up now. Hara explains why emptiness is so crucial to good design. Plus, he shares many other golden nuggets of info from the Japanese traditions of design. It dives deep into the psychology of design. Pick up this book for meaty discussions of all topics linked to design. It will be sure to inspire and enlighten you!

 

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The Pocket Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell

 

The Pocket Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell

Looking for a short but sweet guide to design principles? This pocket version fits the bill! It’s not lengthy, but it’s pithy. It covers 150 different tools and principles that are the basis of design. You’ll find detailed illustrations to help you visualize the principles in practice. Whether you’re a student or you want a quick refresher, this book is just what you need.

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The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

When it comes to design, there’s nothing worse than overcomplicating things. If you’re prone to overthinking or making something too complex, this book is for you. Maeda breaks down the ten laws of simplicity in simple language. There are examples at every step along the way. You’ll learn some vital lessons. They will make a lasting difference to your projects, your career, and your mindset!

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The Best Books on Web Design

 

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

 

The Best Books on Web Design

Krug’s fascinating, witty book is one of the most popular books on web design, and with good reason! Don’t Make Me Think doesn’t read like a textbook or some scary coding guide. It won’t take you long to devour this enjoyable, concise book. You’ll come away with endless insights into web usability. Put these lessons into action, and you’ll be able to create user-friendly websites.

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Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery Set by John Duckett

 

Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery Set by John Duckett

This two-book set contains everything you need to master these common programming languages. It’s suitable for complete beginners. You can also jump in at the relevant section if you already have some experience. These guides are designed to be accessible and easy to use. The included infographics and diagrams convey the information as simply as possible.

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Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis

 

Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis

With more than 20 years of experience working as a graphic designer, Paul Jarvis has plenty to share. But he does it in a non-judgemental style that makes it fun to read! Find out how to overcome barriers holding you back. You’ll learn to make concrete plans and then achieve them in this relatable guide. It’s a fascinating window into Jarvis’ productive life (and how he got there).

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

 

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

Psychology is inextricably linked with all aspects of design. When we’re designing something, we want to produce a specific result from people. This topic is what Weinschenk delves into in this essential book. If you want to create compelling designs that convert (who doesn’t?!), you need to read this book!

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Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara

Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara

Every designer uses grids at times. Here’s how to get the most out of this basic yet essential tool, plus when to break the rules. You’ll find out all about different types of grid and their alternatives. Plus, discover how to stay fresh in the evolving design world. Visual examples of how (and how not!) to use grids pepper this book throughout.

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The Best Books on Design Thinking

 

The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley

 

 

The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley

IDEO is a company that has won countless awards for the products it has designed. As general manager of IDEO, Kelley has a unique perspective on the success of their products. This book reveals some groundbreaking strategies to create innovative new products. 

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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath

 

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath

Having an idea is the hardest part when it comes to design. First, you need a bright idea. Then, you need to turn that idea into a concrete product. In this book, Heath brothers examine why some concepts work so well, while others are forgotten. By the time you put down this book, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the principles of ideas. Plus, you’ll know how to make your ideas stick!

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Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder

Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder

So, you want to design and create a product or service that sells? Then this book is a must-read! It’s all very well putting products and services out there, but you won’t achieve anything if no one wants to buy them! Through the Value Proposition section of their innovative Business Model Canvas, the authors Osterwalde, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda, Alan Smith will show you how to avoid this pitfall by creating successful products or services. In this book, you’ll:

  • Learn what a great value proposition is
  • Master the patterns of successful value propositions
  • Discover how to identify which ideas will work (and which ones will crash and burn!)

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Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

 

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Fancy learning about creativity from Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation? As you can imagine, Catmull has a lot to share on the topic.  If you want to discover the secrets to Pixar’s runaway successes, pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed. This book offers a unique peek into the processes in the Pixar world. You’ll gain many takeaways that you can apply to your own life. 

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Change by design by Tim Brown

 

Change by design by Tim Brown

Tim Brown believes that design thinking is an essential factor in a business’s success. In this book, he explains what design thinking is and why it’s so important. Find out how to use this innovative approach to problem-solving in your own life. It’s a refreshing and eye-opening read. 

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Design Thinking by Nigel Cross

 

Design Thinking by Nigel Cross

 

This design thinking book is another great read for beginner designers. In detailed case studies, Cross picks apart how designers work. Find out why the designer’s approach is so unique and effective. If you want to think more like a designer, this book will show you how!

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Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World by Tina Seelig

 

Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World by Tina Seelig

It’s all very well having fantastic ideas within your own head. But putting them out into the world is another thing altogether. In this book, Seelig shows you how to do precisely that. Follow these steps, and implementing your ideas will be easier than ever before.

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So there you have my roundup of the best design books around today! Pick up one (or several) of these great books today, and start reading! You won’t regret it. 

Do you know other interesting design books? Share with us how much value did they added to your life and career in the comment section below!

If you found this guide helpful, go ahead and share it on social media. Plus, don’t forget to sign up for the Proactive Creative newsletter for more useful resources.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, Proactive Creative may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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My name is Outmane Amahou, 2D / 3D graphic designer and artist.
I am an avid reader of nonfiction books. I have a deep appreciation for minimalism in design, art, and life. I'm always looking for effective and original ways to boost my creativity. I love To share ideas and resources.

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