What are the best graphic design books for beginners? Graphic designing is a rewarding career for anyone with a creative mind. You can put your artistic skills to use but also enhance marketing projects and brand image. It requires a mix of both a business mindset and uniqueness. You have to think outside the box.
If you’re just getting into graphic design, you’ll want to expand your knowledge by taking online courses, watching videos, hanging out with more experienced designers and reading graphic design books for beginners.
What Should a Graphic Designer Learn First?
There are around 254,100 people working in graphic design, but that doesn’t count the tens of thousands doing similar work as part of a broader job description or freelancing part-time. Everyone seems to have a different school of thought about what you need to learn and master first as a graphic designer.
Should you start with graphic design books for beginners on color theory? What about business skills if you plan to run your own design firm? When it comes down to it, understanding the software you’ll need to use also ranks pretty high on the list.
The truth is that there isn’t one thing that’s more important to learn than another there. Instead, there is a set of skills that all work together to turn someone from an amateur designer into a professional one. Reading graphic design books for beginners is an excellent place to start building the knowledge you’ll need to thrive.
We’ve taken a look at some of the best books available, what topics they cover and if they are suitable for beginning designers. Here are our favorites and we hope they’ll be yours, too.
1. Making and Breaking the Grid
First on our list of graphic design books for beginners is Making and Breaking the Grid by Rockport Publishers. New designers love to create on a grid. It’s an easy pattern to learn and everything is nicely aligned and looks neat and contained.
However, there are some designs that scream for the creator to lose the grid system. Knowing when to use the grid and how best to break the grid for impact is a vital skill every designer should learn. You may not realize there are even different grid types. This best book for graphic design beginners looks at traditional versus modern approaches.
2. The Elements of Graphic Design
If you have a degree in graphic design or some other web development category, you’ve likely come across this textbook in your studies. It covers theory and basics you won’t find just anywhere. Although you may have to learn the rules to throw out the rules, they are still a vital part of design and something you’ll use every day.
When looking for the best graphic design books for designers, repurposing your old textbooks is a smart move. Keep them on your shelf and refer to them when you are uncertain about your next move on a project.
3. Interaction of Color: New Complete Edition
The set is so much more than just one of the best graphic design books for beginners. It also comes with plates and templates to help you create a color coordinated design that stands out from other beginners’ work.
The 50th anniversary edition of the book offers an expansion over the original text. It is a complete resource on how to master color and well worth the investment. You’ll find around 60 color studies along with samples to help you determine how best to use different shades.
In the digital age, color is more important than ever before. While you can generate palettes online, they often leave much to be desired. Utilize this resource to come up with an initial palette on paper and then tweak the exact hue with online resources.
4. Know Your Onions
When they hear about onions, many people think of the scene from the animated movie “Shrek” when the ogre compares himself to an onion with layers, but Donkey says parfaits have layers too and people like parfaits.
Creating a new design for a client is a bit like peeling the onion layers and perhaps less pleasant than eating a parfait. The book covers a lot of topics you only get from years of on-the-job training. The publisher describes it as a mentor at your fingertips.
The graphic design book for beginners is set up with notebook-like tips from the author but also has some blank sections where you can add your own notes as you grow and learn more about graphic design and your own clients.
5. Graphic Design Visionaries
Next on our list of graphic design books for beginners is Graphic Design Visionaries. If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration and want to better understand how to take a unique concept and make it your own, Caroline Roberts covers it in this volume with 75 stories of the world’s most interesting graphic designers.
A few of the names you’ll recognize from your early studies include Saul Bass, Neville Brody and Yusaku Kamekura. You’ll learn about professional concepts in typography, architecture and web design. The book is like a history lesson and inspiration all in one.
The book is a bit pricier than we’d like as it often serves as a textbook. You can grab used copies or possibly one from a school library. However, it is so inspiring, we felt it was worth the cost.
6. Now Try Something Weirder
A bit more on the reasonable side for pricing Now Try Something Weirder offers ideas for how to keep your creativity and come up with fresh ideas in design work. Beginners may enter the field full of passion but quickly have their fire extinguished by picky clients or strict rules at work.
We like Michael Johnson’s book because he offers ways to use specific techniques to overcome burnout or blocks. The book has 233 different tips and hints he’s learned during over 30 years in the industry.
7. Type, Volume 1: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles
It probably isn’t surprising that a list of best graphic design books for beginners has another textbook on it. We believe to really excel at something, you have to first understand the history of it and where the type we have today came from. Volume 1 in the visual history series digs deep into typefaces.
One thing we like about this text is the way the author looks at which fonts are best and what makes them beautiful. The book covers the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century. Some of the designers featured in the book include William Caslon, Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke and Eric Gill.
When you need a bit of inspiration for a new font or figuring out what to use, having this resource to pull on will be extremely helpful to your creative process.
Find More Graphic Design Books for Beginners
The list above is a great place to start along with some of our other reading lists on this site. You should also ask others in your field what they’re reading or recommend, pay attention to reviews and watch the bestselling titles. Your local librarian is also an excellent source for ideas. Ask them what they have that’s new on the topic. Between audible, your library and online booksellers, you should have enough reading material to keep you busy for many months.
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About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.
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