11 Thought-Provoking Design Books

I might be a rare bird for this, but instead of the usual popcorn fiction, I prefer to fill my summer days with design books and creative works that make me use my noggin a bit more.

If you’re like me, check this out: I’ve pulled out some of the most interesting and thought-provoking design books we carry in HOW’s official bookstore, MyDesignShop.

Culture+Typography: How Culture Affects Typography

By Nikki Villagomez

Inspire your type designs with the side-by-side travel photo comparisons in Culture+Typographyby Nikki Villagomez. Each image features examples of typography in culture, along with cultural and historical commentary to go with the image. Explore how design choices can be informed by the language of the cultural surroundings, and learn more about type selection, color usage, and more with this inspiring book. Get it here.

T3614 (2)

By Steven Heller

Boost your confidence in your personal and professional work with Playing with Graphic Style by Steven Heller. With the 50 exercises included, discover your design voice by exploring the differences between personal, universal, historical, contemporary, and one-of-a-kind design styles. Find out how concepts like lettering, type, and typography have the tendency to define style, and develop an awareness and sensitivity to type styles, forms, and type choices. Explore graphic design fundamentals in a creative, fun, and interactive way, and discover which design styles suit you best! Get it here.

T4548-new (1)

Read more work from Steven Heller at The Daily Heller on PrintMag.com.

By Maggie Macnab

The relevance of shapes, numbers and symbols in communication is timeless. Designers and others who need to know the symbolism behind the shape and symbols they use will find this book indispensable. Decoding Design integrates design with other disciplines and genres, such as philosophy, math and physics, for a holistic and worldly presentation of ideas. Get it here.


By Robin Landa

In graphic design, creative thinking skills are undoubtedly important, but oftentimes the importance of critical thinking skills is overlooked. In Nimble by Robin Landa, discover how to develop a creativity that is strategic, and able to cross platforms, industries, or sectors. Find a creative thinking process that allows you to generate scalable ideas that are both sticky and stretchy. Learn how come up with ideas rich in not just quantity, but quality, as well, and develop a flexible mind ideal for visual communication, digital marketing, or social media. Get it here.


Learn more: Read an excerpt from Nimble on crafting digital narrative experiences.

Graphic Design: The New Basics

By Ellen Lupton & Jennifer Cole Phillips

Introduce yourself to graphic design and build a knowledgebase that is applicable to any design situation with Graphic Design by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Rather than using a cut-and-paste approach, this book clarifies graphic design fundamentals using relevant sources like contemporary media, theory, and software systems. Learn essential principles of form through visual demonstrations and concise commentary, and explore the relationships between the elements of two-dimensional design, like point, plane, line, hierarchy, layers, scale, and transparency. An indispensable feature of this book is that the concepts of visual language discussed within it can be applied to any facet of design, from a letterhead or logo, to a complex web site. Learn the key concepts of graphic design in a smart, fresh, and inspiring way! Get this design book here.


Color: Messages & Meanings

By Leatrice Eiseman

Whether you’re looking to compare, contrast or choose just the right colors for your next design project, make sure you consult Pantone’s new Color: Messages and Meanings. Based on extensive research and filled with pages of luscious-to-subtle hues, photographs, and illustrations, this book by internationally renowned color expert Leatrice Eiseman will inspire you to try colors and combinations in new and exciting ways. From cherry reds to creamy yellows, vibrant purples, mocha, soft blues, and many others, Eiseman profiles the color wheel in the first half of the book and then shows you how to juxtapose dominant, subordinate, and accent colors to achieve just the right effect and mood so the message you are sending through your advertisement, package, display, logo, Web site and other design vehicles is correctly communicated. Get it here.


Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss?

By James Victore

From the well-known and irreverent graphic designer James Victore comes his first book, Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss? Inside is a detailing of the stories behind Victore’s inspirations, his process, and the lessons learned, making for an encouraging, amusing, and authentic book showcasing the author’s celebrated body of work. Get insight into Victore’s work, as well as his approach to the practice, business, and teaching of graphic design today. Rather than looking for clients, Victore prefers to seek comrades – courageous, intelligent colleagues who encourage him to take another look at old design solutions and to urge observers to ponder issues in new ways. Get an inside look at this prominent designer’s work and viewpoint, and be prepared to look at graphic design with renewed vision. Get it here.


Show Me, Don’t Tell Me: Visualizing Communication Strategy

By Dave Holston

Fact: Communication is ubiquitous. Fiction: Everyone knows how to communicate effectively.

Even if you’re someone who considers him or herself a strong communicator, there are still situations in which you might struggle to get your message across in a clear and effective manner – especially if you’re in an industry like public relations, marketing, or design. Enter Show Me, Don’t Tell Me by Dave Holston. With the help of this book, utilize 75 exercises to help solve strategic communication problems you may encounter. Using drawings, words, images, mapping, role-playing, stories, and more, discover new ways to spark creativity, problem solve, and engage clients and audiences on a deeper level. Get it here.


By Alex W. White

With this visually stunning primer, designers will develop the skills and vision to produce truly innovative, stunning type design. Using more than 1,500 images from the 18th century up to the present day, the author describes type as a unique language that follows its own rules for communication and that requires great sensitivity for the reader’s needs. .

Written by a practitioner who regularly collaborates with today’s leading type designers around the globe, this book offers insights into typography that normally require years of professional practice. Designed in an innovative two-color layout, the book provides a fun and systematic learning experience on multiple levels. Get it here.


Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School

By Idris Mootee

In the areas that traditional ways of running a business have failed the corporate world, design thinking has picked up the slack. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation by Idris Mootee introduces a model of using design thinking that is relevant to and productive for business management, marketing, and design strategies, as well as presents ways to apply design thinking in day to day work. Discover how design thinking can inspire creative solutions to solve complicated business problems, and ultimately transform companies and cultures. Explore the advantages and utilizations of design thinking, learn how the design thinking process can help conquer the eight primary challenges most businesses face, and utilize exercises, activities, and other resources to begin reaping the benefits of design thinking. Get it here.


Bonus: The Imaginary World Of . . .

By Keri Smith

Take on the challenge of imagining something new with The Imaginary World Of… by Keri Smith. Push the boundaries of the existing world we live in and encourage yourself to innovate. Begin by drafting a list of everything that captures your attention: things you love and collect, colors, ideas, shapes, people, and creatures that interest you. These items and concepts will become the cornerstones for your imaginary worlds, and you’ll use them to develop texture and establish a foundation for the new place you’ll begin to inhabit. Discover and be inspired by prompts that will get you thinking about maps, landscape, residents, currency, place names, foods, histories, logos, and more for your world. Get it here.