The most recommended graphic design books

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to graphic design, and here are their favorite graphic design books.
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Book cover of Milton Glaser: Graphic Design

Michael Fleishman Author Of Drawing Inspiration: Visual Artists at Work

From my list on artistic doodads, thingamabobs, and whatzits.

Who am I?

I've been a guest lecturer and featured presenter at colleges and conferences, served on the Board of Directors for ICON6, and authored eight published books on illustration and design. I'm a retired college art professor and freelance illustrator and still teach fine art, design, and cartoon classes for kids and adults; I’m also an English Dept. writing tutor at a local college. Right now, I am exploring the medium of cardboard. Cardboard taps into a material that is so ubiquitous and common, it’s often maligned as being inconsequential, but I’m positively tickled to be working in a material that was wonderfully simple and presents a simply wonderful challenge.

Michael's book list on artistic doodads, thingamabobs, and whatzits

Michael Fleishman Why did Michael love this book?

I guess, if you polled illustrators and designers as to who was the GOAT, it would probably be Milton Glaser. On my list, he’s certainly up there.

A supreme talent, Glaser was (still is, and I think, always will be) incredibly influential; when you read this book, you’ll see why.

While writing my book, I had the honor and pleasure to work with his life-long friends and studio mates, Reynold Ruffins and Simms Taback. All three of these guys demonstrated superlative skills coupled with super smart concepts. I should also mention they were just plain mensches.

By Milton Glaser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Milton Glaser as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Available again, the enduring, iconic volume showcasing the key early-career work and process of the godfather of modern graphic design

Milton Glaser: Graphic Design, perhaps the most famous book of its kind, explores the early decades of America's pre-eminent graphic artist. Glaser's work ranges from the psychedelic Bob Dylan poster to book and record covers; from store and restaurant design to toy creations; and magazine formats including New York magazine and logotypes, all of which define the look of our time. Here Glaser undertakes not only a remarkably wide-ranging representation of his oeuvre from the incredibly fertile early years, but,…


Book cover of Big Little

Lorie Ann Grover Author Of I Love All of Me (Wonderful Me)

From my list on children's board books to cut your teeth on.

Who am I?

In the course of everyday life, when I’m writing books for middle grade and young adult readers, board books spring to my mind. Sometimes they come from catching a glimpse of a child hugging a parent, or they may spring from a phrase I overhear or say myself. That sounds like a board book, I think, and I write it down quickly. Sometimes, I’ll wake in the night, and a board book text will come to me in rhyme. Along with writing board books, I’ve been recommending quality works at the readertotz blog since 2009 in order to raise the profile of the format. Authors, illustrators, and publishers must create the very best quality, and then we must support, enjoy, and celebrate the works. A simple eight words may introduce a first reader to a love of books for life.

Lorie's book list on children's board books to cut your teeth on

Lorie Ann Grover Why did Lorie love this book?

There are many Leslie Patricelli books featuring Baby but Big Little is an early work in the series. Leslie is a master in teaching concepts with an unexpected twist of humor. “Ladies are big. Ladybugs are little.” Baby is charming with his lemon-shaped head and ever-present diaper. Below his square nose, his smile is contagious. The work is hand-lettered and imagery is emphasized with a heavy black outline. Your baby will love this baby!

By Leslie Patricelli,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Big Little as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Whether you’re big or little, learning about opposites has never been more fun — or funny — than with this winning board book.

Ladies are big, but ladybugs are little. Amiably illustrated in a bright, graphic style, Leslie Patricelli’s spirited board book, Big Little, stars an obliging, bald, and very expressive toddler who acts out each pair of opposites with comically dramatic effect.


Book cover of The Big Red Fez

Don Glickstein Author Of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

From my list on effective graphic design.

Who am I?

My first career was as a reporter on daily newspapers. As I got promoted to editing and eventually webmaster jobs, I needed to learn about design. Newspapers had been trying to figure out which designs attract the most readers for a century. The Poynter Institute, founded in 1975, began doing quantitative research as part of its journalism education mission. Seven years later, Gannett, a large newspaper publisher, introduced USA Today, based on the latest graphic and readability research. About the same time, Edward Tufte wrote his seminal book on graphic design (See recommendation #1). With the arrival of the web, companies like Google and Microsoft took the research to new levels. For example, Microsoft used readability research to create Verdana, a font designed to be legible with then-low resolution screens. Of course, the advertising and direct-mail industries had been conducting design research for decades to enhance sales. In short, you can’t pretend to be a competent designer, webmaster, or editor in this day and age without understanding quantitative readability research.

Don's book list on effective graphic design

Don Glickstein Why did Don love this book?

Why are three of the five books I recommend about graphic design written by marketing types? They know that their livelihood depends on effective design. Godin is one of those smarmy marketing types—who else would name a book about web design after a fez?—but he knows his stuff. He argues that website owners shouldn’t take their cues from their IT people, who don’t know nothin’ about sales, customers, and web design. Tufte and Nielsen present the data dispassionately; Godin tells it like it is. This book expands on his legendary essay, “Really Bad PowerPoint,” which you can still find as a free download on the web.

By Seth Godin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Big Red Fez as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of XX

Jon Crabb Author Of Graven Images: The Art of the Woodcut

From my list on for any uber-hip, hard to impress bookworms.

Who am I?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with cultural curiosities, extraordinary eccentrics, secret societies, decadent dandies, rebels, devils, and anything weird and wonderful. I parlayed a love of Word and Image into a career in the arts and worked for places including Tate, Thames & Hudson and the British Library. But to be honest with you, that was just a ruse so I could spend more time delving through interesting books and prints. Some people see the world a little differently; I think we all benefit by spending a bit of time in the company of their art. "It's the Ones Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through."

Jon's book list on for any uber-hip, hard to impress bookworms

Jon Crabb Why did Jon love this book?

A hugely ambitious mix of text and graphic design, in which typography is used in bold and disarming ways. It is also a genuinely compelling sci-fi novel about very, very, big ideas. Filled with meta-narratives, in-jokes, artistic references, and mixed media, it’s an interesting alternative to that other oft-cited cult classic House of Leaves. As someone who has worked as both designer and editor, I was blown away by Hughes’s ability to combine a good story with such avant-garde design. The themes communicated will give you much to contemplate – or ramble on about to any friends you successfully corner. A staggering achievement destined to be a future cult classic.

By Rian Hughes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked XX as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A boundary pushing, extremely inventive sci-? epic of ?rst contact by world-renowned graphic designer and comics creator Rian Hughes

When a signal of extraterrestrial origin is intercepted by one of Earth s most powerful radio satellites, people worldwide, including a small team of tech outsiders at a software engineering ?rm specializing in arti?cial intelligence, race to interpret the message carried by what could be the ?rst communication from an intergalactic civilization. Has humanity made ?rst contact? Is the signal itself an alien life-form? A threat? If so, how will the people of Earth respond?

Supplemented by redacted NASA reports, magazine…


Book cover of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte

Marian Petre Author Of Software Design Decoded: 66 Ways Experts Think

From my list on foundational perspectives on design.

Who am I?

I ‘pick the brains’ of expert software developers to understand what makes them expert. I’ve spent decades studying how professional software developers reason and communicate about design and problem solving. Informed by the seminal books I’ve highlighted (among many others), my research is grounded in empirical studies of professionals in industry and draws on cognitive and social theory. Observing, talking to, and working with hundreds of professional software developers in organisations ranging from start-ups to the world’s major software companies has exposed actionable insights into the thinking that distinguishes high-performing teams.  

Marian's book list on foundational perspectives on design

Marian Petre Why did Marian love this book?

In terms of conveying how to convey information (not just data) visually, Tufte is the undoubted master. 

This book is full of pithy examples, with clear insights about what works, what doesn’t, and why. I came across it when I was trying to understand why I was disgruntled with so many graphical representations – and Tufte provided useful clarity about my niggles.

(N.B. I had to pick just one of his titles for this list – but I’d recommend his other books as well.)

By Edward R. Tufte,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic book on statistical graphics, charts, tables. Theory and practice in the design of data graphics, 250 illustrations of the best (and a few of the worst) statistical graphics, with detailed analysis of how to display data for precise, effective, quick analysis. Design of the high-resolution displays, small multiples. Editing and improving graphics. The data-ink ratio. Time-series, relational graphics, data maps, multivariate designs. Detection of graphical deception: design variation vs. data variation. Sources of deception. Aesthetics and data graphical displays. This is the second edition of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. This edition provides excellent color reproductions of…


Book cover of Designing Web Usability

Don Glickstein Author Of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

From my list on effective graphic design.

Who am I?

My first career was as a reporter on daily newspapers. As I got promoted to editing and eventually webmaster jobs, I needed to learn about design. Newspapers had been trying to figure out which designs attract the most readers for a century. The Poynter Institute, founded in 1975, began doing quantitative research as part of its journalism education mission. Seven years later, Gannett, a large newspaper publisher, introduced USA Today, based on the latest graphic and readability research. About the same time, Edward Tufte wrote his seminal book on graphic design (See recommendation #1). With the arrival of the web, companies like Google and Microsoft took the research to new levels. For example, Microsoft used readability research to create Verdana, a font designed to be legible with then-low resolution screens. Of course, the advertising and direct-mail industries had been conducting design research for decades to enhance sales. In short, you can’t pretend to be a competent designer, webmaster, or editor in this day and age without understanding quantitative readability research.

Don's book list on effective graphic design

Don Glickstein Why did Don love this book?

Edward Tufte provided the intellectual framework to evidence-based graphic design, but Jakob Nielsen got down and dirty with web design. His lab research looks into stuff like eye fixations and click rates. But don’t get the wrong idea: He translates the research into practical suggestions about how to design web pages and web interfaces. While this book is ancient by tech standards, its principles remain unchallenged. His many other books report findings about facets of good design ranging from eye-tracking research to designing for cell phones.

By Jakob Nielsen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Designing Web Usability as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Users experience the usability of a web site before they have committed to using it and before making any purchase decisions. The web is the ultimate environment for empowerment, and he or she who clicks the mouse decides everything. Designing Web Usability is the definitive guide to usability from Jakob Nielsen, the world's leading authority. Over 250,000 Internet professionals around the world have turned to this landmark book, in which Nielsen shares the full weight of his wisdom and experience. From content and page design to designing for ease of navigation and users with disabilities, he delivers complete direction on…


Book cover of Round Trip

Kevin Tseng Author Of One Snowy Morning

From my list on seeing things differently.

Who am I?

Growing up, I loved drawing and painting and disliked writing papers, so always thought of myself solely as an illustrator. Then one day, the tale of a pie-baking worm looking for new digs (Ned’s New Home) popped into my head and I shifted into author-illustrator. Later, the story of some highly innovative forest critters (One Snowy Morning) took form and I flipped fully into the role of author (with illustrator Dana Wulfekotte’s vision filling the pages). Of course, children’s story narratives can carry big ideas. For me, the opportunities surrounding the books themselves have taught me that the ability to see things differently is a very valuable tool.

Kevin's book list on seeing things differently

Kevin Tseng Why did Kevin love this book?

As a kid, I remember staring out the window during car rides and being mesmerized by shapes, repetition, and motion. This masterfully designed book captures that dream-like quality during a daytime road trip from country into city. The detailed black-and-white illustrations use silhouette and pattern to convey the shifting scenery. And just when you think the book has come to an end, you flip the entire thing over and travel back home — at night!

By Ann Jonas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Round Trip as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

This book isn't just the STORY of a family’s round trip - it IS a round trip! Read forward and look at the sights, then flip the book over to see something different on the way back. The black-and-white illustrations for the trip into the city become something different when the book is turned upside down for the journey home. Clouds turn into puddles, fields of wheat turn into rain, lightning becomes mountain trails, and building lights morph into stars. "Round Trip" was featured on Reading Rainbow, the acclaimed PBS-TV series celebrating books and reading.


Book cover of Leadership Is an Art

Steve Arneson Author Of What Your Boss Really Wants from You: 15 Insights to Improve Your Relationship

From my list on for helping leaders develop to their full potential.

Who am I?

After a career as an HR and learning & development executive at PepsiCo, AOL, and Capital One, I founded Arneson Leadership Consulting to provide coaching, talent management, and leadership development solutions to corporations and non-profit organizations.  I have a passion for helping leaders develop to their full potential and believe all leaders have the capacity to learn and grow. But development doesn’t just magically happen – you have to be willing to work at it. Whether it’s taking a course, gathering 360 feedback, or reading a best-selling book, the best leaders know they must never stop learning.

Steve's book list on for helping leaders develop to their full potential

Steve Arneson Why did Steve love this book?

This classic by Max De Pree (the former CEO of Herman Miller) looks at leadership as a kind of stewardship, stressing the importance of building relationships, initiating ideas, and creating a lasting value system within an organization. Rather than focusing on the “how” of corporate life, he stresses that leaders need to explain the “why.” He writes that the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality and the last is to say thank you. De Pree offers dozens of memorable leadership anecdotes that will have you wishing you’d worked for him at some point in your career! A wonderful gem of a book, it’s lessons will resonate with any leader who is trying to build a winning culture. 

By Max DePree,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leadership Is an Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In what has become a bible for the business world, the successful former CEO of Herman Miller, Inc., explores how executives and managers can learn the leadership skills that build a better, more profitable organization.

Leadership Is an Art has long been a must-read not only within the business community but also in professions ranging from academia to medical practices, to the political arena. First published in 1989, the book has sold more than 800,000 copies in hardcover and paperback. This revised edition brings Max De Pree’s timeless words and practical philosophy to a new generation of readers.

De Pree…


Book cover of The Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications

Don Glickstein Author Of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

From my list on effective graphic design.

Who am I?

My first career was as a reporter on daily newspapers. As I got promoted to editing and eventually webmaster jobs, I needed to learn about design. Newspapers had been trying to figure out which designs attract the most readers for a century. The Poynter Institute, founded in 1975, began doing quantitative research as part of its journalism education mission. Seven years later, Gannett, a large newspaper publisher, introduced USA Today, based on the latest graphic and readability research. About the same time, Edward Tufte wrote his seminal book on graphic design (See recommendation #1). With the arrival of the web, companies like Google and Microsoft took the research to new levels. For example, Microsoft used readability research to create Verdana, a font designed to be legible with then-low resolution screens. Of course, the advertising and direct-mail industries had been conducting design research for decades to enhance sales. In short, you can’t pretend to be a competent designer, webmaster, or editor in this day and age without understanding quantitative readability research.

Don's book list on effective graphic design

Don Glickstein Why did Don love this book?

If there’s anyone who cares about effective graphic design, it’s direct-mail experts and fundraisers like Brooks. Brooks devotes about one-quarter of his book to the “design of fundraising”—how to use graphics to improve response rates. If folks can’t read your pitch because of poor design, all the words you write won’t make a difference. “It doesn’t matter how great a piece looks if it’s hard to read,” he says. He deflates designs that make the designer feel good, but make the reader toss the communication because it’s just too much work to figure out.

Book cover of A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design

David Airey Author Of Identity Designed: The Definitive Guide to Visual Branding

From my list on visual branding.

Who am I?

I am a graphic designer, writer, and brand consultant. I work with clients of all sizes, from multinationals to companies of one. Since opening my business in 2005 I’ve created logos and visual identities for brands in more than 30 countries. I run two design blogs Logo Design Love and Identity Designed. They resulted in publishing deals to write their accompanying books, and their pages now get millions of views each year.

David's book list on visual branding

David Airey Why did David love this book?

The world of design could do with more wit, and the examples within are a wonderful testament to the difference it makes. Almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

By Beryl McAlhone, David Staurt, Nick Asbury , Greg Quinton

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Smile in the Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forty years of "witty thinking" from over 500 designers, including hundreds of visual examples and interviews with the world's top practitioners

First published in 1996, A Smile in the Mind rapidly became one of the most influential books in graphic design - a rich sourcebook of design ideas and an entertaining guide to the techniques behind witty thinking.

Now extensively revised and updated, this book explores the powerful role of wit in graphic design, making the case for wit, as the magical element that builds the world's biggest brands and engages people with messages that matter. Packed with illustrations showcasing…