Umbrex has developed this list of the best books on design based on input from the management consultants in our community, our clients, and other professionals.
This recommended reading list includes books that discuss graphic design, logos, branding, typography, and much more.
This list of books is a work in progress, not a final answer, and we invite you to submit your recommendations on our Contact page.
Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne
New in the “100 Ideas that Changed…” series, this book demonstrates how ideas influenced and defined graphic design, and how those ideas have manifested themselves in objects of design. The 100 entries, arranged broadly in chronological order, range from technical (overprinting, rub-on designs, split fountain); to stylistic (swashes on caps, loud typography, and white space); to objects (dust jackets, design handbooks); and methods (paper cut-outs, pixelation).Read moreRead less
We are now living in a world with over one hundred brands of bottled water. The United States alone is home to over 45,000 shopping malls. And there are more than 19 million customized beverage choices a barista can whip up at your local Starbucks. Whether it’s good or bad, the real question is why we behave this way in the first place. Why do we telegraph our affiliations or our beliefs with symbols, signs, and codes?
Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits contains twenty interviews with the world’s leading designers and thinkers in branding. The interviews contain spirited views on how and why humans have branded the world around us, and the ideas, inventions, and insight inherent in the search.Read moreRead less
Sarah Stein Greenberg
In an era of ambiguous, messy problems—as well as extraordinary opportunities for positive change—it’s vital to have both an inquisitive mind and the ability to act with intention. Creative Acts for Curious People is filled with ways to build those skills with resilience, care, and confidence.
At Stanford University’s world-renowned Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, aka “the d.school,” students and faculty, experts and seekers bring together diverse perspectives to tackle ambitious projects; this book contains the experiences designed to help them do it. A provocative and highly visual companion, it’s a definitive resource for people who aim to draw on their curiosity and creativity in the face of uncertainty. Teeming with ideas about discovery, learning, and leading the way through unknown creative territory, Creative Acts for Curious People includes memorable stories and more than eighty innovative exercises.
Curated by executive director Sarah Stein Greenberg, after being honed in the classrooms of the d.school, these exercises originated in some of the world’s most inventive and unconventional minds, including those of d.school and IDEO founder David M. Kelley, ReadyMade magazine founder Grace Hawthorne, innovative choreographer Aleta Hayes, Google chief innovation evangelist Frederik G. Pferdt, and many more.
To bring fresh approaches to any challenge–world changing or close to home–you can draw on exercises such as Expert Eyes to hone observation skills, How to Talk to Strangers to foster understanding, and Designing Tools for Teams to build creative leadership. The activities are at once lighthearted, surprising, tough, and impactful–and reveal how the hidden dynamics of design can drive more vibrant ways of making, feeling, exploring, experimenting, and collaborating at work and in life. This book will help you develop the behaviors and deepen the mindsets that can turn your curiosity into ideas, and your ideas into action.Read moreRead less
Ellen Lupton, award-winning author of Thinking with Type and How Posters Work, demonstrates how storytelling shapes great design
Good design, like good storytelling, brings ideas to life. The latest book from award-winning writer Ellen Lupton is a playbook for creative thinking, showing designers how to use storytelling techniques to create satisfying graphics, products, services and experiences. Whether crafting a digital app or a data-rich publication, designers invite people to enter a scene and explore what’s there. An intriguing logo, page layout or retail space uses line, shape and form to lead users on dynamic journeys.
Design Is Storytelling explores the psychology of visual perception from a narrative point of view. Presenting dozens of tools and concepts in a lively, visual manner, this book will help any designer amplify the narrative power of their work. Use this book to stir emotions, build empathy, articulate values and convey action; to construct narrative arcs and create paths through space; integrate form and language; evaluate a project’s storytelling power; and to write and deliver strong narratives.Read moreRead less
Charlotte and Peter Fiell
Poised at the start of the 21st century, we can see clearly that the previous century was marked by momentous changes in the field of design. Aesthetics entered into everyday life with often staggering results. Our homes and workplaces turned into veritable galleries of style and innovation.
From furniture to graphics, it’s all here―the work of artists who have shaped and re-created the modern world with a dizzying variety of materials. From the organic to the geometric, from Art Deco, through to Pop and High-Tech, this book contains all the great names―Harry Bertoia, De Stijl, Dieter Rams, Philippe Starck, Charles and Ray Eames, to name only a very few.
This essential book is a comprehensive journey through the shapes and colors, forms and functions of design history in the 20th century. An A–Z of designers and design schools, which builds into a complete picture of contemporary living. Lavishly illustrated, this is design in the fullest sense.Read moreRead less
Take a peek inside the heads of some of the world’s greatest living graphic designers. How do they think, how do they connect to others, what special skills do they have? In honest and revealing interviews, nineteen designers, including Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Beirut, David Carson, and Milton Glaser, share their approaches, processes, opinions, and thoughts about their work with noted brand designer Debbie Millman. The internet radio talk host of Design Matters, Millman persuades the greatest graphic designers of our time to speak frankly and openly about their work. How to Think Like a Great GraphicDesigners offers a rare opportunity to observe and understand the giants of the industry. Designers interviewed include: —Milton Glaser —Stefan Sagmeister —David Carson —Paula Scher —Abbott Miler —Lucille Tenazas —Paul Sahre —Emily Oberman and Bonnie Siegler —Chip Kidd —James Victore —Carin Goldberg —Michael Bierut —Seymour Chwast —Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel —Steff Geissbuhler —John Maeda
Allworth Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, publishes a broad range of books on the visual and performing arts, with emphasis on the business of art. Our titles cover subjects such as graphic design, theater, branding, fine art, photography, interior design, writing, acting, film, how to start careers, business and legal forms, business practices, and more. While we don’t aspire to publish a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are deeply committed to quality books that help creative professionals succeed and thrive. We often publish in areas overlooked by other publishers and welcome the author whose expertise can help our audience of readers.Read moreRead less
Completely updated and expanded, the second edition of David Airey’s Logo Design Love contains more of just about everything that made the first edition so great: more case studies, more sketches, more logos, more tips for working with clients, more insider stories, and more practical information for getting the job and getting it done right.
In Logo Design Love, David shows you how to develop an iconic brand identity from start to finish, using client case studies from renowned designers. In the process, he reveals how designers create effective briefs, generate ideas, charge for their work, and collaborate with clients. David not only shares his personal experiences working on identity projects – including sketches and final results of his own successful designs – he also uses the work of many well-known designers such as Paula Scher, who designed the logos for Citi and Microsoft Windows, and Lindon Leader, creator of the current FedEx identity, as well as work from leading design studios, including Moving Brands, Pentagram, MetaDesign, Sagmeister & Walsh, and many more.
In Logo Design Love, you’ll learn:
How inclusive methods can build elegant design solutions that work for all.
Sometimes designed objects reject their users: a computer mouse that doesn’t work for left-handed people, for example, or a touchscreen payment system that only works for people who read English phrases, have 20/20 vision, and use a credit card. Something as simple as color choices can render a product unusable for millions. These mismatches are the building blocks of exclusion. In Mismatch, Kat Holmes describes how design can lead to exclusion, and how design can also remedy exclusion. Inclusive design methods—designing objects with rather than for excluded users—can create elegant solutions that work well and benefit all.
Holmes tells stories of pioneers of inclusive design, many of whom were drawn to work on inclusion because of their own experiences of exclusion. A gamer and designer who depends on voice recognition shows Holmes his “Wall of Exclusion,” which displays dozens of game controllers that require two hands to operate; an architect shares her firsthand knowledge of how design can fail communities, gleaned from growing up in Detroit’s housing projects; an astronomer who began to lose her eyesight adapts a technique called “sonification” so she can “listen” to the stars.
Designing for inclusion is not a feel-good sideline. Holmes shows how inclusion can be a source of innovation and growth, especially for digital technologies. It can be a catalyst for creativity and a boost for the bottom line as a customer base expands. And each time we remedy a mismatched interaction, we create an opportunity for more people to contribute to society in meaningful ways.Read moreRead less
Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does any material look and behave the way it does? These are the sorts of questions that renowned materials scientist New York Times bestselling author Mark Miodownik constantly asks himself. Studying objects as ordinary as an envelope and as unexpected as concrete cloth, he uncovers the fascinating secrets that hold together our physical world.
In Stuff Matters, Miodownik explores the materials he encounters in a typical morning, from the steel in his razor to the foam in his sneakers. Full of enthralling tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, his stories of analysis will make you see stuff in a whole new way.
In this New York Times Notable Book, “Mark Miodownik, a materials scientist, explains the history and science behind things such as paper, glass, chocolate, and concrete with an infectious enthusiasm.”—Scientific American
“Stuff Matters is about hidden wonders, the astonishing properties of materials we think boring, banal, and unworthy of attention…It’s possible this science and these stories have been told elsewhere, but like the best chocolatiers, Miodownik gets the blend right.”—The New York Times Book Review
Winner of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science BooksRead moreRead less
Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
A beautifully designed guidebook to the unnoticed yet essential elements of our cities, from the creators of the wildly popular 99% Invisible podcast
Have you ever wondered what those bright, squiggly graffiti marks on the sidewalk mean?
Or stopped to ponder who gets to name the streets we walk along?
Or what the story is behind those dancing inflatable figures in car dealerships?
99% Invisible is a big-ideas podcast about small-seeming things, revealing stories baked into the buildings we inhabit, the streets we drive, and the sidewalks we traverse. The show celebrates design and architecture in all of its functional glory and accidental absurdity, with intriguing tales of both designers and the people impacted by their designs.
Now, in The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to Hidden World of Everyday Design, host Roman Mars and coauthor Kurt Kohlstedt zoom in on the various elements that make our cities work, exploring the origins and other fascinating stories behind everything from power grids and fire escapes to drinking fountains and street signs. With deeply researched entries and beautiful line drawings throughout, The 99% Invisible City will captivate devoted fans of the show and anyone curious about design, urban environments, and the unsung marvels of the world around them.
You are about to see stories everywhere, you beautiful nerd. Now get out there.
A New York Times Bestseller
‘If you’ve ever wondered why our world is the way it is, this show has your answers’ The Hustle
‘99% Invisible…is completely wonderful and entertaining and beautifully produced…’ Ira Glass, This American Life
‘The hugely inventive 99% Invisible treats the design of everyday things like a forensic science.’ WIREDRead moreRead less
Donald A. Norman
Design doesn’t have to complicated, which is why this guide to human-centered design shows that usability is just as important as aesthetics.
Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we fail to figure out which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door.
The fault, argues this ingenious — even liberating — book, lies not in ourselves, but in product design that ignores the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology. The problems range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable demands on memorization.
The Design of Everyday Things shows that good, usable design is possible. The rules are simple: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints. The goal: guide the user effortlessly to the right action on the right control at the right time.
The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how — and why — some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.
History is a complex business. Fortunes boom and bust, empires wax and wane, and change―whether social, political, or technological―has its winners, its losers, its advocates, and its enemies. Through all the turbulent passage of time, graphic design―with its vivid, neat synthesis of image and idea―has distilled the spirit of each age.
This book is an in-depth history of graphic design from the end of the 19th century to the ’50s. It traces the evolution of this creative field from its beginning as poster design to its further development into advertising, corporate identity, packaging, and editorial design. Organized chronologically, the volume features over 2,500 seminal designs from all over the world, 71 of which are profiled in detail besides 61 leaders in the field, including Alphonse Mucha (chocolate advertisements), Edward Johnston (London Underground logo and typeface), El Lissitzky (constructivist graphics), Herbert Matter (photomontage travel posters from Switzerland), Saul Bass (animated opening titles), and A. M. Cassandre (art deco posters).
With his sweeping knowledge of the field, author Jens Müller curates the standout designs for each year alongside a running sequence of design milestones. Meanwhile, in his introductory essay, David Jury situates graphic design from its point of origin in early printing, engraving, and lithography to striking creative developments in the 19th century. Each consecutive decade is then prefaced by a succinct overview as well as a stunning visual timeline, offering a vivid display of the variety of graphic production in each decade as well as the global landscape which it at once described and defined.
As we move on from and reflect upon the 20th century, this first volume examines the foundations of what would influence some of the fastest-changing creative fields. Combined with Volume Two―which spans from the 1960s until today―the tomes offer the most comprehensive exploration of graphic design to date and a long-overdue recognition of its enormous contribution to economics, politics, social causes, the arts, media, and the way we see the world.Read moreRead less
Through the turbulent passage of time, graphic design―with its vivid, neat synthesis of image and idea―has distilled the spirit of each age. Surrounding us every minute of every day, from minimalist packaging to colorful adverts, smart environmental graphics to sleek interfaces: graphic design is as much about transmitting information as it is about reflecting society’s cultural aspirations and values.
This second volume rounds off our in-depth exploration of graphic design, spanning from the 1960s until today. About 3,500 seminal designs from across the globe guide us in this visual map through contemporary history, from the establishment of the International Style to the rise of the groundbreaking digital age. Around 80 key pieces go under the microscope in detailed analyses besides 118 biographies of the era’s most important designers, including Massimo Vignelli (New York subway wayfinding system), Otl Aicher (Lufthansa identity), Paula Scher (Citibank brand identity), Neville Brody (The Face magazine), Kashiwa Sato (Uniqlo brand identity), and Stefan Sagmeister (handwriting posters).
With his sweeping knowledge of the field, author Jens Müller curates the standout designs for each year alongside a running sequence of design milestones. Organized chronologically, each decade is prefaced by a succinct overview as well as a stunning visual timeline, offering a vivid display of the variety of graphic production in each decade as well as the global landscape which it at once described and defined.
This collection of important graphic works represents a long-overdue reflection on the development of a creative field constantly changing and challenging itself. These key pieces act as coordinates through contemporary history, helping us trace the sheer influence of graphic design on our daily lives.
Combined with Volume One―which spans from the field’s very beginnings until 1959―the tomes offer the most comprehensive exploration of graphic design to date.Read moreRead less
Typographic organization has always been a complex system in that there are so many elements at play, such as hierarchy, order of reading, legibility, and contrast. In Typographic Systems, Kim Elam, author of our bestselling books, Geometry of Design and Grid Systems, explores eight major structural frameworks beyond the grid including random, radial, modular, and bilateral systems. By taking the reader through exercises, student work, and professional examples, Elam offers a broad range of design solutions.
Once essential visual organization systems are understood the designer can fluidly organize words or images within a structure, combination of structures, or a variation of a structure. With clarity and substance, each system from the structured axis to the nonhierarchical radial array is explained and explored so that the reader comes away with a better understanding of these intricate complex arrangements. Typographic Systems is the seventh title in our bestselling Design Briefs series, which has sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide.Read moreRead less