Over the past few years, while I was still at Davis, I’d acquired a number of design books both from design courses and for my own interest. Somewhere along my undergrad education, I figured that great designers probably have a library of design books that they’ve collected over the years, and that I should start one now. Because of my college budget, I had to be very selective as to which design book I should buy, since there are so many design books out there that are just pretty pictures and no substance. Even though I wasn’t really a fan of reading until recently, I would still like to get my money’s worth of useful information. While I do enjoy flipping through design annuals and anthologies from time to time, the meat of design derives from the philosophy; the concepts.
The following are books that I think are really important for designers like me (geeky, organize-crazy, and/or passionate about design and the world). These books are definitely worth my money and I enjoy having them in my “library.”
Getting Things Done
Now, this may not be a design book, but for someone who likes to get organized in his/her work (and life), this book definitely allows him/her to spend more time being creative and less time managing messes. I started implementing this over the summer, and while I haven’t completely adopted it, I was able to collect all the random design/art ideas that pop into my head in the shower or in the car or anywhere else and save it for creative projects later on.
How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul
When I first saw this title, I thought it was a little cocky, then kind of funny. But when I thought about how I want to do good in the world with or without design, I looked into getting this book. I don’t quite remember, but I think this was the book, or one of the few books, that made me enjoy reading again. From then on, I would periodically have a book of which I would read ten to twenty pages before I go to bed. I jumped right into the middle of the book, with chapters on “How to find a job,” and “The creative process” before reading the introduction (partly because I was desperate for answers). This book basically helps you to be comfortable with yourself doing what you do in life. It doesn’t tell you what to do with your career; it just gives you notes on topics related to design from which you would make your own decisions about what to make of your career. And plus, it includes a foreword by Stefan Sagmeister! This may be a totally unfair bias on my part, but anything with Sagmeister must be good!
I also like how the cover was so simply and appropriately designed: set in Akzidenz-Grotesk, aligned top left, no fluff, just type on dull cyan. It even has the table of contents! That’s such a great use of the cover. Form follows function. I was/am a little confused about the slashes, though. The inside of the book was beautifully designed, too. Set in Helvetica, no large type, and the only colors used were black and the cyan on modest off-white paper. The seemingly awkward, but clearly intentionally gridded, copy layout made it more beautiful and interesting to read.
Stylin’ with CSS: A Designer’s Guide
I got this book for my HTML/CSS class in Fall 2006. I was only somewhat familiar with CSS at the time, and this book really helped me understand the box model and column layouts. I always refer to this book at least once in site project, including Flush. I highly recommend it to those who are new to CSS. Read this through, test the codes for yourself, and you’ll have a great grasp of CSS.
Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century
I have to be honest. I haven’t really seriously read anything from this book. I got it because I heard a lot about it and then found out it was really cheap, compared to the amount of information it contains. I do intend to read it in the future, and even though I’m not reading it now, I still think that it’s a good book to have around, so that when you’re ready to make a change in the world, it’ll be within reach.
I like how this book is categorized into levels by a gradient of colors. It’s very cohesive along with the website. I swear, once I get a job and take care of my financial situation, I will read this more and act. I recommend getting this book, and if you do, READ IT.
“Design Library” Sidebar
For your convenience, I have added a “Design Library” sidebar that features these four books, along with other design books in my collection. I’ve even included books that I rarely look at anymore, like the Adobe CS and Flash 8 books, since I’m on CS3 now. Still, they might be of use someday. And hopefully, that library will expand greatly over time.