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The Best Design Books We’ve Ever Read

Great design books can open our eyes to new possibilities and unlock new insights that lead to great design. We recently asked our designers which design books had left the greatest impact on them and their work. Here’s what they said.

Typographic Style Handbook by Michael Mitchell & Susan Wightman

I was first introduced to the Typographic Style Handbook during a typography class at the uni. Being giant red brick, the book didn’t look like a page turner. Little did I know that it would soon teach me the history of typography, introduce me countless layouts, and design a book of my own.
I loved the handbook so much that I purchased my own copy a few years ago. Today, it inspires me to be mindful of field layout in forms, improve the legibility of tables I design, and effectively structure typography across different screens and pages. It is focused on book design, but all the rules are timeless and apply to digital experiences. I can’t recommend it high enough, especially if you’re a book nerd like me.

-Jarek Morawski, Sr. Product Designer, Woo Design

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

The Elements of Typographic Style is a beautifully written book about the essence of graphic design. I read it at the beginning of my design journey and I believe is one of the essentials. What distinguishes it from other books is flawless and absorbing language. It is not a surprise since the author is also a poet. Robert Bringhurst can write about typography in a way that makes you fall in love with this discipline completely.

-Marta Przeciszewska, Brand/Creative Designer, Woo Design

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

It’s been a while since I read John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. I’ve forgotten a lot of it. The book is built, from cover to cover, to disrupt the way you think about what you’re looking at. For this reason, It’s never really left my head.
It was the first book about art that made me consider what, exactly, I was looking at. To see its human side. Its central lesson – that both the crafter and consumer of a piece of visual communication bring their own context and motivations to the exchange – is one that still resonates with me in the work I do today.

-Joe Keenan, Sr. Product Designer, Woo Design

Build by Tony Fadell

While Tony Fadell’s book “Build” is not entirely about design, it’s still a great book for any designer to read. Tony was senior vice president of the iPod division at Apple Inc. and founder and former CEO of Nest Labs. The lessons and insights he shares in this book touch on management, process, making decisions, customer experience, disruption, and storytelling. I highly recommend reading this book!

-Dave Martin, Product Design Lead, WordPress.com

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

In “Creativity Inc.”, Ed Catmull, who is the co-founder of Pixar and a previous president of Pixar and Disney animation shares his entire journey and the lessons he’s learned along the way. The stories he tells on how to navigate culture, creativity, feedback, fear, and failure specifically within a design organization are priceless. I found the “Braintrust” structure that they use to provide constructive feedback to be particularly insightful.

-Dave Martin, Product Design Lead, WordPress.com

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

The last book that has made an impact has been “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer. I saw one of her talks and became really interested because cultural contrast is one of the most fascinating subjects to me.
When I joined Automattic, I read the book again. Working with people from all around the world makes it very relevant. It has helped me understand different ways of building trust, based on the cultural framework that different people have, and has also fostered an interest in digging more about specific cultural aspects of some countries, to build empathy with coworkers from those places.

-Javi Loureiro, Design Program Manager, Designer Experience

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

“Do the Work” is a surprisingly helpful little book for people working on all types of creative projects. Creative output on-demand is possible if you approach it with a defined process and a brave mindset. This book is full of memorable metaphors to help you fight internal doubts and move forward despite the resistance of our chattering brains.

-Andrei Slobtsov, Brand/Creative Designer, Woo Design

A Few More Suggestions…


What design books have changed the way you work? Feel free to share with us in the comments!

Featured image by Andrei Slobtsov.

By Joe Keenan

By Javi Loureiro

Designer Experience

By Dave Martin

Dave is a designer at Automattic.

By Jarosław Morawski

Product designer interested in how stuff works.

By Marta Przeciszewska

By Andrei Slobtsov

Design Director @Automattic

By Vanessa Riley Thurman

Proud midwesterner, maker, writer and wanderer.