My pick of 10 essential books for designers and artists covering type, illustration, motion graphics, business and design history.
Do you have a selection of books that you return to again and again at the start of a new project? Books that continually inspire, serving as both starting point and antidote to the dreaded blank page?
Straight from my own bookshelf, here’s my choice of 10 essential books that I would wholeheartedly recommend to any new designer or seasoned pro.
1. Vision: Color and Composition for Film
This book may pitch itself in the film industry, but the clarity with which it teaches the psychology of images, composition and colour theory make it a book I’d recommended to any designer, artist or photographer. Laying out the fundamental rules of image making in an accessible way that provides the essential foundations for any visual medium.
- Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking
2. Design for Motion: Fundamentals and Techniques of Motion Design
While there are plenty of books and online tutorials covering the technical aspects of motion graphics software, few can help you overcome that first blank page like this book by Austin Shaw. Guiding you thought the initial concept stages of your project, this teaches the real value of mind-maps, mood boards and style frames for beating metal blocks and giving you the confidence to take a project forward.
- The Silver Way: Techniques, Tips, and Tutorials for Drawing Effective Characters
- The Animator’s Survival Kit
- Elemental Magic, Volume I: The Art of Special Effects Animation
3. The History of Graphic Design Vol 1 and 2
Perfectly encapsulating graphic design from 1890 to today, this double volume places key work across a contextual timeline of political, social and cultural history. Both an essential history lesson and inspirational look at the power design has on our society.
- Paul Rand: Design, Form, and Chaos
- Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design
- Type. A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles
4. House Industries Lettering Manual
From who better to learn lettering than the modern day masters at House Industries. Relatively new, this book has quickly become my go to source for hand-lettering tips. It also includes great ideas for thinking up new concepts and turning your hand-drawn letters into digital fonts.
- The ABC of Custom Lettering by Ivan Castro
- House Industries: The Process is the Inspiration
- Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything
5. Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis
A world-renowned illustration teacher from the Famous Artists School, the books of Andrew Loomis were once expensive and rare gems. Recently re-printed, their lessons are as valuable as ever and I could recommend any one of his books. Creative Illustration is his most complete volume covering line, tone and storytelling, and the perfect place to start.
- Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
- Dynamic Figure Drawing: A New Approach to Drawing the Moving Figure
- Successful Drawing by Andrew Loomis
6. Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover
A collection of phenomenally well designed book covers showcasing the innovative combination of text and image employed by Penguin. Pure inspiration and a great encouragement to keep pushing your concepts further.
- The Illustrated Dust Jacket: 1920-1970
- The Hooded Gunman
- Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the ’70s and ’80s
7. Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation
An A-Z of 1950s animation studios and beautiful showcase of the unique mid-century style of abstraction. There are valuable lessons in the economic use of shapes, colour and textures in the creation of quickly engaging images.
- Poster Art of Disney Parks by Danny Handke and Vanessa Hunt
- The Noble Approach: The Art of Maurice Noble
- They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age
8. How to be a Graphic Designer: Without Losing Your Soul
Exploring the business end of graphic design, this book contains interviews with leading designers with advice on freelancing, finding clients, staying motivated and maintaining creative independence.
- 20 Over 80: Conversations with Living Legends of Architecture and Design
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE
9. The Moderns: Midcentury American Graphic Design
Mid-century modernism brought with it real innovations in graphic design, with figures such as Saul Bass dominating film titles and Paul Rand creating world famous logos and book jackets. The Moderns collects the work of nearly 60 designers from the period, leaving no doubt as to why it remains so influential today.
10. The Art of Mondo
An impressive collection of contemporary illustrated film poster art from the Mondo label showing the industry how it should be done. Creative, innovative and beautiful. Don’t attempt to design a film poster without it.