The 13 Best Books to Read for Web and Graphic Designers

by
Stephanie Corrigan
Stack of books and an apple on a pink background
Looking to brush up on your design knowledge? Here are the 13 best books for web and graphic designers, including three top reads on running a successful design business.

Whether you're a new or seasoned designer, it never hurts to refresh your brain on design principles and find new sources of inspiration. While there are many ways to learn about design online, such as courses, blog posts, and YouTube videos, you can't go wrong with a good book. Design books are a wonderful resource for anyone who likes having something tangible to read and refer to.

Most of the books shared in this post are written by designers, for designers. Each book is highly rated and recommended, so you can rest assured you're only getting the best information. Let's dive in.

5 best books for web designers

First up, let's take a look at five of the best books for web designers. Web design requires knowledge of basic design principles, usability best practices, and a bit of front-end programming. Whether you're a total beginner or just looking to level up your web design skills, these books offer something for everyone.

HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites - Jon Duckett

HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites - Jon Duckett
HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites - Jon Duckett

HTML and CSS are two front-end coding languages that every web designer should be familiar with. All websites use HTML and CSS. What better way to dive into these languages than with Jon Duckett's best-selling manual? This is not your typical dry and technical programming book; rather, HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites is written in a visual, engaging, and simple way that is accessible to everyone. It's a handy book that you can refer back to whenever you need to brush up on your knowledge.

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Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability - Steve Krug

Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability - Steve Krug
Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability - Steve Krug

Originally published in 2000, Don't Make Me Think remains to this day one of the top books on website usability. Currently in its third edition, the book now also includes information on mobile usability. It covers everything you need to know about designing websites that are easy to navigate. Not only that, the information is presented in a humorous and commonsensical way, making it a more enjoyable read than your typical textbook. Concise and to the point, Don't Make Me Think is an essential book for web designers.

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The Principles of Beautiful Web Design: Designing Great Web Sites is Not Rocket Science! - Jason Beaird & James George

The Principles of Beautiful Web Design: Designing Great Web Sites is Not Rocket Science! - Jason Beaird & James George
The Principles of Beautiful Web Design: Designing Great Web Sites is Not Rocket Science! - Jason Beaird & James George

If you have some technical knowledge of how to build websites and are mainly looking for help in the visual department, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design is for you. This popular and thorough book covers five essential design principles that every web designer needs to understand: layout and composition, color, texture, typography, and imagery. The book is written in a light and humorous tone and includes many beautiful examples and detailed guides. All in all, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design is a must-read for non-designers. It'll help you develop a better eye for graphic design in order to create professional looking websites.

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Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics - Jennifer Robbins

Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics - Jennifer Robbins
Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics - Jennifer Robbins

Web design newbies, listen up: Learning Web Design is the book for you. This comprehensive and beginner-friendly guide offers a great introduction to web design and development. Learn the ins and outs of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and how they each contribute to website structure, styling, and functionality. For more advanced web designers and developers, Learning Web Design serves as a useful reference guide. Lauded for its accessible writing style and color coded organization system, Learning Web Design is undeniably one of the best books for web designers.

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Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services - Jon Yablonski

Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services - Jon Yablonski
Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services - Jon Yablonski

Would it surprise you to learn that design and psychology are closely related? In fact, there's a lot of psychology behind the way people interact with design, particularly in a digital context. This intersection between design and psychology forms the foundation of user experience (UX) design. Laws of UX, as the title suggests, is a practical guide to applying psychological principles in design in order to create better, more intuitive user experiences. For web designers, having a solid understanding of UX principles is a must. Laws of UX effectively takes a complex topic and breaks it up into bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest and implement.

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Looking to step up your web design game? Check out Ran Segall’s free Webflow masterclass to learn how to build beautiful, high-value websites in a matter of hours.

5 best books for graphic designers

If you're new to design or coming from a more technical background, consider picking up a book on graphic design. Through a combination of helpful visuals and straightforward writing, the best books for graphic designers teach fundamental principles in an intuitive and enjoyable way. Keep reading to discover our top picks.

The Non-Designer's Design Book - Robin Williams

The Non-Designer's Design Book - Robin Williams
The Non-Designer's Design Book - Robin Williams

If you're an aspiring graphic designer, you can't go wrong with The Non-Designer's Design Book. This best-selling book covers four fundamental principles of design that have the power to transform your work from amateur to professional. It includes plenty of examples, both of what to do and what not to do, to help you train your design eye. With a light and straightforward tone, The Non-Designer's Design Book is one of the best books for graphic designers.

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Grid systems in graphic design: A visual communication manual for graphic designers, typographers and three dimensional designers - Josef Müller-Brockmann

Grid systems in graphic design: A visual communication manual for graphic designers, typographers and three dimensional designers - Josef Müller-Brockmann
Grid systems in graphic design: A visual communication manual for graphic designers, typographers and three dimensional designers - Josef Müller-Brockmann

A grid system is a structural framework that helps graphic designers create balanced and logical layouts in print and digital design. Grids are important for creating consistency in design. Grid Systems in Graphic Design is a practical guide suitable for designers of all skill levels. If you're confused about grids or not sure why they're necessary in the first place, check out this book.

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Paul Rand: A Designer's Art - Paul Rand

Paul Rand: A Designer's Art - Paul Rand
Paul Rand: A Designer's Art - Paul Rand

The name Paul Rand alone is enough to tell you that this book is a valuable read for graphic designers. Paul Rand is one of the most influential graphic designers of the twentieth century. He's also considered the "father of branding," having created the iconic logos for giant corporations like IBM, UPS, and ABC. Paul Rand: A Designer's Art provides telling insight into Paul Rand's design process and ideology. Don't miss this book if you want to learn firsthand from one of the greatest graphic designers of our time.

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The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters - Steven Heller & Gail Anderson

The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters - Steven Heller & Gail Anderson
The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters - Steven Heller & Gail Anderson

The Graphic Design Idea Book is another great introductory book on graphic design principles. In addition to covering design fundamentals in accessible language, the book also includes a plethora of examples from 50 masterful designers. It's a great book to have around whenever you need to look something up or to simply browse some high quality inspiration when you're feeling stuck.

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Logo Modernism - Jens Müller & R. Roger Remington

Logo Modernism - Jens Müller & R. Roger Remington
Logo Modernism - Jens Müller & R. Roger Remington

Interested in branding, and more specifically, logo design? Logo Modernism is a worthy addition to any logo designer's book collection. The book features a large collection (we're talking thousands) of logos that gave birth to modern brand identity design as we know it today, particularly in the corporate world. The book itself is large, heavy, and on the pricier side, but consider it an investment in your design education. It's a classic book that you'll come back to again and again as you embark on new branding projects.

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3 best books on the business of design

One of the best things about a career in web or graphic design is the flexibility that comes with digital work; all you really need in order to do your work is a computer and WiFi. In addition to the remote work flexibility, you can also choose to work in-house, as a freelancer, or launch your own studio. Being your own boss has many rewards, but it also requires many skills outside of design. Here are a few of the best books for web and graphic designers who want to make a business out of design.

Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don't teach you in design school, but should - Michael Janda

Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don't teach you in design school, but should - Michael Janda
Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don't teach you in design school, but should - Michael Janda

Attending design school is a great way to learn how to design. But when it comes to running a creative business, unfortunately being a good designer doesn’t guarantee success. Burn Your Portfolio aims to fill in the gaps in the standard design education curriculum, such as managing a team, bidding on projects, and building effective client relationships. It's a practical guide based on the author's many years of experience running his own design agency. Learning from his mistakes might just save you from the pain of making them yourself.

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How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul (New Expanded Edition) - Adrian Shaughnessy

How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul (New Expanded Edition) - Adrian Shaughnessy
How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul (New Expanded Edition) - Adrian Shaughnessy

According to Adrian Shaughnessy, entering the workforce as a graphic designer doesn't have to mean sacrificing your soul. In his best-selling book, Adrian offers seasoned advice for designers at all stages of their career, whether they're job-hunting, freelancing, or starting their own creative studio. There's a little bit of something for every designer.

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Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen - Donald Miller

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen - Donald Miller
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen - Donald Miller

Even though it's not a design book, Building a StoryBrand belongs on every business owner's reading list, including designers. Brand designers in particular will find that the StoryBrand framework offers many valuable insights that could strengthen their process. In a nutshell, Building a StoryBrand teaches how to create a clear and compelling brand message that resonates with the people you want to work with. Study and apply the StoryBrand framework if you want to build a lasting and profitable design business.

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Curious about what Ran Segall is reading lately? Check out the video below for an overview of every book and course he invested in in 2020. 

How to become a better web designer

All of the books in this post offer tons of value for web and graphic designers. And while there's a lot to learn from studying design, actually implementing what you've learned is a whole new ball game. Being a good designer really requires practice.

If you're committed to developing the skills to design better websites for your clients, check out our course The $10k Website Process. This comprehensive course by Flux Academy founder, Ran Segall, leaves no stone unturned when it comes to designing beautiful, strategic websites. Enroll today to get expert feedback on your work, and join a community of over 3,000 professional web designers.

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