Stefani Wilkens
Stefani Wilkens | Graphic Designer

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Book Recommendations for Designers and Other Creative People

I’m an avid believer in the power of reading. The simple act of opening a book holds the potential to expand our knowledge, perspectives, and abilities in a short amount of time with relatively little effort. Books can inspire and instruct us on how to improve our work and our lives. Everyone has the time and energy to read (if you think you don’t, you’re lying to yourself) but not everyone knows where to look for the right books to guide their careers. As a designer, there have been a few books that have proved to be invaluable in shaping my skills and thought processes:

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Thinking with Type

This was the first book I was assigned in my very first typography course in college. It’s also a book I reference regularly and highly recommend to any designer, regardless of where they are in their careers. If you want to learn the basics of visual communication or just learn how to talk about type in general, this is the place to start. While I insist you read the book, the associated website is a great place to start learning while you wait for your Amazon Prime shipment to be delivered. 

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While You’re Reading

Another book from that Typographics I course, While You’re Reading is a book about reading a book. While that idea is quite entertaining, it’s also vitally important for designers to understand. We talk about how the eye moves through a piece all the time, but here’s a great text to reference when someone questions your thinking along these lines. It also touches on how different people absorb things differently, which can be a big help when you’re designing for a target demographic that you’re not familiar with.

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How to Create a Portfolio and Get Hired

This one I recommend to any recent/upcoming graduates and anyone who’s looking to make a job change. You’ll see some great and inspiring work examples and learn how to filter your projects so that your portfolio packs the most punch. When putting together a portfolio, it’s important to be deliberate about which pieces you choose – this book will help you learn what questions to ask and how to make particular decisions when deciding what projects you want to display.

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Society of Illustrators Annual of American Illustration

While it’s true that we have Pinterest, Dribbble, and Awwwards, sometimes the best inspiration comes to us in print. Now, I have the equivalent of a minor in Art History, so I’m a bit difficult to please when it comes to looking at art – I want to be able to dissect it and process the meanings and messages behind a particular piece in minute detail. Thankfully, this particular series of books allows me to do just that. It’s also fantastic for finding inspiration for things like color selection, illustration, and general aesthetic styles. 

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Color: Messages and Meanings

Are you as obsessed with Pantone swatch books as I am? Are you equally as scandalized by how expensive they are? This particular book can serve a similar purpose and be (almost) as satisfying as flipping through those swatches. It’s a great tool for creating color palettes and is a great starting point for the designer who wants to learn why certain colors evoke specific emotions.

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Start with Why

The one non-design book on this list, Start with Why dives deeper into the idea Simon Sinek presented in his now famous TED Talk. (If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.) This concept of starting with the why and moving outwards to the how and what is something that can influence everyone’s work – designer or not – and help guide both your career and your life.

Now that I’ve shared a selection of my favorite design and career books, it’s your turn! Leave a comment with suggestions on what I should read next and let me know if I’ve left anything important off the list!