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InsightOct 16, 2023

Design books gift guide 2023 - part I

The RGD Book Club has curated a gift guide of design books that will not only establish you as the gifting champion, but also elevate your recipient's creative soul.

Whether they're a seasoned architect, a typography fanatic, an aspiring illustrator, a digital-savvy creative or simply someone with an eye for aesthetics, we've got you covered. In this design-centric era, books have transformed their roles as more than mere reading materials; they've evolved into works of art themselves. Our thoughtfully selected collection of design books goes beyond pretty covers and coffee table decorations. These are gateways to worlds of inspiration, innovation and imagination. From exploring the fascinating history of design to diving deep into the minds of legendary creators, our gift guide promises to be a treasure trove of knowledge, beauty and the occasional chuckle. So, prepare to amaze your design-savvy friends, family and colleagues with gifts that are not only visually stunning, but also intellectually stimulating.

For the design diehards

"Logos that Last: How to create iconic visual branding" book cover

Logos that Last: How to create iconic visual branding

By Allan Peters

Rockport Publishers, November 2023

With plenty of detailed case studies, readers will delight in following the development of inspiring logo designs, from concept to completion. They will also learn how to create a dynamic brand system. In today’s day and age, branding is more important than ever. Standing out in a sea of competition becomes harder each year — Logos that Last showcases the best case studies to help interested designers start and continue to grow their branding practice.

"The new designer: rejecting myths, embracing change hardcover" book cover

The new designer: rejecting myths, embracing change hardcover

By Manuel Lima

MIT Press, May 2023

Manuel dives deep into how our choices as designers should focus more on ethics rather than just aesthetics. A must-read for any designer who wants to learn how to challenge common myths about what truly comprises design and, both individually and collectively, take responsibility for the personal, societal, cultural and environmental impact of the work current and future designers produce.

"The history of graphic design Vol. 1" book cover

The history of graphic design Vol. 1

By Jens Müller

Taschen, March 2022

Along with editor Julius Wiedemann, Jens curates a selection of historic milestones of graphic design industry from the 1890s to today. This book features a visual history that details the hallmark of each decade and the major strides made in that period. Jens constructs a depiction of graphic design history that is vivid with detail and the visuals of the book make this an approachable and enticing read. This book is essential for anyone interested in the history of graphic design in the Western world and its evolution through the decades.

"Flexible visual systems" book cover

Flexible visual systems

By Martin Lorenz

Slanted Publishers, January 2021

Want to know more about designing flexible systems for visual identities? Look no further than Flexible design systems. Split into three parts, Martin discusses the past, present and future of well-thought-out systems and then dives deep into how these systems, using shapes like the circle, square and pentagon, can be formed and moulded into various ways of achieving a great visual identity. The best part about this book is on page 148, where Martin has kindly left plenty of examples and instructions on how to use these shapes and forms for future practice.

"Design for a better world" book cover

Design for a better world

By Don Norman

MIT Press, April 2023

Don's Design for a Better World challenges the reader to critically examine the normative existing systems that inform and construct our everyday lives. Through pragmatic explorations, the book uncovers biases within calendar systems, scientific measurements and other constructions that constrain our existence for potential meaningful change. This book is an excellent introduction for those interested in human-centred design, design justice, systems design and the role of design in informing sustainable practices. Don's perspective is refreshing and optimistic, urging everyone to consider dismantling existing systems of power to bring about a "better world".

For the type fanatics

"Helmut Schmid typography" book cover

Helmut Schmid typography

By Kiyonori Muroga, Nicole Schmid (eds.).

Lars Müller Publishers, December 2023

Born in Austria as a German citizen, Helmut Schmid later moved to Osaka, Japan, where he established his own studio in 1981. Blending eastern and western influences, Helmut was a master of his craft. The Austrian typographer, while remaining faithful to the principles of clarity, simplicity and elegance, placed emphasis on developing his own typographic style. Helmut Schmid Typography explores his work and walks readers through an insightful journey through his career. A great book for those intrigued by the exploration of the life’s work of this renowned typographer.

"Who Will U Be?" book cover

Who Will U Be?

By Jessica Hische

Penguin Workshop, April 2023

Who Will U Be? is a whimsical and inspiring journey of self-discovery. With delightful illustrations and playful typography, Jessica encourages readers of all ages to embrace their unique life paths. This charming book highlights that it's okay not to have all the answers and that the adventure of becoming is a beautiful, lifelong process. Who Will U Be? is a heartwarming reminder that we can shape our destinies with curiosity, courage and creativity. Jessica's illustrative and typographic brilliance shines brightly in this uplifting book to the endless possibilities within each of us.

"Designing type" book cover

Designing type

By Karen Cheng

Yale University Press, October 2020

Designing type is the perfect addition to any type designer's bookshelf. This comprehensive book addresses "typo-mania," a term coined by design legends Erik Spiekermann and Ellen Lupton that Karen herself describes as a drive to understand the intricacies and details of letterforms and a desire to design your own custom typeface. Each chapter gives a detailed exploration of the type design process and each different facet of a typeface. The book also has several helpful appendices, such as one on typeface classification and an overview of type design software. Throughout the book, Karen's own love of type is infectious, making it easy to read and follow along.

"I always think it’s forever" book cover

I always think it’s forever

By Timothy Goodman

Simon & Schuster, January 2023

I always think it’s forever is, at its core, a celebration of life, love and healing. Timothy's memoir details his time in France and lessons learned from his time there. This personal story is amplified by Timothy's iconic and punchy lettering style and whimsical illustration. The memoir format makes you feel like you're reading correspondence from a friend and you feel deeply with them as they navigate through all of what life has to throw towards them. This is a must-read for type lovers who also love poetry, stories about healing and narratives about love.

"Dream in color: 30 posters of power, 30 black creatives" book cover

Dream in color: 30 posters of power, 30 black creatives

By Tré Seals

Chronicle Books, August 2022

Dream in colour is a celebration of typography, illustration and Black Culture. The book features thirty 11x14” removable posters, each celebrating a Black creator on a global level. The likes of London-based muralist Lakwena, South-African artist Huston Wilson and hip-hop legend and designer Cey Adams are lovingly curated by Tré in this poster anthology. Each poster has a unique aesthetic paired with messages in masterful typographic compositions that express hope and strength. This is a must-buy for those looking to expand their typographic repertoire and celebrate the work of Black creatives working on a global level.

Keep reading for Part II (Illustrations and Digital Design) and III (Creative Inspiration)

The Design Books Gift Guide 2023 is lovingly assembled by The RGD Book Club committee, a trio of passionate bibliophiles and dedicated writers, volunteering diligently to ignite your creativity. 

Written by:

Literary Maven: Esther Sunghee Byun RGD

Bibliophile Dynamo: Bianca Jozwiak RGD

Bookworm Virtuoso: Rupsha Mutsuddi Provisional RGD


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