As designers, we all (sometimes secretly) love to look at those Rockport and Phaidon books full of logos and letterheads. Whether we do it for inspiration, just like to admire the creativity of others, or both, the fact remains that the designs and ideas will become dated and for the most part irrelevant in only a couple of years.
Essentially, they’re yearbooks for logos.
However, unlike yearbooks, there are some books who’s essential beauty and rule will withstand the test of time. Not only because their knowledge is so elemental that it can be applied to most any era of design, but also because they define those eras. The following list contains what we believe to be a handful of those era-defining, all-applicable publications that every designer—whether production designer or creative director—should own. Because we all secretly dream of being the next David Carson or Zuzanna Licko.
  1. Robert Bringhurst’s Elements of Typographic Style

    This book contains everything you will ever need to know about typographic theory. Bringhurst’s book is for graphic designers what Grey’s Anatomy is for med students.

  2. 30 Essential Typefaces for a Lifetime by Joshua Berger & Imin Pao

    We’re not trying to say that these are the only typefaces a designer should ever use, because there are many brilliant and beautiful typefaces coming out every year. This book contains 30 of the faces that define modern typography and stand as the inspiration for many of the world’s leading typographers.

  3. Making & Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara

    In my opinion, a good educational book teaches you something, and then challenges that knowledge. This book explains the benefits of using traditional grid systems in design and how to create them, as well as how to break them and challenge those “traditions.”

  4. The Production Manual by Ambrose/Harris

    This is an all-around knowledge book that delves into everything from kerning to bleeding, ppi to embossing, and includes handy reference tables for standard sizes from screen to envelope. The entire book is organized in a highly reference-able fashion, starting with design basics, elements, and color, and concluding with pre-press, production and finishing.

  5. Print Magazine

    Yes, this is a recurring publication and doesn’t technically classify as a book, but considering the quality and variety of work that is displayed along with the industry-relevant articles and tips one can find inside (not to mention the classifieds—ok ads), Print magazine is a leading knowledge portal for the design industry. There are many relevant and beautifully laid out design magazines out there, and though we at the studio hold subscriptions to more than a handful, the issues will not only fill your shelves in the coming years, but are a constantly updating industry reference. (Just watch out for the exotic paper-cuts you can get from thumbing too quickly past the paper company ads.)—This is, of course, only a short list of our favorites. Our library here at the studio includes many different books of a few different decades and countless magazines ranging from Bride to GQ.


We want to hear from you though! What is the most essential book in your design library? Something that you quote and reference weekly, daily or per hour.