We asked five RGD members to share the design books that have meant the most to their creative careers. Check out their list of resources for inspiration, strategy, insight, information and more.
1. Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far by Stefan Sagmeister
2. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
3. The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
4. Graphic Design Theory by Meredith Davis
5. How To Be A Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
Recommended by Chantal Abdel-Nour Prov RGD, Sudbury
Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far by Stefan Sagmeister
Honesty. That is the message most prevalent throughout Stefan Sagmeister’s book (or rather, series of small booklets) Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, saturated with phenomenal typographic maxims paired with endearing anecdotes about his experiences. It’s apparent that he and his team approach every project with honesty as their foundation. The aesthetics range from beautiful to cringeworthy, but you can be sure it is free of deceit, which in turn nourishes the interest of each piece even more than simple aesthetics would. This book has encouraged me to do much the same with my own work; to strive to generate bona fide design, and to take more risks. Thank you, Mr. Sagmeister.
Recommended by Gigi Lau RGD, Harlequin Enterprises, Toronto
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Using her own experiences as one of America's greatest choreographers as well as stories from other artists, Twyla Tharp shares numerous exercises for enhancing your creativity through routine and habit. Topics covered in this resource include: creative rituals, tips for getting organized, finding inspiration, dealing with ruts, learning from failures, advice for becoming more disciplined in your skill area and much more.
I felt like my career had stagnated, so my Creative Director recommended this book to me. I loved how it was easy to read and down-to-earth, and the way it conveyed useful, relevant information without coming across as too academic or 'self-help' focused. Twyla's insight into the creative process reminded me why I love the road I've taken and her message helped reassure me I was on the right path, driving me to continue creating and connecting with like-minded, hard-working, passionate and creative people.
Recommended by two RGD Members:
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
Joel Clements RGD, Brainstorm Studio, Richmond Hill:
I have had my copy of this book at my desk for twenty-two years, ever since it was recommended to me by one of my design professors. It is a fantastic reference for typographic style and usage. This book belongs in the library of anyone involved in visual communication design.
In any profession the mastery of the fundamentals are the precursor to the freedom of “breaking the rules”. Bringhurst clearly lays down the working principles of typography from visual aspects such as rhythm and proportion, to the proper use of analphabetic symbols. He even throws in a chapter on the history of typography that places the origins of moveable type in eleventh century China (sure to ruffle the feathers of Gutenberg fans).
This reference on typographic guidelines was written by a Canadian Typographer and Poet. Unlike most reference books, this one keeps the reader engaged by harnessing their imagination without skimping on practical application.
I came across this book at Chapters in the design section, which is where I spend time when I’m feeling uninspired. People say that a career in graphic design is one of the most sought after professions, but in reality it isn't really that exciting. I sit in front of a computer clicking away and as a result reading typography dictionaries is how I get my thrills. There is a lot of ignorant typography out there and people should have this book on hand so they can either follow the rules or know how to break them.
Recommended by Angela Norwood RGD, York University, Toronto
Graphic Design Theory by Meredith Davis
One in a series of texts called Graphic Design in Context, this book is a comprehensive introduction to the theory of graphic design by a preeminent researcher, teacher and adviser on design education in North America. By bringing discussion of communication models, semiotics, modernism, post-modernism and media convergence into the same book, Davis outlines the parameters of our field. Students and seasoned practitioners alike are able to place their work into a larger context, making them better informed designers. An important and inspiring book for designers and those wishing to better understand design.
Recommended by Iliana Shabatova Prov RGD, Richmond Hill
How To Be A Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
This is a great book for designers trying to navigate their way through the complex creative industry and is especially helpful for creative professionals looking to improve as freelancers. It has been very useful in my career for providing practical advice whenever I feel lost or unsure - it has helped me get back in touch with my career goals and focus more clearly on what I want to achieve. Above all, it is a remarkably easy read.
Adrian Shaughnessy strives to remind designers how to be more balanced, inspired, professional, smart and efficient in their professional careers. As he states: "I want to help you become an effective and self-reliant graphic designer - without losing your soul along the way." Covering topics that range from putting together a portfolio, asking for a raise to communicating with clients and comparing the advantages of different jobs, Adrian Shaughnessy puts a critical lens on subjects normally taken as an axiom by many in the industry. Along the way, he quotes and references influential designers and their philosophies, putting a positive spin on the challenges we face to help readers develop a stronger understanding of the industry.
"The modern designer needs to be a diplomat, a business thinker, a researcher, an aesthete, an ethicist, an innovator - in fact, a polymath."