Book List: Design Careers
Portfolio Review
Check out a list of RGD-recommended books for various types of designers.  


For the Production Designer: 

Recommended by Molly Hill RGD, Cambridge  

The Production Manual: A graphic design handbook by Gavin Ambrose & Paul Harris

I know... Yawn. That’s what students do too when they sit in their first “Design Production” class or the like. I have been teaching design production and process concepts for five years now and it admittedly took a while to develop a way of delivering “non-creative” content in a way that connected with an audience also enrolled in a slew of creative classes. This book has been helpful in this quest.


It does a great job of explaining terminology, concepts and processes in a highly visual manner through well-designed diagrams, charts and work samples. This book is very thorough in its coverage yet feels light and the layouts appeal to design sensibilities— completely tricking unsuspecting youth into loving production and absorbing every detail. At the very least it’s a great reference to have on the shelf when a process needs explaining.

For the In-House Designer:
Recommended by Wendy Millard RGD, Kingston 

The Corporate Creative: Tips and Tactics for Thriving as an In-House Designer by DT 2014 Speaker Andy Epstein 

This easy to read book on how to survive and manage in-house design is a must have on your bookshelf. I've taken ideas directly from this book and have applied them to how we work with great success. It's so important to have your in-house design team singing off the same song sheet when it comes to working with our internal clients and each other. This author speaks from experience and is very relatable to our unique world where we're both designer and project manager, businessperson as well as a creative.

This book covers how to:

  • Communicate clearly and effectively
  • Hire and train a winning team
  • Work with other departments within the company
  • Maximize efficiency within your group
  • Cut through the red tape to create great design

From creating Design SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to Herding Cats (Client Management), this is a must read for anyone managing corporate design and/or working as an in-house creative.

For the Editorial Designer:
Recommended by Jim Ryce RGD, Toronto

Fully Booked – Ink on Paper: Design and Concepts for New Publications by Andrew Losowsky, R. Klanten, M. Hübner, S. Ehmann

Publisher: Gestalten

This is a book that I would put in the “inspiring" category. The book is a fun read starting with the cover copy lamenting the end of digital: “Let me state this for the record: The internet is not dead. Digital will not disappear. Print will not kill the web…


The book is broken into five categories: The Storyteller, The Showmaster, The Teacher, The Businessman and The Collector. Each one showcases beautiful work, featuring innovative print and bindery techniques with both editorial and design concepts. The work is wonderfully crafted and filled with many inspiring samples. In the digital age, it’s nice to see such a strong emphasis still being placed on print. This book is a great addition for any design library and is good to have on hand when looking for inspiration.

For the Freelance Designer:
Recommended by Paul Santos Prov RGD, Leamington

Freelance Design in Practice by Cathy Fishel

Let’s face it, sometimes the stars and planets don’t align like they’re supposed to and you don’t land a job right out of school. Or perhaps you do, but you’d still like to expand your skills and take on a freelance job here and there. Becoming a freelance graphic designer can be an enriching, rewarding career path, but it’s not all about staying in your pyjamas all day, making your own hours and being your own boss.


This book slaps you with some cold hard truths: What if companies don’t pay you right away? What if you have more bills than cheques? What if you become a work-a-holic? (is that really a bad thing?) This book helps you to start thinking about these issues and plan for a successful career, all in a bite-sized, easy to read, well laid out 200 or so pages. Did I mention the covers feels soft and supple? Perfect for those times when things get tough. It’s like Ms. Fishel is cradling you herself, reassuring you that it’ll be ok. And if it’s not, read page 154: What To Do When Things Go Wrong! With great interviews and case studies, terrific insight and advice, and a big helping of resources, Freelance Design in Practice is a wonderful beginner’s guide that shouldn't leave your side.


For the Student Designer:

Recommended by Christie Yuen Prov RGD, Markham

Flaunt: Designing Effective, Compelling and Memorable Portfolios of Creative Work by Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio

Purchase on Amazon

Flaunt is not only a great resource for design students and designers who are compiling one of their first portfolios, but also designers who have likely modified their portfolio several times over their careers. Bryony and Armin provide inspiration and knowledge from creative professionals and do an excellent job of explaining why designers can, and should, always make improvements to their portfolios.


The book consists of over forty case studies, which are highly detailed, that include biographies about the designers, the conceptual process behind the creation, and even the typefaces and types of paper used. One of the nice touches that made the book enjoyable and helpful is that it includes survey results from both interviewers and interviewees who were asked relevant questions on what makes a portfolio successful. These results are helpful for determining which elements designers should prioritize in their portfolios. My favourite part of the book is the last section, where professional designers and educators are asked to describe their first portfolio experiences and opinions. Overall, Flaunt is a good resource for inspirational examples of how portfolios can be effective and successful and is a very helpful book for designers hoping to land an interview, or even a job.


RGDs interested in sharing book recommendations in a future news item can email