Graphic Design Reading

Peter Clayton | 2 December 2016

Senior Designer, Bluestone360

Being a very enthusiastic creative my love for the industry I work in is seldom lacking. However when it comes to reading about graphic design I’m quite often faced with an uphill struggle. I do “read” creative blog posts if they’re short, but mostly I just skim and I’m really only there to look at the pretty pictures and mentally save them in my creative memory banks or on to Pinterest. (Yes I do realise the irony of writing a blog series about my experiences as a creative and graphic designer.)

The problem I find is mostly with books about design. Of the handful of books I have read only a few have held my attention. I’ve tried many times to read ‘Graphic Design: A Concise History (World of Art)’ only to get a few chapters in before giving up. The same goes for ‘100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design’. I bought those books with all the enthusiasm of a little child at Christmas and thought right I’m gonna read these and become a better designer, only to be defeated before the first hurdle.

I first realised this problem when I was asked to read ‘Ways of Seeing’ as a fresher at uni. The book went right over my head and I have tried to re-read it numerous times since but to no avail! That’s not to say these books haven’t got something to offer the world. Of course they do. You see, I’ll happily watch a documentary about Helvetica or the iconography of Che Guevara or even the life story of Charles M Schulz. But in book form I’ll go cross eyed at the thought. It’s just how my brain is wired I guess. Still, I find myself asking “does that make me a bad designer?” Of course not I tell myself. I’ve survived 10 years now and I’m still going strong. Touch wood. I guess it’s like anything in life you’ve just got to find what’s right for you and there have actually been a few books I can name which I would actually recommend and which have stayed with me professionally throughout my career.

The first is ‘Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works’ by typographers Erik Spiekermann and E.M Ginger. It’s basically a beginners handbook to typography and how to use it effectively. I found the approach of the book to be very personal which helped the overall tone of the read to be less academic thus easier to understand and relate too.

The second is ‘Problem Solved‘ by Micheal Johnson of design agency Johnson Banks. The structure of the book takes a look at 18 common design problems faced by designers and how creatives all over the world have tackled these issues through advertising, branding and various mediums alike. Again it is a very humanistic and approachable tone of voice and at times is very witty. As it says on the cover it is a great primer in design and communication.

My final book recommendation is a bit of cheat answer. While it is written by a man who worked in advertising it’s isn’t primarily about design. The book is a best seller by Paul Arden and called ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be’.  The book itself is actually an inspirational jaunt through one man’s opinion about, as says on the back, making the most of yourself! A delight to read creative or not, the book is laid out with punchy type and striking imagery and has helped me no end to get over myself as a designer, to aim high and ultimately get on with it!

I think on the whole there are some great books about design and the creative industries. Don’t be put off by my opinions. You might find inspiration in the words of the ones which I have not. But if you’re looking to get started in an occupation as a creative then maybe start with three I’ve mentioned above and go from there. Or, if you prefer or can do better, write your own!

Thank you for reading!