Looking for design inspiration? We round up our favourite must-reads and the creative a-ha moments we took away from them.

We’re big fans of t’internet at stuff, with loads and loads of websites at the tips of your fingers, you can get information on pretty much anything from pretty much anywhere nowadays. However, we’re going to give some love to our paper pals and say that you just can’t beat a good design book. The thing about these books is that even as the years go on, their knowledge is timeless – just like good design, funnily enough. So apart from fulfilling our love of print and making our nostrils happy (fun fact: after some time, paper starts smelling like vanilla) we’ve learned some invaluable knowledge nuggets from these pages. So without further ado, we round up our must-reads for designers (and creative folk in general).

Just My Type – Simon Garfield 

Just My Type is a book by Simon Garfield, who’s a British journalist and non-fiction author, so unusually it isn’t a graphic designer writing a type book (didn’t see that one coming, did you?). We reckon this actually helps to create its quirkiness and lack of taking itself too seriously. Unlike most design books, it’s quite text-heavy with few visuals, but in a way it’s almost nice not to be distracted by beautiful page layout for once (yes, we said it). Just My Type is all about how fonts came to be and has a selection of stories from how Helvetica and Comic Sans took over the world to why Amy Winehouse found her soul in 1930s art deco, so quite a mix. You don’t have to be a historian or a designer to find it interesting and feel passionate about typography.

What it’s good for:

This book’s great when looking for inspiration, as it’s filled with examples of different typefaces, letters & glyphs in an easily digestible way – Simon frequently references the font’s he’s talking about throughout the book, so it doesn’t become one of those ones where you need to flip back to the beginning every five pages. We’ve learned loads of ‘did you know?’ facts from this book;  London Underground font is Johnston Sans, about the controversy of IKEA changing to Verdana from Futura and having a real appreciation for the typographic perfection of our road signs (the typeface Transport designed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir in the 60s). One of those ones that any creative can delve into and learn something.


Logo Modernism – Jens Muller

Logo Modernism is about the sheer persuasive power of good form for corporate identity and is basically a big encyclopedia designs from 1940-1980. As a bunch of self-confessed brand geeks, this book is the stuff of reference dreams and one that we pull out time and time again – you’d be surprised by how many familiar trends (and logos) you see repeating even today.

What it’s good for:

This book is an amazing resource for picking up at any moment and opening at any page. We tend to use it at the outset of branding projects and slap bang in the middle of them too to check ourselves and how functional a logo should be: Beyond all the colours, decor and extra nuts and bolts, it HAS to work. Above all, this book forces us to review our thinking with the help of a thousand examples that do work. As for what we’ve learned? Good design is timeless and it’s not about going by trends. Any of the logos (regardless if it’s from the swinging ’60s or the late ‘80s) would look at home right now.

Design Your Life: Applying Design Principles to Your Life – Vince Frost

This book is about Vince Frost’s lifetime of designing everything except himself and why he changed that. It’s a book that’s not solely about the finer details of design, but a broader look at problem solving, where Vince (former Creative Director of Pentagram and now Owner of Frost*collective) tackles his toughest brief to date. He’d spent years solving other’s problems and finding solutions for clients, while his own life, health and happiness slipped out of control. Treating himself like a client, he designed his way up and out from rock bottom.

What it’s good for:

Not pointing any elbows, but we know a few designers who spend a lot of time in from of a computer, which is great for some things, but not a great way to spend all-day, every day. We tend to pull out this book when we need a boot up the backside and for some inspiration too. With great use of colour, language and typography, Vince takes you along his journey in a way that’s pleasing to the eye, the brain and the fire in your belly too.


Ways of Seeing – John Berger

An oldie, but goodie – Ways of Seeing by John Berger has inspired generations of designers and creatives for decades.  Based on the BAFTA winning BBC television series of the same name (check those 1970s lapels) the book’s all about the way we view art and how we process information before we articulate it – if you think about it, babies see before they can speak, and even as we grow up, seeing plays a huge part in how we communicate with everything.

What it’s good for:

Even though art is the main subject, Ways of Seeing, at its core is about visual communication. It’s about thinking wider, rather than accepting that things simply exist. Creatives look at something and ask why it’s the way it is – if you want to create something, you have to understand how to create it. Ways of Seeing is one of those ones that’s good for removing yourself from design 101 and approaching things differently. Even though it’s a book about paintings, it can applied to any creative way of thinking.

A Technique for Producing Ideas – James Webb Young

A Technique for Producing Ideas is a tiny 30-something page book with a 5 step technique to coming up with ideas. It’s all about sparking creativity in everyone, even those who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves as creative – everyone has a creative streak, it’s just a case of thinking a certain way to approach a problem (or brief) in a way that unlocks great ideas.

What it’s good for:

Short, concise and to the point, this book is a must-read for people in the creative, or any industry for that matter. If you’ve ever reached the point where you feel like your head is a big ball of Playdoh, this paperback wonder is just the ticket to gathering all of your thoughts and getting back on track to your lightbulb moment. Originally published in 1940 (a very oldie, but very goodie) its principles still apply today as much as they did way-back-when – our bookshelf wouldn’t be complete without it.


What do you guys think?

You didn’t think we were going to write a blog post about favourite books and not ask you lot, did you? So, we took to Twitter for an insight on the creative books that get your brains ticking. Pssst – if you’d like to add to the list, tweet us @MadeBrave (don’t be shy, you brilliant creative mind, you).

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