11 Must Have HOW Design Books from 2015

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As 2015 comes to a close and Print prepares to release this year’s RDA, we decided to share our favorite design books from the past 11 months. Kick off the holiday season the right way by purchasing one for the designer in your life, your artistic friends, or yourself—because everyone needs a creativebtreat.

1. Design Funny


Whether you’re already hilarious or you’re looking to improve your punch lines, Heather Bradley’s Design Funny was made for you. With 42 comedic techniques to try, endless quizzes and visual examples, even your dad jokes can be bettered by this well-designed novelty.

Heather Bradley, former creative director for Cheezburger and LOL Cats, offers entertaining explanations of what humor is and how it works. This book is perfect for any designer looking to “develop designs with a sense of humor.” With forewords from Stephen Levinson (comedy writer and producer at Jim Henson Studios, Comedy Central Mobile and 2776), Rob Kutner (comedy writer and producer at “The Daily Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “Conan,” and 2776) and more, it’s obvious that Bradley has tickled the fancy of some mega-funny dudes and dudettes.

Design Funny is broken into five easy-to-follow sections: thinking, joking, pitching, making and working. Use this book to learn one of the strongest forms of communication to enhance your already powerful understanding of design for an unstoppable force of awesome.

2. 100 Years of Color


Need to update your website? Business cards looking a little boring? Can’t quite get the colors for that band poster right? 100 Years of Color has you covered. This HOW book by Katie Greenwood showcases 100 color palettes of the 20th century. Ten palettes chosen from each decade, example images and an RGB/CYMK guide chart for each palette makes this book useful for literally any designer in any field.

The year-by-year, decade-by-decade layout makes it beyond easy to find inspiration for your next interior design project, fashion look book, illustration assignment and so much more. Readers can actually see historic color trends develop through the pages.

It’s more than just pretty pictures and palettes. 100 Years of Color is a visual history lesson captured in just 240 pages. Definitely an essential guide for any and every designer.

3. NY Through the Lens


This one is absolutely gorgeous. And an inspiration for those stuck in a creative slump or feeling like they’re just “not creative enough.”

Author Vivienne Gucwa started walking through her hometown of New York City as a way to deal with stress: “I would choose a direction and walk as far as my feet would take me…” After noticing the previously hidden beauty of lines and forms throughout the city, Gucwa decided to invest in an inexpensive point and shoot camera to document her journeys.

A few years and some successful online posts later, she had amassed enough of a following and so many images that it became time to take her hobby to the next level. Thus, NY Through the Lens was born. Gucwa’s collection showcases the ins and outs of a familiar city in a not so familiar way. There’s beauty captured in the lesser known streets and strips that give readers a look at New York through the eyes of a resident instead of tourist.

This book is the perfect reminder to designers and creatives that taking time to nurse a hobby is equally as important as focusing on work-related projects. Gucwa shares her commentary on pages as motivation to get out of the office and explore a little. Who knows what hidden knowledge and inspiration exists in your own backyard?

4. Geek Merit Badges


Everyone has a little geek in them. Whether it’s the well-kept secret of your guilty pleasure playlist, your favorite space-themed movie or television show or the fact that you can sing happy birthday in Klingon (even though that’s a very un-Klingon thing to do)—it’s there, and we all know it. And for anyone whose job requires them to spend hours staring at a computer screen, chances are those geek levels are just a little bit higher than average. (I mean, really, what is it about computers that amplify ones ability to name all of the time-traveling doctors or quote the scrolling credits at the beginning of Star Wars?)

Meghan Murphy’s book Geek Merit Badges is the ultimate guide to “essential skills for nerdy excellence.” As she puts it in the introduction: “This book is for anyone who wants to do more stuff, try new things and remember how great being excited can truly be. Plus there are badges to collect! Hoorah!”

While this book isn’t necessarily design-specific, it does give readers the ability to explore their “inner and outer geek” through four categories: discovery, absorption, transmission and creation. Designers, artists and geeks alike can use this book as a guide to discover what truly motivates them, to learn how to share their enthusiasm and to showcase the incredible things their geekiness can inspire them to create.

This book is full of activities, interactive lists and helpful tips for living an organized, healthy, smart and happy lifestyle based around the things you love. Not to mention, the badges are absolutely squee-worthy.

5. The Art of Illustrated Maps


As someone who never learned about the history or process of mapmaking, I didn’t expect to get too wrapped up in the pages of this one. But wow, was I wrong. John Roman did an incredible job detailing the history of mapmaking in a way that’s enchanting and easy to understand even by non-history buffs.

Of course anyone who appreciates the art of conceptual and illustrated maps would love The Art of Illustrated Maps—but it’s not just about creative cartography. Roman’s book is a wonderfully curated collection of illustrations from all over the world. Designers and artists everywhere can gain inspiration from the dozens of illustration styles showcased in the pages of this book while learning about the unique history of mapping and the instinctive ways we as humans can relate to the geographic exaggerations these illustrated maps are known for. Read an excerpt here.

6. Show Me, Don’t Tell Me


Design is communication. At some point in every designer’s career, there will be a time when the words are gone, the message is jumbled and the audience is confused. And that’s why Dave Holston created Show Me, Don’t Tell Me; a guide to visualizing communication strategies.

Anyone in a communication-based career—whether that’s design, public relations, marketing, you name it—will benefit from creative ways to solve communication problems. Holston provides readers with 75 exercises to help solve these issues in unique and impressive ways. Learn how to create effective communication plans, build strong visions and strategize classic brainstorming events that can get the whole team working together.

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me teaches readers to use drawings, words, maps, role-playing, images, story telling and more to connect with audiences on a deeper level, spark creativity and solve communication problems.

7. Cultivating Creativity


In addition to the lovely watercolors and captivating illustrations sprinkled throughout this book as inspiration, Maria Fabrizio’s Cultivating Creativity is full or tips for giving your creative process a much-needed boost.

Use Fabrizio’s exercises to build daily rituals centered on creativity. Learn about the importance of sketchbooks and journals, trying new things and gathering inspiration from every day life.

Fabrizio uses personal anecdotes from a lifetime of watching her gardener grandparents as comparisons to keeping a creative arsenal. As a result, Cultivating Creativity not only teaches readers how to up their creative ante, but also makes a relatable connection between the everyday difficulties of creative careers to that of tending a garden.

Cultivating Creativity is a book based on the idea that creativity requires ample momentum—if you stop, you stall.”

8. Culture + Typography


Any great typographer will agree that typography and design go hand-in-hand. Without strong type, a well-designed poster loses its attraction, way finding signs fall by the wayside and promotional titles peter out of sight.

Nikki Villagomez took her passion of typography and turned it into something more—a case study of how culture effects typography. Villagomez collected hundreds of typography examples from over the years and curated them into book form for Culture + Typography.

Throughout the pages, readers are offered historical commentary as it relates to the images on the page.

Designers and type enthusiasts can use this book as inspiration for their own type designs, while also learning about the effects a culture has not only on type selection, but also color, usage and more. Discover the beauty of ghost signs, graffiti, hand-lettering and the works from South Carolina’s former AIGA president.

9. Covering Print: 75 Covers, 75 Years


For this design book, author Steven Heller dug deep into the archives of Print—a whole 75 years deep. To celebrate Print‘s milestone birthday, Heller curated a collection of 75 covers that have graced the pages of the magazine from its 1940 beginnings.

The book offers beautiful high-resolution copies of each cover, along with Heller’s historical commentary. An awesome addition to any designer’s book collection, Covering Print includes photographs, illustrations, comics and more from known names like Art Spiegelman and Paula Scher, to lesser-known student works and hidden gems.

BONUS BOOK 9.5: Postcards from Print

If you grab a copy of Covering Print, don’t forget to get the companion book Postcards from Print, which offers all 75 iconic covers in postcard form—perfect for sharing with friends and family, or for decorating the coffee table! Spread the Print love and say cheers to another 75 years!

10. Nimble


Learn from author Robin Landa tips to thinking creatively in a digital age. Landa teaches designers how to develop “creativity that is strategic” and viable across all industries.

Nimble includes interviews with the creative minds of Liz Blazer, PJ Pereira, Jessica Walsh and more. Challenge yourself with problem-finding prompts and learn the proper questions to ask as a creative critical thinker.

Designers can and should use Landa’s book to “learn how to come up with ideas rich in not just quantity, but quality as well,” while developing the ideal mindset that is flexible across all platforms. From visual communication to digital marketing and social media, there’s a strategy for everyone.

11. Type Teams


Do you struggle with finding the perfect type combination? Do you spend hours digging through your typeface library trying to decide which font will benefit your project the most? Fear not. Tony Seddon’s Type Teams is here to help.

Whether you’re a total type nerd, or you’re just looking for a creative boost, Type Teams will make your life easier. 150 type pairings come to life through the examples in this book. Brush up on type tricks in sections devoted to hierarchy, mixing serifs and sans serifs, tittles and more.

Learn how to incorporate multiple typefaces into one project without looking like you lost a terrible game of type-roulette.

Find all of these and more at MyDesignShop.com, your source for design books, resources and inspiration.


The 20th Century’s Beautiful Color Combinations