7 Beautiful Books for Creative Inspiration

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Generally I enjoy featuring great books for designers, as you may know. But, like any aesthetically-savvy individual, some of my favorite books are all about eye candy and inspiration.

These books are for beauty—lovely photography, mind-blowing body paint, thoughtful visual essays and more. What you’ll find in these beautiful books is pure inspiration and aesthetic indulgence, like a box of truffles. Plus, you might just learn something as you delve into the pages.

Looking for some holiday reading or a lovely coffee table book to take your mind off of work? Pick out one (or more) of these beautiful books just for you, or as a gorgeous gift. These books are all available at MyDesignShop.com, so if you don’t find something that tickles your fancy, you can find even more design books there.

7 Beautiful Books for Artistic & Creative Inspiration


20th Century Design: A Decade-by-Decade Exploration of Graphic Style

By Tony Seddon

Relive graphic design of the 1900s with 20th Century Design by Tony Seddon, an exploration of the graphic style throughout the decades of the 1900s. Each chapter contains an expansive overview of graphic design in one decade, with information about influences from other areas like politics, architecture, technology, and more. Each chapter also provides profiles of prominent designers, as well as a timeline of graphic design and other relevant fields. Discover even more about design of each decade with a look at the typefaces and color palettes that define each one, and find out how to recreate the look, feel, and style of each of them using modern software with included step-by-step guides. Get 20th Century Design here.

Want a peek inside? Here are a couple of images from 20th Century Design:


Read more about 20th Century Design in this review at HOWDesign.com.

NY Through the Lens

Almost ten years ago Vivienne Gucwa started to walk the streets of New York with her camera in hand. Deciding on a direction and traveling as far as her legs would take her she began to recognize lines, forms and structures she had previously paid little attention to. With a simple point and shoot camera she started exploring her city and capturing the momentary, ephemeral qualities of her home town.


With no academic training in photography she was surprised to find tremendous popularity when she began posting her photos online. She’s amassed a massive following. Her mastery of light, composition and color has won her wide recognition in the photography community. Get NY Through the Lens here.

Check out a couple of Gucwa’s photographs from the book:

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Want to learn more? Read an in-depth review of this book.

The Human Canvas: The World’s Best Body Paintings

By Karala Barendregt

Design isn’t just for advertising, web pages, and packaging – it’s everywhere. With The Human Canvas by Karala B. Wallace, take a look at designs that move past tradition, and use the human body as a canvas with a wide variety of bodypainting designs. Explore body art that invokes beauty as well as fear, and discover designs that echo nature, technology, and much more. No matter your personal style, you’re sure to find among this selection designs that inspire you and your own design work.


Bodypainting is a form of expression just as graphic design is. Take a step away from tradition and infuse your own work with the inspiration you can glean from the innovative designs included in this book. Creativity comes in many forms – explore body art and discover more about your own creative process. Get The Human Canvas here.

Check out a couple of pages from the book featuring stunning bodypaintings:


Living The Creative Life: Ideas and Inspirations from Working Artists

By Rice Freeman-Zachery

What is creativity? How can I become a more creative artist? If you’re asking yourself these questions then Living The Creative Life is the perfect book for you. Hear from hand-selected artists from every corner of the creative world as they share their tips & techniques for thinking creatively. Discover new creativity exercises, learn how to brainstorm and try something new with author, Rice Freeman-Zachery.


15 great artists are featured in the pages of Living The Creative Life including art journaler, Linda Woods; mixed media artist, Michael DeMeng; sculptor & mixed media artist, Melissa Zink; collage and assemblist artist, James Michael Star; and even Scott Radke, a puppet maker! Awaken your inner artist, unleash your creative spirit, start a new & exciting artistic journey or learn how to make a personal art journal with these interesting insights from artists that have seen it all. This book is great for artists of all skill levels, experts & beginners will all find new creativity techniques. Get Living the Creative Life here.

Inspirability: 40 Top Designers Speak Out About What Inspires

By Matthew Pashkow

It’s hard for graphic designers to stay inspired when they’re constantly working to deadlines. Inspirability gives you a fresh look at how to keep those creative fires burning in the real world through interviews with 40 design luminaries, including Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher, Milton Glaser and Chip Kidd, fascinating pictures the designers have taken of themselves and their offices, and samples of their design work.


The book succeeds at revealing insights into what inspires each designer on a day-to-day basis. Inspirability offers an original take on one of the most requested topics by graphic designers. Not to mention the gorgeous design of the book itself. It belongs on any designer’s bookshelf as a must-have tool for lasting inspiration. Get Inspirability here.

Look inside—check out a few images from the book below:


Fingerprint: The Art of Using Handmade Elements in Graphic Design

By Chen Design Associates

Fingerprint is a reminder that in this age of e-gadgets and i-things, there are some very reliable, non-high-tech tools that can help design reconnect with its audience. Even the hint of a hand-created element can activate a surface, instill passion and energy into a medium, and reassure the recipient that human understanding and insight are the foundations for the message. Get it here.


This book is a celebration of both the presence of the human hand in visual communication, and the breath of fresh air such a presence delivers into a field glutted with predictable, passionless solutions.

Check out some images from the book:


Fingerprint is designed to be an inspirational journal of sorts—one that you can go back to again and again. You’ll not only discover tips on using new materials, you’ll also get to hear directly from the designers behind each project. So dig in and get inspired by the work of human hands. You’ll be impressed at what they can do.

fignerprint 5

Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists

By Margaret Pott Hartwell & Joshua C. Chen

This toolkit makes the familiar concept of “brand archetypes” accessible, and easy to use. Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists is a go-to guide that offers a highly participatory and practical approach to brand strategy. Read an excerpt from this book.


Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists give you an effective
and incredibly practical tool for branding and marketing. Using a highly participatory approach to branding strategies, combined with sixty beautiful (and incredibly useful) brand archetype cards, this kit helps you become a branding master.


Applying archetypes to your branding process can help everyone stay on the same page by creating a shared vision and narrative of your brand’s motivations, what its trigger points are and why it attracts certain customers. Archetypes in Branding will help you resolve brand inconsistencies and enhance trust with stakeholders. With the archetype cards, Hartwell and Chen have created a unique way to have conversations that matter to the future success and sustainability of your brand and your business.


FREE With Your Purchase of Archetypes in Branding: From Jim Krause’s Logo Brainstorm Book, a 17 page excerpt, “Using Color in Logo Design.” You’ll learn the best ways to utilize color to make a truly outstanding logo, whether it’s one color plus black, analogous, triadic, semi-muted and more.

Note: You can also learn more about this topic in Margaret Hartwell’s online HOW Deisgn University course, Strategic Brand Development.


Self-Portrait as Your Traitor

by Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman’s illustrated essays and visual poems are part philosophy, part art, part deeply personal memoir exposing the universal triumphs and tribulations of being human. Her hand-lettered typography – sometimes tender, sometimes gritty, always breathtaking in its visceral candor – makes Self Portrait as Your Traitor a moving masterpiece of a singular art form that speaks to our deepest longings for beauty, honesty, and the ineffable magic of what it means to live. Get it here.

“Debbie Millman has demonstrated her ability to combine thoughts about design and everyday life with her own obsessive hand drawn typography, creating a new form of visual poetry. She has invented a 21st century illuminated manuscript.” — from the Introduction by Paula Scher


Learn more: read an interview with Debbie about the book.

This book is also included in the exclusive Debbie Millman Ultimate Collection at MyDesignShop with a signed poster by Debbie.

Looking for more design books and resources? Check out what’s available in MyDesignShop’s extended Black Friday sale.