Best new design books 2017: From vintage infographics to the the psychology of type

We check out what newly released books about branding and graphic, digital and UX design you should be getting your hands on this summer.


While much of what we read about design is in digital form – including on the fine website you're on right now – but there's still very much a place for the printed book in our lives. You can't fill your bookshelves at home with ebooks, and the imagery and examples that are inherent in design books aren't as appealing or informative (or big enough) on a Kindle or iPad. And proper science done by boffins has shown that you remember things better when read from ink on paper than on-screen.

There are a lot of design books released every month so we’ve created a list of the best recently published design, typography, photography and career advice books that will inspire, challenge or purely just fascinate you – beginning with My Top Tens. Others cover topics include 1920s lettering and typography, how to be famous on Instagram and even Chicago gang business card design.

My Top Tens

By Ian Anderson

There are only 750 copies of this stellar book by Ian Anderson – the man behind Sheffield graphic design studio The Designers Republic – of which only 200 will be authenticated so make sure you get in quick. Featuring 'top ten' lists – an array of topics such as typography, feelings and places – this book features insights from established designers around the globe including Morag Myserscough, Jessica Walsh, Jonathan Barnbrook, Erik Spiekermann and of course, Ian Anderson.

Five years on from The Designer Republic’s A Bunch Of Fives, My Top Tens "taps into the swampy psyche of 129 fellow travellers trying to sculpt sense from the enormousness of everything squeezed into personal Top Ten shaped spaces" – so basically this wonderfully designed book serves as inspiration.

Have a look at what iconic designers say in the next image too.

Buy My Top Tens for £30 from The Designers Republic.


Animation – Process, Cognition and Actuality

By Dan Torre 

This book is perfect for anyone who wants to delve deep into the world of animation – but if you have the faintest idea about animation, you’ll know it can get complex, fast.

The book uses principles of process philosophy and Deleuzian film aesthetics to discuss animation.

Divided into three sections that each build on top of each other (it's no good skipping chapters with this book), author Dan Torre compares animation to human cognition, followed by an exploration of some of the ways we interpret it, such as animated performance, stop-motion, video games and various hybrids of animation. But don’t worry, as well as theoretical concepts, Dan brings the book back to animation in the context of the real world.

Buy the hardcover from Amazon for £96/US$114.

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The Visual History of Type

By Paul McNeil

This brilliant book by Paul McNeil, a graphic designer with over 30 years of experience, will teach you all about the history of type communication.

Indispensable if you're a graphic designer, professional type designer or student of the discipline, The Visual History of Type also represents a major asset for anyone interested in the history of communications and visual culture. Its 350 images and chronological organisation make it easy to understand, and the book provides a brief history and description of the key characteristics of the typeface for each entry, so that even if you have no prior knowledge of type, you will be able to enjoy it.

The Visual History of Type is set to become the leading publication in its field, so hurry up and get your copy now !

You can currently preorder the book on Amazon, for £39.


You're Invited

By Gestalten

Although we may no longer need invitations for birthdays and get togethers (thank Facebook invites for that) the artform is very much still alive, if not appreciated even more so, for milestone events. Wedding invitations still continue to be an invitation most couples spend a lot of time designing and putting together, but there are also others – such as baby showers, the launch of a brand, a corporate event or our grandma’s 80th if you’re lucky.

As an artform that doesn’t receive as much attention as it should, Gestalten has published a book that celebrates the epic, most innovative invitation designs I’m sure you’ve ever seen. These are not your everyday, whip-up-in-Photoshop-in-10-minutes type invitation, these are are a serious testament to craftsmanship.

You’re Welcome invites you to be inspired and impressed at the versatile medium of invitation design.

Purchase for £40/US$60 from Gestalten now.


National Geographic Infographics

Edited by Julius Wiedemann

The National Geographic is truly unbeatable in its wealth of information and statistics on popular culture, science and history. It’s calm yet authoritative commentary on our planet has had a strong presence within society since 1888.

But the National Geographic is also famous for it’s beautiful and expansive graphics. It’s released a new anthology with Taschen showing off the magazine’s extensive and varying infographics of the past 128 years. Under seven sections – history, the planet, being human, animal world, world of plants, science & technology, and space – the book explores mysteries and wonders the world, such as the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the Easter Island statues and anatomy behind the speed of a cheetah. It also covers genetic patterns, global warming and simpler fascinations, like how birds make music.

The book contains five fold-outs which mimic original pull-outs from the magazines. It will stand as a beautiful visualisation of facts and figures that make up our earth, and encourage a sense of learning.

The book is edited by Julius Wiedemann, who studied graphic design and marketing and was an art editor for various publications in Tokyo before he began work for Taschen in 2001.

To get your hands on one, head to Taschen. You’ll be £44.99 out of pocket, but we’re adamant it will be worth it.

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How to Draw Type and Influence People

By Sarah Hyndman

This fun book by Type Tasting expert Sarah Hyndman encourages interaction and experimentation with type in a way that’s not intimidating or too complex. Although it can be helpful for graphic designers wanting to create their own letterforms, it also caters to a wide audience.

Sarah is known to explore the strong sensual effects of typefaces, such as the emotional response and triggering of memories depending on shape and size.

She says we all do this everyday without realising it. I went along to one of her Type Tasting events for the London Design Festival, and discovered how wine label design and typography influences how it tastes.

In this book, each typeface is introduced and demonstrated with creative exercises which show the reader how to draw each font, followed by an exploration of the associations evoked by the different type styles to find out why they’ve come about and how the reader can create their own.

Sarah has a background as a graphic designer, writer and public speaker known for her psychology behind type and multi sensory typography.

How to Draw Type and Influence People is now available from Laurence King for £12.99.


Read This if You Want to be Instagram Famous

By Henry Carroll

For many of us, navigating the etiquette of Instagram (how many hashtags do I use?, I need a pithy caption, do I use a filter?) is almost as exhausting as navigating polite, social etiquette of our daily lives, yet what you do online is sometimes just as important as what you do in the real world.

Read This if You Want to be Instagram Famous may seem a little ridiculous, and yes it does feature @hotdudeswithdogs, but it actually has some great tips from photographer Henry Carroll on how to build a serious following to get your work recognised. Basically, how to be strategic with your social media.

Many artists know that posting work to their Instagram account is well worth it, but only if you can garner enough traction, otherwise your efforts are wasted. It’s a bit like a newsletter - it keeps your followers up to date with your recent work, or just things you are experimenting with, such as Jon Burgerman’s cheeky Instagram stories. Other artists use Instagram as the sole hub for their work, such as Anthuman Ghosh (check out his unconventional artworks at @Moography).

Henry Carroll studied at the Royal College of Art, and founded frui.co.uk as a teaching resource for aspiring photographers of all ages. His simple tips on digital photography make for an easy read, accompanied by beautiful inspirational photography and successful Instagram accounts such as @tasteofstreep and ones that don’t take Instagram too seriously, such as @satiregram.

The small book covers skills such as speaking the language of your followers, how to use hashtags, creating the perfect ‘lay flat’ image and collaboration projects. For only £9.99 and a size just bigger than your hand, it’s well worth the purchase.

Buy Read This if You Want to be Instagram Famous from Laurence King.


Street Art

By Lonely Planet

Feast your eyes on incredible street art scenes from major cities around the world such as San Fransisco, London, Melbourne and Lisbon, including work from Banksy and Invader.

Curator and founder of The Future Tense, Ed Bartlett, has compiled Lonely Planet’s latest gift book with stunning images from 42 vibrant cities.

London’s own Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Hackney street artists are featured, along with graffiti art from Barcelona, ROA’s giant animals in Los Angeles and Melbourne’s ever growing street art in the CBD.

Street Art is available from Lonely Planet for £10.04.

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Cut and Fold Paper Textures: Techniques for Surface Design

By Paul Jackson

This Laurence King book explores the wonders of using paper in ways you probably never thought imaginable. 

Don’t be quick to assume this is essentially an origami book with a fancy title. Revered paper artist Paul Jackson focuses on techniques of using paper as a structural and textural material, which require little or no technical knowledge and can be followed by just about anyone. So get yourself some paper and get stuck in.

Each surface technique – such as twisting, weaving, coiling, pleating and stippling – is illustrated with examples made in white paper and then using paper of different colours, weights and textures. The paperback explores how these techniques can be used practically, such as in clothing, furniture, jewellery and homeware as well as artwork.

Paul’s career as a paper engineer spans more than 30 years, and he’s taught the art of paper folding worldwide, as well as authoring more than 35 books on paper arts and crafts. 

Cut and Fold Paper Textures: Techniques for Surface Design is now available from Laurence King for £16.99.


Custom Lettering of the 20s and 30s

By Rian Hughes

This book is a feast for the eyes for letterers, designers or anyone with an interest in 20th century culture.

It’s one of many by British illustrator, designer and cartoonist Rian Hughes. It explores the distinctive hand-drawn lettering style seen on book covers, magazines, posters and advertising during the inter-war years.

Featuring over 6,500 images categorised into different styles, the book acts as an inspiration and celebration of expressive brush lettering, illustrated novelties, heavy geometric sans serifs and dramatic inlines, drop shadows and more. 

It adds to two previous books in the series, exploring custom lettering in the 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s. Other popular books by Rian include Cult-ure: Ideas Can be Dangerous, a published collection of his comic strips Yesterday’s Tomorrows and his burlesque art in Soho Dives, Soho Divas.

When he’s not writing he’s running his own company, Device, with clients including Virgin Airways, Penguin Books and the BBC.

Custom Lettering of the 20s and 30s is available from Korero Press for £29.99


British Rail Designed 1948-97

By David Lawrence 

There’s probably no one who can appreciate trains quite like the British. From that wooden set you were given as a child to the reality of commuting life, the design, function and form of trains affects thousands of people every day, and plays a fundamental role in the functioning of the entire UK population. 

This guide to the history of British Rail design takes an in-depth look into the railway system that spanned the 20th Century – the stations, the vehicles themselves, the people who operate the system, the means of encouraging and facilitating travel. It openly critiques the success and failures of the British Rail.

Designers can take note of design in each facet of the company's operating system, from station architecture and interiors to lettering and printed publicity.

The book also acts as a study of how politics and the civil service, geography and urbanisation were manifested in the design processes and products. 

British Rail Designed 1948-97 can be purchased from Amazon for £22.75/$33.

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Thee Almighty & Insane: Chicago Gang Business Cards from the 1970s & 1980s

Image: Brandon Johnson

By Brandon Johnson

Just before the rise of the internet, Chicago street gangs were handing out business cards as a way to assert pride and recruit new members. 

Much like the civilised social athletic clubs and political groups of the time, Chicago gangs displayed symbols, nicknames, territories and enemies that served as tokens of affiliation.

Although probably not intended, the cards act as historical documentation of the history of these gangs and their members, but also the larger social migration movement in the city at the time.

The book features a selection of enlarged reproductions of “compliment cards” from Brandon’s personal collection. With over 60 different cards, the book is an appreciation of the hand-drawn graphics, blackletter typefaces, striking names and slogans. 

Thee Almighty & Insane: Chicago Gang Business Cards from the 1970s & 1980s published by zingmagazine books can be purchased online for US$30.


By the People: Designing a Better America

By Cynthia Smith

We know design plays a huge role in social movement. As the third volume in a socially responsible design series edited by Cooper Hewitt, this novel examines how design can improve the life of local communities.

The book explores how design is challenging poverty and social inequality in urban and rural communities. Although it focuses on social, economic and environmental themes in the US and its bordering countries, the focus on marginalised communities is universal.

The book was released in November, which coincided with an exhibition under the same name by Cooper at the Smithsonian Design Museum, exploring the undeserved communities in America.

By the People: Designing a Better America can be purchased from Gestalten for £25.


The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon

By Caroline Weaver 

The pencil really is the unsung hero of innovation. Made from wood, graphite, clay and water, the simple tool has achieved worldwide influence through writers and artists, and this is explored throughout the novel. 

Through profiles of pencil makers, anecdotes about famous writers and their favourite pencils and essays about the role of pencils in world history and culture, the modest beauty of the pencil unfolds. The book explores early communication in the Scientific Revolution, the American Revolutionary War, the Anglo-French War and the French Revolution – therefore posing more of a historical journey than an artistic one.

The past of the pencil is compared to its new use and appearance today. The elements of the book have been composed by "pencil-obsessed" Caroline Weaver, accompanied by illustrations drawn by Oriana Fenwick, an artists from Zimbabwe.

Caroline owns a shop in New York City dedicated solely to wood-cased pencils, old and new, from around the world. 

The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon can be purchased from Gestalten for £25.

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Designers Insights: How to succeed as a graphic designer

By Mario Godbout

Mario Godbout has worked as a graphic designer for 25 years in Canada. He’s currently the president and art director of MGD Branding and Design. He felt, after teaching young or freshly graduated designers for a long time, that they can feel “lost with a growing industry offering fast-food design or pre-designed templates”, so he decided to write a book. 

Designers Insights: How to succeed as a graphic designer was the first book, but the revised second edition has recently been published. It’s to be used as a guide – something to reread, underline and study.

Throughout the 16 chapters, the novel outlines the current climate for young graphic designers, such as “the downfall of the photographer and illustrator” and “print designers vs web designers”. It provides practical advice perhaps not taught in design school, and what responsibilities are held for modern designers. 

The novel comes with an accompanying e-Book CD with high-resolution images. 

Designers Insights is also a website created to assist the professional graphic designer, as one complete collection of technical knowledge.

Designers Insights: How to succeed as a graphic designer is available to purchase from Amazon for £9.08.