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Recommended Graphic Design / Branding Books

Over the last year I’ve read 17 books about graphic design, marketing and branding (I also read books on drawing, comic books and some fictions but maybe they shouldn’t be counted in this post).. That is quite an achievement to me considering the minimal free time I had.

Looking back, I’ve found these seven books very worth reading Some of them are short, fast reads such as  It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be or Steal like an artist, while some are thick and require re-reading, like Brand Gap or Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. But when it comes to books, size doesn’t really matter. What matters most is how much I’ve learned and actually implement it.

In no particular order, here are the seven recommended graphic design / branding books along with notable quotes:

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be

  • How good do you want to be: quite good, good, very good, the best in your field, or the best in the world? It’s not how good you are. It’s how good you want to be.
  • We all want to be good, but do you want to be the best in your field or the best in the world? Talent helps, but it won’t take you as far as ambition. Everybody wants to be good, but not many are prepared to make the sacrifices it takes to be great. Be great!
  • Don’t look for the next opportunity. The one you have in hand is the opportunity.
  • If you get stuck, draw with a different pen.
  • The Brand Gap

    The Brand Gap

  • A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product service or organization. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is. Marketing today is about creating tribes. Using a brand identifies who you are.
  • Framework for better-branding: Differenciation, Collaboration, Innovation, Validation & Cultivation (The reason the Beatles were wildly successful is because “They never did same thing once.”).
  • The Swap test is a proof for trademarks. The Hand test is a proof for a distinctive voice.
  • 7 criteria of a good name: Distinctiveness, Brevity, Appropriateness, Easy spelling and pronunciation, Likability, Extendibility and Protectability.

    Popular Lies About Graphic Design

    Popular Lies About Graphic Design

  • “Apple has a good graphic design.”
  • “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” (If the designer has done their job, you should absolutely be able to do this.)
  • “Don’t have a style / You need a style.”
  • “Helvetica is neutral. Comic Sans is the worst typeface ever created.”
  • “It’s an urgent brief.”

    Logo Design LoveLogo Design Love

  • The art of being a successful designer is to be four years ahead of the general public.
  • Becoming a good designer is directly related to one’s curiosity and willingness to work. If you keep asking questions and deliberately practicing your craft, you get better. It’s that simple.
  • The real challenge of graphic design: finding common ground between you and your client in order to solve a visual problem.

    How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your SoulHow to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul

  • One attribute needed by the modern designer: Cultural Awareness. In order to connect to anyone, to make anything relevant to anyone else, you need to know what’s going on in the world around you.
  • Creativity equation: risk + discomfort + sweat (+/- inspiration) = creativity
  • The moment we think—hey, I’m good, is the moment we get hit by the ricocheting bullet of ordinariness. Ouch.

    Steal Like an ArtistSteal Like an Artist

  • You are the sum of your influences. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.
  • Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
  • The secret: do good work and share it with people.
  • Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.
  • Collect books. Nothing is more important than an unread library.

    Brand Thinking and Other Noble PursuitsBrand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits

  • A brand is a promise of what you can expect if you use the product or service. It’s a form of affiliation, or a form of identification—a form of status. If a brand is making a promise that you’re going to feel better about yourself if you buy it, they’re making a false promise.
  • Branding is the process of attaching an idea to some object, or to a service or organization.
  • If you are going to create something that is truly a breakthrough, you have to rely on your intuition and your judgment. Trying to get people to tell you what will work tomorrow is useless.

    Note: A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand is also one of my favorites, but I didn’t include it in this list. I’m saving the book for another article as the amount of knowledge that I gain from that book is enormous.

    What graphic design / branding books do you recommend? Do you have a yearly reading goal?

    One thought on “Recommended Graphic Design / Branding Books

    1. Paul Arden is definitely one of my favorite authors. His book is amazing! Thank you for the list.

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