Dev & Design

20 Best Books for Designers

smashing book
Written by Guest Author

When I first started out doing professional web design, I wasn’t really sure how best to stay on top of new and current techniques, or educate myself in areas my past work and university experience didn’t cover. Blogs and magazines are a valuable resource for tips and tricks, but they weren’t giving me the depth I needed.

Every designer needs an arsenal of resources, not only for reference, but to truly become a well-rounded professional and offer the best services to your clients.  Novice designers looking to jump into the world of design or freelancing will find the road long and challenging without some form of mentorship and guidance.

The following list of books have not only helped me become successful, but come highly recommended by industry experts. Many of them are written by leaders in the design field who understand a designer’s point of view.  Each book offers a unique method for mastering the subject matter quickly and easily, and many are packed with techniques that guarantee to give you an edge over thousands of other designers who haven’t taken the time to seek out such a variety of knowledge.

One Man Army

One Man Army


Mike Smith’s guide to turning yourself into a solo freelancing success offers valuable insight into the marketing and networking aspects of running a successful design business and includes several  worksheets and case studies to help you build your foundation.

Cost:  $17

Smashing eBook Bundle

smashing book


Smashing Magazine is arguably the leading source of design inspiration, tutorials and resources online. This bundle includes 5 e-books written by expert designers covering the following topics which are critical for every designer looking to expand beyond print, and at $19.95 it is an incredible value:

•  Mobile Design for iPhone and iPad

•  How to Create Selling E-Commerce Websites

•  Getting the Hang of Web Typography

•  Professional Web Design Volume 2

•  Mastering Photoshop for Web Design Volume 2


Cost: $19.95

jQuery: Novice to Ninja


Source’sjQuery guide completely demystifies jQuery for designers who’s primary focus is graphic design, and arms you with an essential skill for using a language that will only become more critical in the future.

Cost: $29.95-$39.95

SitePoint’s guides are easy-to-follow and reveal the secrets of how to build amazing web designs from scratch. Each book covers the entire process of creating a gorgeous, usable example  through simple and practical techniques that anyone can use.

Other essential books from SitePoint include:

The Principles of Beautiful Web Design



Create Stunning HTML Email

html email


Cost for Both: $29.95

RockstarWordPress Designer

rock star


Cost:  $29

WordPress is the most popular and extensible CMS and blogging platform available for designers to theme and profit from. Learning how to create themes is an invaluable skill for any designer and Rockable is an industry leader when it comes to design guides.  Other Rockable guides every designer should read include:

Theme Tumblr Like a Pro



Cost: $29

Successful Facebook Marketing



Cost: $24

How to be a Rockstar Freelancer



Cost: $29

DreamWeaver CS5.5: The Missing Manual



Adobe offers decent references and help for their software, but this book helps you learn many aspects of Dreamweaver that are often overlooked such as spry and dynamic form creation.

Cost: $30

HTML5 Canvas



HTML5 Canvas is quickly replacing Flash for building rich interactive design. This book helps you pick up the basics quickly for creating games, unique UI elements and animations.

The Elements of Typographic Style



Robert Bringhurst is a renowned typographer who takes a practical approach to introducing the reader to the theory of type and the newest innovations in intelligent font technology. This book is a must-have for any creative looking to master type for web or print.

Cost: $16.50

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability



A highly researched best-selling guidebook to the user experience by industry expert Steve Krug.

Cost: $22

HTML, XHTML, and CSS Bible

css bible


The HTML, XHTML, and CSS Bible is Possibly the most comprehensive reference available and  proves easier to read and use than the w3c archives.

Cost: $21

Introducing HTML5



Told truthfully by Amazon editorial review of this book,  you need to get acquainted with HTML5 to stay ahead as many of its new features are already being implemented by existing browsers.

Cost: $19.50

Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us



Face it, not all designers are savvy marketers. Seth Godin is a genius when it comes to web marketing that works and should be on every designers “virtual-mentor” list. This book focuses on building communities and harnessing the power of social media.

Cost:  $12

Free Books

Design Your Imagination



This free book from Webguru India is a complete and comprehensive guide on website design for those new to the industry that features 29 fully illustrated chapters covering a variety of topics, from web design principles and planning to executing final designs.

Time Management for Creative People

creative book


According to author and creative coach Mark McGuinness “It’s subtitled ‘Manage the Mundane – Create the Extraordinary’ as it’s designed to help you maintain your creative focus while dealing with your other commitments.”

Designing For the Web



This free online resource will take you through everything you need to understand about the design industry of today and how to develop your own design processes.

Getting Real



This resource by leading app developer 37signals is just about the only guide you need to get a grip with web app development. Even if your focus is on graphic design, understanding the app development process is essential for designing effective interfaces and building solid partnerships.

So there you have it, 20 of the most essential resources to help propel you creatively and successfully through the design world! What books would you recommend that are not on this list?

Vail is a long-time writer, designer and copy editor with a vibrant background in corporate business writing, music journalism and internet media design. Since 1996, her articles and photography have been published in various music magazines, poetry compilations, and business publications. When she is not hard at work designing something, she loves writing for, the free website builder.

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