10 holiday reads to help boost your design skills

For some people, lying in the sunshine all day and doing absolutely nothing at all is their idea of paradise. But others get bored quickly and need something to keep their brain occupied.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

If that’s the case for you, then instead of the latest airport novel, why not thumb through something that will teach you a thing or two, and improve your skill and knowledge of design?

Of course, no one wants to sit down on holiday and read a dry technical manual. So here, we’ve chosen 10 top reads that are so engaging, entertaining and well written, you probably won’t even notice you’re learning stuff at the same time.

1. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

Being on holiday is all about refreshing your mind and getting back to basics. And that’s precisely what John Maeda does in this book, in which he offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design. It's all about needing less and getting more.

2. Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are by Danny Gregory

Here’s another great read to help reignite your creative energies, this one aimed at those who “wish they had more time” for drawing. Kicking you up the backside to stop moaning and start doing, this book is full of inspiring 5 to 10-minute exercises for every skill level. And being on holiday is pretty much the perfect time to put it into action.

3. How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

As a profession, graphic design is a little unusual because there’s no official manual to guide you through it all. Here then, design consultant and writer Adrian Shaughnessy draws on a wealth of experience to provide such a handbook. Even if you’ve got years of experience under your belt, you’ll probably find plenty of useful advice and inspiration here.

4. The Way to Design by Steve Vassallo

Holidays are a great time to sit back and consider your future direction in life. So here’s a great vacation read for anyone considering striking out on their own and starting their own design business. Written by entrepreneur Steve Vassallo, it’s centred around the idea of the “designer-founder" and aims to improve your knowledge of business and problem-solving skills. It’s only available as an ebook, but on the plus side, it’s free to download.

5. Know Your Onions: Graphic Design: How to Think Like a Creative, Act Like a Businessman and Design Like a God, by Drew de Soto

This book offers plenty of practical tips and advice to improve how you approach graphic design projects. Firmly rooted in the real world, and written in an unconventional, no-BS style, it looks at real-world, contemporary industry processes and how to put them into practice. An excellent read for anyone who’s recently started as a creative.

6. The ABC of Custom Lettering: A Practical Guide to Drawing Letters

Want to learn a new skill while on holiday? In this book, graphic designer and typography teacher Ivan Castro gives you easy-to-follow instructions for hand drawing a range of letterforms, from Modern Roman and Gothic through to Latin, Script and Interlocked. The lessons are thought through carefully and offer a great way to add a new creative string to your bow.

7. The Graphic Design Ideas Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson

Depending on how experienced you are, this book will serve as either an introduction to or a refresher in the critical elements of good design, as well as offering encouragement to try out new ideas. Written by two seriously talented designers, topics covered include narrative, colour, illusion, ornament, simplicity, and wit and humour.

8. Logo Modernism by Jens Muller

While the idea of leafing through 6,000 classic brand identities from 1940-1980 isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing holiday read, for some design geeks it will represent heaven on earth. If that’s you, then check out this unusual book from Taschen, which examines how Modernist attitudes and imperatives gave birth to corporate identity.

9. Make Your Own Luck: A DIY Attitude to Graphic Design and Illustration by Aries Moross

From art school student to designer for Nike, Topshop and Google, Aries Moross has been a career inspiration to thousands of students. In this honest and approachable account of their rise to prominence, they explain how to thrive in art school, develop your own style, self-promote, collaborate with others, and plenty more besides.

10. A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design by Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart

Holidays are supposed to be fun, so reading something on the theme of fun makes a lot of sense. This classic book explores the powerful role of wit in graphic design and includes a ton of illustrations showcasing how to do it from around the world.


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