50 essential books every graphic designer should read

When it comes to inspiration and learning, graphic designers are constantly spoilt for choice. There is a wealth of literature at our fingertips, all waiting to be devoured and enjoyed, so we can improve and refine our graphic design skills.

Whether you're an established creative or someone who has just enrolled on a graphic design course, we highly recommend this definitive list of 50 essential reads, expertly curated by our Shillington teaching team and updated for 2018.

These excellent books are library favourites at our six campuses around the world where Shillington students actively research and reference for their studies and design briefs. From industry classics to the latest must-have titles, these should be on your own reading list.

For further suggestions, you should also check out Shillington's Book Club where we suggest ongoing titles to add to your shelves.

1. Andreas Uebele Material

A major presence in contemporary German graphic design, Andreas Uebele trained as an architect, a thread that continues to present itself in much of his work. From the graphics of the Reichstag to the iconic signage of the Vitra campus, his experiments lead to dynamic solutions, while simultaneously maintaining lightness and clarity.

This new book presents 85 of Uebele’s projects through two types of materials: the raw materials from which they emerged, and materials from creative collaborators who’ve accompanied the studio along the way. These include Matthew Carter, Adrian Frutiger, Massimo Vignelli and Hermann Zapf.

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2. How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

If you're looking for a career manual to guide you through the profession, Adrian Shaughnessy has the solution. The legendary graphic designer, who recently guest lectured at Shillington, offers his insights and wisdom through his book, How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul. With straight-talking advice on how to establish your design career, insights into the creative process and tips on running your own business, this excellent text covers everything you need to know about becoming a graphic designer.

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3. Oh Sh*t... What Now?: Honest Advice for New Graphic Designers by Craig Oldham

This book by Manchester designer Craig Oldham is a comprehensive and insightful guide to anything and everything that is of use to those looking to break into the creative industries, sharing experiences, ideas, advice, criticism, and encouragement. With sections covering education, portfolios, jobs/freelancing, working process, and personal development, this straight-talking, funny, and frequently irreverent guide is a must-read for all creative arts students.

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4. Logo Modernism (Design) – Jens Muller

Modernist aesthetics in architecture, art, and product design are familiar to many. In soaring glass structures or minimalist canvases, we recognise a time of vast technological advance which affirmed the power of human beings to reshape their environment and to break, radically, from the conventions or constraints of the past. Less well known, but no less fascinating, is the distillation of modernism in graphic design.

This unprecedented publication, authored by Jens Müller, brings together approximately 6,000 trademarks, focused on the period 1940–1980, to examine how modernist attitudes and imperatives gave birth to corporate identity.

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5. Typorama: The Graphic Work of Philippe Apeloig – Philippe Apeloig

Philippe Apeloig's design career began in 1985 at the Musée dOrsay where he designed the poster for the museum's first exhibition, Chicago, Birth of a Metropolis. He is noted for his posters, many of which are in the collection of MoMA, and his typography, including the typefaces Octobre and Drop.

This highly recommended book surveys and explores the entirety of Apeloig's graphic design process and philosophy. His posters, logos, visual identities, books and animations are reproduced along with the steps in their development, and the major influences that fuel his work.

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6. How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World – Michael Bierut

Protégé of design legend Massimo Vignelli and partner in the New York office of the international design firm Pentagram, Michael Bierut has had one of the most varied careers of any living graphic designer.

In this must-have book, Bierut presents 35 projects that illustrate the breadth of activity that graphic design encompasses today, his goal being to demonstrate not a single ideology, but the enthusiastically eclectic approach that has been a hallmark of his career. Inspiring, informative and authoritative, it's become the bible of graphic design ideas.

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7. Newspaper Design: Editorial Design from the World's Best Newsrooms by Die Gestalten Verlag

Newspaper Design showcases the best of editorial and graphic design from the most renowned newspapers across the world, and proves that skilful news design matters more than ever before. Designed by Ludwig Wendt, this beautiful book by Counter-Print discusses the daily challenges of journalists and editorial designers, and introduces the work of the teams behind some of the most influential newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Guardian, and Libération. Unique insights from professionals paired with outstanding visual examples reveal the inner workings of the news industry and make Newspaper Design a must-have for designers, publishers and journalists.

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8. NASA Graphics Standards Manual

The NASA Graphics Standards Manual pays tribute to the original extensive document that included instructions on designing every aspect of NASA’s new identity – from letterheads to space shuttles. The identity, spearheaded by a logo that would come to be known as the 'Worm', allowed NASA’s departments a common voice through which they could speak as one cohesive unit.

Twenty-four years later, Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth – Pentagram Associate Partners and creators of last years 1970 NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual Reissue – reached out to Danne to reissue the NASA Graphic Standards Manual as a hardcover book. He said yes.

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9. Multicolour by viction:ary

"Our eyes are naturally attached to colours. Individually, colour elicits an incredibly broad range of emotions and responses in human. In profusion, they become a new vocabulary with distinct sensations, dependent on the context and use." So reads the intro to Multicolour, a new book by viction:ary that looks at visual communication solutions based on a rich palette, and amasses a hoard of identity systems, stationery, art direction, installations and environmental graphics that feature a blend of colours in one place.

Through the colourful showcase, the title lends a striking perspective to what makes colour a practical and powerful tool to simplify ideas and catch people’s eyes from near and afar.

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10. House Industries: The Process is the Inspiration by Andy Cruz

We love this illustrated and entertaining journey through the creative process of renowned design studio House Industries, offering innovative and inspirational ideas to help artists, designers, musicians and creative people in any industry develop their best work.

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11. The Designer's Dictionary of Colour by Sean Adams

The Designer’s Dictionary of Colour provides an in-depth look at thirty colours key to art and graphic design. Organised by spectrum, in colour-by-colour sections for easy navigation, this book documents each hue with charts showing colour range and palette variations. You can also learn more about colour's creative history and cultural associations. A practical and inspirational resource.

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12. Made in North Korea: Graphics From Everyday Life in the DPRK by Nick Bonner

Made in North Korea uncovers the fascinating and surprisingly beautiful graphic culture of North Korea - from packaging to hotel brochures, luggage tags to tickets for the world-famous mass games. Brought to you by Nick Bonner, who has been running tours into North Korea for over twenty years, and along the way collecting graphic ephemera. He has amassed thousands of items that, as a collection, provide an extraordinary and rare insight into North Korea's state-controlled graphic output, and the lives of ordinary North Koreans.

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13. Stitt Autobiographies – Alexander Stitt

Stitt Autobiographics is a pictorial record of the 50-year professional life of graphic designer Alex Stitt, who has been the hand behind many aspects of Australia's culture since the 1950s, and has been described by Phillip Adams as one of the country's most under-recognised creative talents. If you want to discover his account of the how, why and for whom Stitt worked for, then this book uncovers everything, including 1,800 illustrations, comic strips, storyboards and film title frames.

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14. Drawing Type: An Introduction to Illustrating Letterforms – Alex Fowkes

Part inspiration and part workbook, the images of hand-drawn type will inspire and excite any designer to draw and explore type. Drawing Type features real-world projects and sketchbooks of well-known type designers, including interviews about their processes.

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15. Why Fonts Matter – Sarah Hyndman

Fonts have different personalities that can create trust, mistrust, give you confidence, make things seem easier to do or make a product taste better. They’re hidden in plain sight, they trigger memories, associations and multi-sensory experiences in your imagination. This book by Sarah Hyndman – who has joined us for guest lectures at Shillington – opens up the science and the art behind how fonts influence you and explains why certain fonts or styles evoke particular experiences and associations.

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16. Type: New Perspectives in Typography – Scott Williams

This selection of typographic design, edited by leading typographers A2/SW/HK, showcases more than 100 carefully selected contemporary designers, including the best examples of their current work, and also features an introduction by Rick Poynor.

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17. Watching Words Move – Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar

This legendary document of typographic creativity, after nearly fifty years of Watching Words Move, is now available for the first time as a trade book. New essays by top designers add value even for those already familiar with the original text.

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18. Don't Get a Job... Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate – Gem Barton

Too often a design or architecture degree is seen as a means to an end (a job in an established practice). But imagine for one moment that there are no employers, no firms to send your CV to, no interviews to be had – what would you do? How would you forge your own path after graduation? This book celebrates the various strategies that students and graduates are taking to succeed in their design careers.

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19. Otl Aicher – Markus Rathgeb

Otl Aicher was an internationally acclaimed graphic designer and educator, renowned for his corporate identity work, visual communication systems, and typography. Although Aicher wrote a number of books on design, this book is the first comprehensive and authoritative account of his life and work, with extensive illustrations from private archives, museums, and Aicher’s estate.

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20. I Used To Be a Design Student – Frank Philippin

This book offers a rare chance to read what graphic designers feel about their education and profession. Fifty influential designers give the low-down about their student days and their professional lives.

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21. Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress by Alan Kitching & John L. Walters

This long-awaited monograph documents the work of world-renowned typographer, designer and letterpress practitioner Alan Kitching. Spanning over fifty years, the book leads us from Kitching's first typographical experiments under the auspices of mentor Anthony Froshaug to his most iconic creations at The Typography Workshop.

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22. Paula Scher: Works – Unit Editions

This stunning monograph covers Paula’s early days in the music industry as an art director with CBS and Atlantic records; the launch of her first studio, Koppel & Scher; and her 25-year engagement with Pentagram. It also provides an up-to-date look at Paula’s idiosyncratic hand-painted maps, part of her prolific artistic practice that complements her still-growing graphic legacy.

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23. Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? by Lucienne Roberts

The second and updated edition of this ambitious book examines the varied and vital relationship between graphic design and health, focusing on work that demonstrates how communication strategies and visual languages are employed to persuade, inform, prevent and ultimately protect.

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24. From Japan, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe Set by Counter-Print

From the very popular 'From' series, courtesy of Counter-Print, you can now get your hands on the 'From Japan' and 'From Scandinavia' and 'From Eastern Europe' book set, which each book being a celebration of graphic design from the area featured.

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25. Layout Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Using Grids – Beth Tondreau

Adhering to certain layout and grids standards and principles is important for any job from brochures, annual reports and posters to websites and publications. However, knowing how to bend the rules and make certain grids work for the job at hand takes skill. This book outlines and demonstrates basic layout/grid guidelines and rules through 100 entries including choosing a typeface, striving for rhythm and balance with type, combining typefaces, using special characters and kerning and legibility. An essential read.

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26. Women Design by Libby Sellers

From architects and product designers to textile artists and digital innovators, Women Design profiles a selection of the most dynamic female designers from the modern era, showcasing their finest work and celebrating their enduring influence.

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27. Handstyle Lettering by viction:ary

Between calligraphy and typography stands the age-old art of hand-lettering, which encompasses both forms while retaining its own character and individuality. Whilst we depend over-abundantly on the digital form and type printing, Handstyle Lettering represents the comeback and resurgence of the titular art, returning the human touch and warmth that has been lacking in our digital age.

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28. Special Edition by viction:ary

Presenting a medley of playful and masterfully crafted designs from around the world, Special Edition focuses on product packaging that stands out for its engaging concept, unexpected choice of material or artistically elaborate design. Tailored to celebrate a unique product or extend a brand, these solutions come often about as the result of a one-off creative collaboration.

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29. Start Me Up!: New Branding for Businesses – Robert Klanten

Little brand, big effect: In the age of startups and a new generation of entrepreneurs, corporate design is being redefined through distinctive visual creativity. Never before has there been more enthusiasm surrounding entrepreneurship. Today, young entrepreneurs across the globe are relentlessly developing innovative products and services.

Fresh businesses and social initiatives are appearing in industries ranging from fashion to farming, from high-tech to creative handcraft. These companies are run by passionate professionals who are well aware that following their vision is just as important as continuously communicating their vision's brand.

Corporate branding works as an extension of a business by visually expressing its concept, so it is no surprise that new stories require a new visual language. Start Me Up! presents a wide range of original examples for inspiration and is a comprehensive compendium of innovative corporate design for a new generation.

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30. New Retro: Graphics & Logo in Retro Style by viction:ary

New Retro is a compendium of fashionable designs that draws inspirations from the past. Whether it is to tie contemporary culture with stories of former times, or simply to manifest a love for the good old days, this book serves as a testimony that memories, oldies and aesthetic ideologies are always something we can return to for comfort and warmth.

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31. Women in Graphic Design 1890-2012 – Gerda Breuer

Why are there so few women in the history of design? Why do previously well-known women become forgotten, and at what point can someone be considered successful? Do women create differently to men? What effects of the gender debate are noticeable in today's everyday working life, and are women judged today solely on the basis of their quality of work?

This book prompts a look beneath the surface: with numerous contributions from design historians, programmatic texts and a comprehensive collection of biographies, alongside interviews with internationally recognised female designers such as Irma Boom, Paula Scher, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Julia Hoffmann and Tina Roth Eisenberg.

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32. Type Hybrid: Typography in Multilingual Design by viction:ary

Increasingly globalised, the world is looking for a new-era language that can unite and identify with multiple cultures at once. This does not only come as a verbal challenge, but an intellectual one for designers to understand foreign values and communication systems to create an effective discourse. Type Hybrid is a groundbreaking research into this specialist area.

It begins with a collection of 120 logotypes that feature synchronised multilingual details within a compact design. The showcase then expands to probe into 100 visual communication solutions. From corporate branding to event communications and packaging designs, each project demonstrates how designers from different parts of the world draw an international crowd with a hybrid language that stays sensitive to the complexities of local culture.

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33. Tasty Stories: Legendary Food Brands and Their Typefaces – Joke Gosse

Tasty Stories presents 50 of the world's best-known food brands, describing them through the evolution of their packaging, logo, typeface and fonts. A brief history of each brand is followed by details of the logo and typeface, and accompanied by 'Nice to Know' anecdotes. A must-have for graphic designers, foodies, and other people of good taste.

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34. How to Have Great Ideas: A Guide to Creative Thinking – John Ingledew

This is an essential guide for students and young professionals looking to embrace creative thinking in design, advertising and communications. Numerous strategies are introduced accompanied by practical projects each showing how to unlock creative ideas in different ways. Packed with great examples of innovative thinking in graphic design, advertising, photography, illustration, architecture, product design, furniture design, industrial design, animation, digital design, car design, engineering, art and fashion.

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35. Logotype – Michael Evamy

Logotype is the definitive modern collection of logotypes, monograms and other text-based corporate marks. Featuring more than 1,300 international typographic identities, by around 250 design studios, this is an indispensable handbook for every design studio, providing a valuable resource to draw on in branding and corporate identity projects.

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36. Jurriaan Schrofer (1926-90) Restless Typographer – Unit Editions

This book celebrates the experimental typography of Dutch graphic designer Jurriaan Schrofer. Famously known for his time spent at the renowned design studio Total Design, he was an outspoken figure within Dutch professional design organisations as well as a pioneer in corporate identity, a designer of photo books and art director of the architectural magazine, Forum.

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37. Type Only – Unit Editions

Type Only celebrates a current trend in typography: type unsupported by illustration or photography. In other words, typography and letterforms on their own – solus. Through the work of around 100 graphic designers from around the world, Type Only explores the communicative and emotive power of type when used in isolation.

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38. Marks of Excellence: The History and Taxonomy of Trademarks by Per Mollerup

A revised edition, this groundbreaking tome embodies a rigorous exploration of the trademark: its history, development, style, classification and relevance in today's world. The book includes extensive discussion of its origins in heraldry, monograms, owner's marks and certificates of origins, and also contains a comprehensive taxonomy of trademarks and an alphabetical index of trademark themes.

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39. Dynamic Identities: How to Create a Living Brand – Irene van Nes

This visual book explores the systematic process of creating brand identities that are alive and gives the reader a wealth of examples of international identities that were built on the discussed systems.

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40. Identity: Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv by Alexandra Lange

Identity: Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv showcases a body of work spanning 60 years from the seminal New York design firm founded in 1957 by Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar. The firm’s contribution to design has shaped the way corporate identity programs influence culture.

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41. The EPA Graphic Standards System

Originally designed in 1977 by Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, and Steff Geissbuhler, the EPA Graphics Standards System manual details a customised system created to unify the federal programme’s communications across hundreds of offices. It beautifully encapsulates the role design has played in advancing federal programmes for public good.

This facsimile reprint includes every page of the original EPA Graphic Standards System, as well as a foreword by designer Tom Geismar, a historical essay by Christopher Bonanos, and 48 photographs from the EPA-commissioned Documerica project.

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42. Print Matters: The Cutting Edge of Print – Viction:ary

In an attempt to examine the cutting edge of printmaking, this book brings together an amalgam of print designs that have gone beyond pure digital printing. Through more than 110 samples of recent graphic identities, packaging, communications and book designs, it offers a professional look into the use of varnish, foil-stamping, die-cut, thermal prints, technical folds, and many more, with design specifications.

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43. The Field Guide to Typography: Typefaces in the Urban Landscape – Peter Dawson

The Field Guide to Typography explores and explains the myriad typefaces that we see around us in our day-to-day lives, from airplane liveries to computer screens, from billboard hoardings to signage systems. It presents over 120 typefaces old and new, common and unusual with photographic references to help font spotters identify particular typefaces in the wild. It's a unique visual reference for novice font fans and experienced designers alike, and a comprehensive celebration of our expanding typographic world.

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44. Cruz Novillo: Logos by Counter-Print

Cruz Novillo: Logos provides a comprehensive guide to an important facet of Pepe Cruz Novillo’s output, his logo design; and in doing so proves the importance of this body of work, both to Spain and the global design community. This book offers inspiring content for any designer in this field and those looking to explore Spanish corporate design.

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45. The A-Z of Visual Ideas: How to Solve any Creative Brief – John Ingledew

A sourcebook of visual ideas and strategies for visual communication An A–Z of Ideas explains the key ideas, sources of inspiration and visual techniques that have been used throughout design history. Students will find this book especially helpful.

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46. Fanzines by Teal Triggs

This highly visual illustrated book is full of reproductions of the best fanzines ever created, from the superhero tributes of the 1950s and '60s, to punk fanzines such as Sniffin Glue, right up the contemporary e-zine scene. Arranged in six chronological chapters, each with a thorough introduction, Fanzines spans eight decades of counterculture and features many extremely rare publications.

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47. Editorial Design: Digital and Print – Cath Caldwell & Yolanda Zapaterra

Editorial Design: Digital and Print is a comprehensive guide to the traditional and digital skills that a designer will need for a future career in visual journalism today and the design of magazines and newspapers for a wide variety of markets.

Generously illustrated, including case studies, practical exercises and tips, examples of best practice and profiles of individual designers including Mark Porter, Scott Dadich and Janet Froelich, the book explains the fundamentals of editorial design and layout.

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48. DixonBaxi Monograph

This 300 page monograph is a snapshot in time of one London’s leading brand agencies. It is a reflection of the studio today, our most recent work, process and the insights behind it. Most of their work exists in motion, as digital experiences and on screens, so a book is a wonderful opportunity to curate and craft a beautiful object that embodies what they do.

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49. Basic Designs 01: Format – Gavin Ambrose & Paul Harris

Typography is the means by which a written idea is given a visual form. Effective use of typography can produce a neutral effect or rouse the passions, symbolise artistic, political or philosophical movements, or express the personality of a person or organisation. This book aims to impart a comprehensive understanding of typography, to explore its history, theory and practice.

If you'd benefit from a thorough examination of how typography informs other aspects of creative design, this book is for you.

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50. Basic Designs 02: Layout – Gavin Ambrose & Paul Harris

Through this book, Ambrose and Harris introduce the fundamentals of layout within the field of graphic design. It provides a guide to the effective arrangement of text and image elements within a design scheme, enabling you to learn how to create powerful forms of visual communication in both print and electronic media.

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