What is the single most influential book every designer should read?
From the standpoint of a designer that must display technical information, there is no better bible than the series of books by Edward Tufte:
- The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
- Envisioning Information
- Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative
- Beautiful Evidence
I re-read these books (or page through them) every time I'm stuck with a tricky design problem.
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst is generally considered the definitive guide to typography.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.
Don't Make Me Think, by Steven Krug.
I know that we are talking about graphic, but as an Architect I feel the obligation of recommend to everybody Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher Alexander, a book about the process of general design.
I'd certainly recommend Problem Solved: A Primer in Design and Communication by Michael Johnson. It's a good introduction, with real case studies of client briefs. The problem - solution format is likely to be quite appealing to users of this and other SE sites, too.
Megg's History of Graphic Design: This is a textbook, but it's a great resource if you can get your hands on it. It's a fairly comprehensive rundown of the major events of Graphic Design history, which is something any aspiring designer should be familiar with.
Also, I would check out the recommended reading section on Jason Santa Maria's blog--any of those titles would be well worth checking out (I'm still working through them myself.)
Robin Williams - The Non-Designer's Design Book, PeachPit Press. Very good.
On the psychological side, i'd like too add :
Colin Ware : Visual Thinking for design
Stephen Kosslyn : Graph design for the eye and the mind.
The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts, 20th Anniversary Edition by, Rudolf Arnheim and Interaction of Color by, Josef Albers.
I'll promote it till i am blue in the face. Logo Design Love is a great book. Everyone should own it. Given it is pretty limited to logo design but ideas from it can be useful for any graphic design job.
I have to go with a classic in this case:
Müller-Brockmann, Josef: Grid Systems in Graphic Design.
It predates the web -- but everything is still pretty applicable.
Srsly kids, get one today. You won't regret it.
E. F. Schumacher, A Guide For The Perplexed.
It has nothing to do with your work, and yet, it will affect everything that you do.
Any of the books that Jason Santa Maria has on his recommended reading list for designers, such as:
Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara
Graphics Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines by Graphic Artists Guild
- And of course as mentioned above, The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
How Buildings Learn is literally about architecture, but conceptually fits into a lot of concepts--especially in the context of web design and software design in general. It's one I've recommended for a long time.
- Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style (already listed, but not to be missed)
- Jost Hochuli: Detail In Typography (to complement the first one)
- Adrian Shaughnessy: How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul