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Karen Gastle

Designers have plenty of books they can look to for inspiration and creative expression. The best books for designers stand the test of time and belong on any designer’s bookshelf.

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The books below cover design in a number of different ways, and can inspire in more than the traditional “how to design a room” sense. Grow your business, develop your character, and express your personality with five of the best books for designers.

1. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Norman’s book is touted as an industry classic because it explains how to design products for real human use. This book represents how design serves as communication between the object and the user.


Norman was a cognitive scientist and usability engineer who was interested in optimizing that experience and making use of said products enjoyable. Design should be intuitive with simple rules necessary in terms of guidance and use, and this book takes a cognitive approach to product design, emphasizing that good, usable design is possible.

2. History of Modern Design by David Raizman

This historic textbook spans the evolution of decorative arts, industrial design, and graphic designer between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. It takes a balanced, chronological focus towards the appreciation of design as a creative activity and as an enterprise subject to economic, technological, and social history.


Raizman’s book is dominant in its field, examining the democratization of culture alongside the social context of mass consumption furniture. The text contains a history of design in western Europe and the U.S., complete with illustrations, a timeline, and ample bibliography. Designers interested in modern design are sure to find this book both educational and inspirational.

3. Design Studies: A Reader by Hazel Clark and David Brody

Clark and Brody’s text is a collection of essays examining several different categories: history, methods, theory, identity, consumption, labour, visuality, industrialization, new technology, sustainability, and the globalization of design. Each section is specifically introduced and completed with a guide for more reading. For any designer, this is a good entry point to understanding the complex roles of design as a process, a product, its function, symbol, and use.

4. Domino by Deborah Needleman

Domino is a decorating book staple among interior designers specifically, authored by the magazine’s editors. If you’re a fan of this magazine, you’ll be sure to love the book. Learn how to create a beautiful home with inspiring rooms inside, how-to advice, and insider secrets. This quintessential guide breaks down interior design to create a home people will love with a personal touch.


Domino is a resource guide for putting various looks together while making the design process a tad less complicated. Complete with accessible and exciting design ideas, accompanied by the tools to create spaces, the inspiration inside comes from the magazine and its editors own experiences. If you’re looking for more ideas and improved efficiency in your firm, a second edition was published in 2010, further expanding on similar details found in the first one.

5. Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand

Despite its publication date of 1947, Paul Rand’s Thoughts on Design remains a staple and fiercely relevant book for today’s designers. This 100-page volume illustrates Rand’s pioneering vision for design that integrates two things: beauty and usefulness. Although it was written at a time before the popularity of graphic design, this book is considered a must-have for anyone passionate about design.

Rand combines form and focus to define what makes design good. His passion for design is evident in catchy chapter titles and words on the subject. The book was recently republished as its original form, complete with the black and white illustrations surrounding artful prose.


For any designer looking to enhance their creative process, let these best books for designers serve as your starting point.


How to Grow an Interior Design Business

Karen Gastle

As an account manager, Karen has experience working with design firms of all sizes to integrate DesignDocs to streamline business processes, increase administrative efficiencies, and deliver higher profits.
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