Top 9 Books on Graphic Design for Non-Designers

Stacked books with sunshine through the pages.

When it comes to books on graphic design, some of my favorites are surprisingly those geared toward non-designers. After working in design for several decades, I find it useful to go back to the basics sometimes. 

Below is a list of design books I’ve chosen that are perfect for anyone who may be new  to design principles. Let’s get started!

Color Index XL

By Jim Krause

Jim Krause of Pixelfly Creative provides aspiring creatives with an indispensable, one-stop method for reviewing and selecting color palettes for their creative projects.

Jim is an engaging speaker and his personality shines through in his books. This book has been a staple in my collection for many years and I browse through it every time I start a logo or branding project. 

Buy book on Bookshop

Color Inspirations: More Than 3,000 Innovative Palettes from the Community

By Darius A. Monsef

In this complete reference, you’ll discover 3,286 fresh, inspiring color palettes from COLOURlovers—ready to be applied to your latest design or project and complete with CMYK, RGB and HEX values.

In my opinion, every designer should have at least one color inspiration book to make choosing color palettes easier and more fun. This has been one of my essential guides for years. 

Buy book on Bookshop

D30: Exercises for Designers

By Jim Krause

D30 is called a “workout book:” in addition to tips, tricks and informational tidbits, it contains 30 exercises designed to develop and strengthen your creative powers.

Jim is known for his practical and fun-to-read books and this is no exception. If you are looking to stretch your creativity in design, this book will give you a “workout.” 

Buy book on Bookshop

Read key insights on Blinkist

Essential Type: An Illustrated Guide to Understanding and Using Fonts

By Tony Seddon

Essential Type will help to build your knowledge of type and typeface use with a clear and comprehensive “what is it” and “why use it” approach to the subject.

If you want a deep dive into typography, this is it. I love this book not only for its beautiful design and layout, but for the history and backstory it offers. 

Buy book on Bookshop

Read key insights on Blinkist

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design

By Chip Kidd

In Go, renowned graphic designer Chip Kidd explains not just the elements of design, including form, line, color, scale, typography, and more, but most important, how to use those elements in creative ways.

I checked out this book from the library for my kids, but I fell in love with it. The design is bold and the book includes 10 design projects that both kids and adults can have fun with. 

Side note: I met Chip Kidd at a HOW Design Conference and he was funny and gracious, writing a clever note for my son on the poster he signed for me.  

Buy book on Bookshop

Graphic Design for Everyone: Understand the Building Blocks So You Can Do It Yourself

By Cath Caldwell

This highly practical design book takes you through the building blocks of design—type, photography, illustration, color—and shows you how to combine these tools to create engaging visuals. 

This book has a clear and simple layout with plentiful examples to guide the novice designer—or those who have been thrown into a design role (hello, Canva!)

Buy book on Bookshop

Graphic Design Play Book: An Exploration of Visual Thinking

By Sophie Cure and Barbara Seggio

Through a series of games and activities, including spot the difference, matching games, drawing and dot-to-dot, readers are introduced to graphic art concepts and techniques in an engaging and interactive way.

I have not previewed this book yet, but based on the blurb, I’ve added it to my list! 

Buy book on Bookshop

Graphic Design: The New Basics

By Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips

A foundational graphic design book for students, Lupton and Phillips explore the formal elements of design through visual demonstrations and concise commentary.

As an author of 13 books, Ellen Lupton is a design legend and this book made me feel like I was back in design school. It offers a strong foundation in design basics, along with lots of clear examples to see it in action. 

Buy book on Bookshop

The Non-Designer’s Design Book

By Robin Williams

Whether you’re a Mac user or a Windows user, a type typography novice , or an aspiring graphic designer, you will find both the instruction and inspiration to approach any design project with confidence.

Now in its 4th edition, this is the quintessential book for non-designers. I have recommended it over the years to many non-designers (including my copywriter husband).  

Buy book on Bookshop

Need more recommendations? See my top picks for branding, marketing, and work-life books on

No time to read? Get key insights from top business books with Blinkist.

I’m an affiliate for and Blinkist so I may receive a commission if you purchase from the links on this page.

Want more branding and marketing tips and resources for your nonprofit, association, or other mission-focused organization? Join my monthly email list—plus get my free Nonprofit Branding Checklist.