You won’t find any novels here. The books I list here are the ones that got me to where I am; the ones with practical, actionable advice and learnings. Those that don’t outright give you the instructions on design will inspire you and give you the tools required to build your own path. These folks know what they’re talking about.
HTML5: Up and Running
Mark Pilgrim’s primer to HTML5 is perfect for novices and experts alike. His friendly writing style makes understanding and implementing the new technology in HTML5 incredibly simple, while explaining the (often complex) politics surrounding the new specification. While this book is available free online, I’d recommend purchasing a printed copy, too. The rundown on implementing completely bulletproof HTML5 video is worth the price tag on its own. Buy it on Amazon.
Smashing Book #2
Smashing Magazine’s online publication is a fantastic resource for any web designer or developer, but this book is in a league of its own. By far the most read book in my library, this book features some of the best advice I’ve encountered during my short web design career. It has beautiful illustrations to boot, and each contributing author writes in a way that makes the whole thing easy to digest, and flows magnificently from chapter to chapter. Buy it from Smashing Magazine’s store.
Designing For The Web
Mark Boulton’s Practical Guide to Designing For The Web is another gem in my collection. Mark covers not only some excellent tips for workflow, wireframing, development and process, but also goes into extreme detail about the ins and outs of freelancing, working for an agency, and running an agency. This book is sure to give me a lot of help in the future. Available on iBooks, for free online, or for purchase as a PDF.
Having finished “Designing For The Web,” I found myself wanting to learn more about design theory, and how to apply it to web design. Khoi Vinh’s “Ordering Disorder” answered my call. Khoi’s book gives a straight to-the-point overview of how to make grid systems that work in web design. I’ve used the book as my trusted guide for three websites now, all of them resulting in beautifully designed and futureproof grid systems. A must read. Buy it on Amazon.
The Design of Everyday Things
Donald Norman’s “Design of Everyday Things” completely changed the way I think about design — that’s no exaggeration. It changed the way I look at even the simplest things, like a coffee cup or a telephone, and opened my eyes to a truth — everything is designed. Every single thing. This new way of thinking is both a gift and a curse, but I’d never go back. Buy it on Amazon.
You didn’t think I exclusively read design and web books, did you? Woody Allen is one of my favorite comics, and “Getting Even” is one of my favorite books. Short enough to read on a long flight, and brilliant enough to read again and again after that, this book makes me laugh out loud with every page turn. Highly recommended. And if you haven’t already seen it, you should watch Annie Hall, too. Buy the book on Amazon.
Grid Systems in Graphic Design
Josef Müller-Brockmann’s “Grid Systems in Graphic Design” is one of the most bountiful books I own. It compresses a wealth of information and theory into an easy-to-read guide for creating effective typographic grid systems. Combined with Khoi Vinh’s “Ordering Disorder”, you’ll be whipping up grid systems in no time at all. An expensive book, but well worth the purchase. Buy it on Amazon.
HTML and CSS
Even though I was well versed in HTML and CSS by the time this book came to being, I was immediately drawn to it by its incredible design. This friendly book is ideal for those new to HTML and CSS, but is a worthwhile purchase for any web designer. It enforces excellent practices right from the beginning, and presents information beautifully — something very rarely found in technical books. Buy it!
The Vignelli Canon
Vignelli’s Canon is another book I will surely find myself referring to more and more as I grow older. Incredible advice from one of the great masters himself, the Vignelli Canon is something any designer worth their own salt should have on their bookshelf. Available for free in PDF format, but like all the books here, I’d recommend buying a copy.
Design As Art
Bruno Munari’s “Design As Art” was another book that changed the way I perceive design. A few people I’ve spoken to would argue that Munari was trying to demonstrate how Design is a subset of Art with this book — but to me, he talks about how Design is much more functional, and serves a much deeper purpose than Art. I might be wrong. But the book is incredibly enjoyable, either way. Buy it on Amazon.
The Shape of Design
Frank Chimero is incredibly passionate about design — this is clear from his talks at NAconf, Build, and the Do Lectures, as well as his book “The Shape Of Design”. Frank manages to communicate his thoughts and ideas in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening. It’s hard to pinpoint one takeaway from this book — it changed me. Buy it from Frank’s store.