Graphic Design as a Second Language

Bob Gill design book

I can’t choose a single design book as my “favourite,” but this one’s up there: Graphic Design as a Second Language, by Bob Gill.

Bob Gill design book

“The only way to tell which jobs Gill designed yesterday and which ones were designed years ago, is to look at the date. Styles come and go, but his ideas and teaching philosophy are timeless. That’s why Bob Gill is one of the heroes that got me and so many others into graphic design in the first place.”
— MICHAEL BIERUT

If you’re interested in graphic design, the book’s definitely worth a read. A little off-topic, turns out that Gill went on to direct a porn movie called The Double Exposure of Holly. David the designer shared that, but does go on to say he hasn’t seen it, obviously. David’s just a fountain of knowledge.

Nab it off Amazon.com: Graphic Design as a Second Language

A few more recommended reads.

48 responses

  1. “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst. This book is great if for no other reason than it builds a love for type.

  2. “Typo”, published by Könneman. A huge book with tons of example of 20th century graphic design, mostly focused on typography and poster.

    I think I’ll be buying Bob Gill’s book soon, thanks for the recommandation.

  3. Surely will look for this book.. Now a days I have started a new way to gain knowedge… I travel in bus some 30kms to a place where there are only bookshops, most of them attached with a coffee house (with wifi) where you can read ur book along with coffee.

    as graphic design books are costly to buy, and beyond my budget to buy 20 different books, I travel everyday..read them… Gulp the knowledge and in the evening i digest them pratically :D

  4. I always go back to Great Design Using Non-Traditional Materials by Sheree Clark and Wendy Lyons, and my typography book, A Typographic Workbook by Kate Clair.

    I’ve added the Bob Gill book to my wish list. It looks like another resource I would go back to again and again. Those are the types of books I like to collect. Thanks David!

  5. Hi,
    Just came across your blog from David the designers.
    Been looking through your past articles and found some excellent stuff, very informative.
    On todays topic;
    Art of looking sideways
    Cheers
    Karl

  6. Hi Mirko, I’ll look for Typo, thanks.

    Santosh, think of it as paying for training. That’s a fair distance you travel. Liking the dedication.

    Sera, for logos I prefer to read books about thinking, instead of looking through catalogues. Have you read any from Ed de Bono? His Lateral Thinking is good.

    Lauren, thanks for those.

    Dajo, let me know what you think. It didn’t take long to read first time around.

    Karl, good of you to say where you arrived from. I’ve been reading David the designer’s blog ever since I started my own. I’ll take a look at the Art of Looking Sideways and thanks for the recommendation.

  7. Neither of these books are specifically about teaching design, but I have 2 books (amongst many) that have been a great inspiration to me.

    ‘Designed by Peter Saville’ as it was he who got my attention about design in the first place, and the work is exquisite.

    ‘Experimental Formats’ by Roger Fawcett-Tang is a very inspiring book if you love the parts of design you can really touch and feel – books, packaging, prints etc.

    I have been a ‘lurker’ on your blog for a while now, thought I would comment. Keep up the good work.

    Andy

  8. • Forget all the rules you ever knew about design ‘including the ones in this book’ Bob Gill (he got me in to design too).
    • A smile in the mind by David Stuart (it’s all in here)
    • The world of Minale Tattersfield (great ideas) by the late great Marcello Minale
    • Alas Smith and Milton (not for the work, but for what it’s about…if you want to run your won company, look in here!)
    D&AD annuals
    Bill Bernbach
    Graphis annuals
    The Art of Looking Sideways by the late great Alan Fletcher
    There are so many!

  9. I have to second lee newham. “FORGET ALL THE RULES ABOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN: including the ones in this book”!!! It changed the way I think about visual communication! He says to communicate like no one has ever heard of what you are talking about. It’s GREAT for logos, Sera. What a treat! And it’s so simple, it encourages you to think that “YOU CAN DO IT!” Thank you Bob Gill! Pick “FORGET ALL THE RULES…” over “logo mania”(I believe his latest).

  10. So I am new to Graphic Design, very new, and I have wanted to get a book for a while now. What one book should I get? Graphic Design as a Second Language looks good, but is it right for me?

    Let me know, Thanks!

  11. It depends on what you want to learn. Why do you want to know more about graphic design?

    You mention on your own blog that you’re poor and cheap ;) so before sticking all your eggs in one book, learn about design online. The HOW forum is a good place to start.

  12. I really want to start by learning all the principles of graphic design. I want to start at the beginning and learn the basics then move on from there.

    Thanks for the suggestion on the HOW Design forum, I just registered and am about to check it out.

  13. As someone who is not a graphic designer (and has hired graphic designers as needed) who wanted to learn the basics, I am fond of The Non-Designer’s Design Book and The Non-Designer’s Web Book, both by Robin Williams.

  14. David,

    Jeff Fisher has been a long time poster on graphic design forums. One of his classic posts was in response to the often asked question – what are your fav design books?

    Later he wrote an article for Creative Latitude that soon became a classic – Design by the Books.

    Not only is Jeff an avid reader, but his second book Identity Crisis is due out soon.

    Personal plug – I’m in his first book – The Savvy Designer’s Guide To Success: Ideas and Tactics for a Killer Career

    I missed being in his second due to a client snafu / crisis. Maybe Jeff’s next book will cover the logos that never were …

    My favourite design book? I don’t really have one fav. I have a library filled with great books. A great deal I purchased on Jeff’s advice over the years.

    Typography, simple design, brochure / logo / poster / book design, history … ok, if it’s history, then hands down I’ll go with Meggs. Definitely.

    Meggs’ History of Graphic Design

    He’s no longer with us, but he certainly left a legacy.

  15. Thanks, Cat. I was hoping I could help Jeff out of a fix with a work case study, but clients took priority. Great to get a few of your recommendations, off to check them out.

  16. I had a terrific time reading “tellmewhy”, by karlssonwilker inc.

    It’s not a book about the principles and theory of design, it’s the story of two designers that become friends while working in NY and decided to start their own design studio. A great read, full of jokes, fun, ideas, the GREAT design work by these two guys, and personal stories of good and hard times that you will relate to if you’re self-employed.
    I came across it in a specialized design & arts bookstore in Madrid while looking for something else, but the cover of “tellmewhy” caught my eye… What a find!

    And, you have to see it for yourself, it has the weirdest effects in the pages that contain text… a magenta gradient soooo subtle that leaves you wondering if the pages are dirty or the paper has been affected by the sunlight… nice visual trick.

    Highly recommended.

  17. I think one of my favourites would have to be “A Smile in the Mind”. It has a great selection of witty and very innovative design solutions. It is more of an “inspiration” type of book which I find more helpful than a catelogue. It also mentions the thought process that the designers went through to come up with these amazing ideas and that is probably the best an most helpful part of the book. I would definatly recommend it!

  18. I just picked up “Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual” and “Fingerprint: The Art of Using Handmade Elements in Graphic Design” and they are both phenomenal. “Fingerprint” is largely examples with a paragraph for each from the designer describing how they came to it and why it works. “Design Elements” is beautifully organized and just a treat to look at – then you start reading and realize that each instructional page is accompanied by a half-dozen examples any why they’re awesome. I can’t thumb through either for more than ten minutes, I get so many ideas I have to put the book down and jump immediately to a sketchbook.

  19. Hello David,
    i am a graphic design student , and i really like the logos you create , and i really want to make logos like that but in university they didn’t tell us anything about logos , so i thought i would learn it by my own by ordering books to help me in creating logos, so i would really love to see what you would suggest me to read.

    i saw your reply that you used a book called (Lateral Thinking), and i would love to hear from you how its going to help me and any other books i should read to help me with logos ?

    Thanks

  20. i forgot to say that i searched for the (Lateral Thinkin) Book and i found it on amazon and the reviews says its so great , but its just about thinking right? and for that matter i found other book with so many reviews seams that its talking more about this stuff of thinking called (Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) ).

    if you please could check and tell me which one to use.

    Thank you.

  21. Hello David,
    i forgot to ask , what do you think i should learn to make a great logos and stuff, i mean books on typography or something like that sketching whatever symbols?

    i have the Elements of typographic style and its amazing book but i think its advanced not for the beginners students, so i might get an other book just to learn the basics then move to the advanced i did read the elements and its great so i am in a good direction i think

  22. David, I have just fished through your blog (which was an inspiration in itself! so thanks for that) and would love a bit of help. Ive spent the last 10 years as a designer being governed my skills in illustrator and photoshop and this has resulted in me loosing my creativity. Well now I want it back! I was looking for a good book to help kickstart the creative part of my brain. Sorry if im asking you to repeat yourself but what is the one book you would recommend. Also can you suggest a good way to get back into creative design and not simply artworking on a mac. I feel like a fraud – not a designer just a mac guy.

    Thanks for your help

  23. Hey Jon,

    i ordered a copy and it costed me 10$ with shipping if you are in US, it may cost you less ;) , and it may seem old , but sure thing it has a great stuff inside :).

    Hope you get one ;)

  24. I like Jim Krause’s stuff: DESIGN BASICS INDEX, IDEA INDEX, LAYOUT INDEX. He’s had a few newer ones in the past 3-4 years that are excellent as well. Great format with small hand held convenience. I also love DESIGN BASICS INDEX, because he takes the time to explain why something doesn’t work and shows examples.

    Overstock.com is a great resource for affordable books.

  25. The Basic Design: series by Gavin Ambrose; Typography, Grids, Layout, Print and Finish, Colour which are all about the nuts and bolts of design plus some newer one’s. They are all really well written and as an ex working designer I can tell they’re informed by experience.

    The complete guide to digital graphic design by Bob Gordon is a great book for those started on the design road. Those who are beginners will miss the pearls alas but those of us well traveled will enjoy the in depth coverage or possibly get an insight into areas we’ve not worked in yet.

    I have a list I’ve made for my students here (link removed due to use of URL shortener) that I will be glad to add some of the recommendations above (if our library will spring the cash). I’ve included ‘thinking’ and ‘being creative’ books such as Buzzan on mind maps and Edward de Bono as the idea is as much part of design as is the execution.

  26. One of my favorites is not about graphic design principles per se, but rather, how to be a freelance graphic designer and knowing what your up against. I would say this is a must for any graphic design student or even graphic design professional thinking of going into freelance. It is full of common sense, but also a lot of tips on self promotion and on handling clients etc. that we sometimes overlook. In my opinion the book is beautifully designed and although it is light on image and heavy on text, the typography makes it a pleasure to read. The cover is also screaming for attention, but yet simple in execution. Title “How to be a Graphic Designer without losing your soul” and written by Adrian Shaughnessy (writes regularly for Eye and Creative Review, and has a monthly column in Design Week. ) and designed by Bibliotheque. It has sold over 70,000 copies to date. A new edition appeared in 2010.

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