Teaching Myself Graphic Design: The Literature Syllabus

As an aspiring graphic designer, I am teaching myself the technical and theoretical components of graphic design through free online resources, as well as books. I’m starting this off with the list of books itself, curated with heavy inspiration from Karen X. Cheng’s blog post, as well as the generous input of several Reddit posts in the graphic design subreddit, and other blogs floating around the internet, (like this one). So, all credit goes to these folks.

As I go through these books, I will be posting each one with my personal breakdown and what I felt were the important takeaways. My goal here is firstly to have one place where I can look back on the highlights of what I’ve read, and secondly to hopefully help someone out there either gather some information for themselves, or determine if this is the right book for their journey. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books, and if you found they were useful in your own journey, or recommendations for other books you found helpful!

Side note: I am trying to be as low budget and sustainable as possible throughout my self-teaching, therefore I have set up a budget for what I’m comfortable spending, keeping in mind how much capital I would put into some programs and institutions if I were to take that route. That being said, I purchased all of these books in used form, and only plan to keep the ones that I can find myself returning to, either gifting or selling the rest.


You Can Draw in 30 Days  by Mark Kistler

Logo Design and Branding

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, 2nd Edition by David Airey


Thinking with Type, 2nd revised and expanded edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students by Ellen Lupton

General Theory and Practice

Visual Literacy: A Conceptual Approach to Graphic Problem Solving by Judith Wilde

How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World  by Michael Bierut

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills by David Sherwin

Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman


Meggs’ History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs


Mitsuo Katsui – Poster

I am a big fan of Japanese graphic design. Actually, Japanese…everything, but that’s for another time. Here’s the inspiring work of Matsuo Katsui. I gathered information about his life and past work at a site called Graphicine. Someone created this website to organize their design inspiration, which in turn helps me in my discovery process. Good on them indeed!