5 Books to Start Your Collection

5 Books to Start Your Collection

A little while ago, I was asked by someone on our Instagram feed to recommend my top five design books for starting a collection. I was kind of stumped for a little while, it was a simple question to be asked, but where do you start?

We now have hundreds of books on Counter-Print and though they were all chosen because we thought they were worthy of your shelf space, could I really pick five that were above all others? Well yes, it turns out I could, just. With a large cup of coffee, a few minutes to spare and my thinking cap on, I came up with the suggestion below. I started by, in strategic fashion, whittling down my choices to five core areas which I believed needed to be covered to help any young graphic designer’s understanding of their subject matter: typography, grid systems, identity guidelines, a designer’s monograph and logo design.

I felt this mix would give any aspiring designer a good foundation in the nuts and bolts of graphic design and half an hour spent in the arm chair with my monograph of choice would certainly give you an insight into the formation of ideas.

So without further ado, here are my suggestions, for a starter bookshelf, for young graphic designers:

1: Typography: Formation and Transformation by Willie Kunz
I came to this book very late but it has been a trusty companion ever since. Published by Niggli, who don’t seem to make a bad book, ‘Typography: Formation and Transformation’ is an invaluable guide in understanding how modern typography, deconstructed, works.

2: Grid Systems by Josef Müller-Brockmann
This book really needs no introduction. Grid Systems is a design classic and this guidebook gives examples and exact directions to the designer concerning all grid problems that can occur. Granted, it perhaps doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but is an indispensable tool for your armory none the less.

3: Manuals 1: Design & Identity Guidelines by Unit Editions
There was once a time when these seemingly ordinary, illustrated guides to the workings of a company’s brand were as rare as rocking horse shit. Now, thanks to a handful of helpful members of the publishing community, we no longer have to result to acts of petty theft or claiming that the said guideline document happened to fall into your bag while on internship.

I’ve chosen Manuals 1, instead of a specific reissued guidelines, of which were are now many, because it is for a new collector and, as such, it will offer a lot more to the reader. Manuals 1 is the first comprehensive study of corporate identity design manuals, and features 20 examples from the 1960s to early 1980s – the golden era of identity design. The book includes manuals created for institutions and corporations such as NASA, Lufthansa and British Steel.

4: Paul Rand: A Designer's Art
This was a particularly tricky choice and of course all of this is completely subjective. However, I thought the inclusion of Paul Rand: A Designer's Art, as the story of an influential designer’s career, his ideas and approach, would sit comfortably within the selection and act as a fitting foil to the other, more academic, books in the selection.

Paul Rand was one of the world's leading graphic designers. Here he describes his work with the same precision, economy and passion that he displays in his graphic design, seeking to help us to understand the nature of his relationships with his clients, his audience and his art.

5: Logo Modernism by Jens Müller
I think we at Counter-Print HQ have designed a few pretty good logo books, but where we try and focus on a specific theme, one book came out a year or two back that provided such a vast overview of logo design, that I just had to include it. Logo Modernism, published by Taschen, book brings together approximately 6,000 trademarks, focused on the period 1940 – 1980, to examine how modernist attitudes and imperatives gave birth to corporate identity. Definitive.



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