Inspiration, that crucial spark that works as the catalyst for creativity, is a difficult thing to pin down. And if you could bottle it, you would be on track for making a fortune. Inspiration, or the lack of, is what every creative person fears the most. It’s the reason why writers can sit staring at a blank page, pen poised, for hours. It’s the bottleneck that can cause designers to bash their heads on keyboards in despair. But when it flows, there’s no stopping it. Inspiration is impossible to fake and can sometimes come from the strangest of sources – not always visual. Rather, it draws from all the senses and can be as diverse as the smell of freshly brewed coffee, a song that holds certain memories or even the feel of a certain fabric. Whatever floats your boat. If you’re struggling to hit upon a creative idea or your ideas are far from fresh, here’s a quick look at five must-but books for designers. We can’t guarantee you’ll find the answer to your problem, but hopefully you’ll find they reignite your creativity, imagination and passion for your craft.

1. A History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs


Meggs spent over a decade carrying out the research for this seminal book, which is considered by many to be the definitive graphic design bible. The book has gone through many updates in the 15 years since its original publication, and the fourth edition is packed with hundreds of full-colour photos, over a thousand illustrations plus examples of design excellence from across the globe. It also includes chapters on the impact of the computer revolution on contemporary design and communications. It’s essential reading for any design professional, offering a thorough grounding on the history, key movements and breakthroughs of the craft from its original inception. Keep it close at hand; it’s a go-to reference that you’ll us again and again.

2. The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst


Creating beautiful typography is a real skill, and this book is hailed as the most influential work in the field in the past 30 years; a must-read for designers who work with type everywhere. It’s a handbook of best-practises that seeks to understand and explain the reasons behind typographical choices and includes numerous black and white illustrations, technical details, appendices and an easy to navigate glossary. It’s a dense book, but immensely readable. The latest edition also contains a chapter that’s dedicated to the challenges of digital typography.

3. Design Workshop by Robin Williams


This book is a brilliant back-to-basics for anyone who works in design and may not have had formal training. It’s a guide to style that begins with a quiz on technical details (answers not included) and moves on to the essential building blocks of imagery, logo, typography and layout. It’s written in Williams’s typically crystal clear style and is accessible to almost anyone, regardless of their level of experience. The ‘before and after’ sections, and the exploration of why some designs are attention grabbing and others are not are particularly illuminating.

4. A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand


Playboy, Walt Disney and the V&A all have Paul Rand in common. This hugely influential American designer is the man behind some of the most enduring and memorable logos ever created. To produce a list of essential design writing without mention him would be close to sacrilidge. This book contains a collection of his writings across subjects as diverse as the use of humour, the application of colour black and the power of repetition. It offers a fascinating insight into one of the 20th century’s most important design minds.

5. The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd


Chip Kidd is a renowned book cover designer, who has created some of the most iconic covers of the past 20 years, putting pictures to the words of the likes of Bret Easton Ellis, Kazuo Ishiguro and Michael Crichton. His debut novel is a humorous and thought provoking look at the art school experience of the 1950s. Designers will adore the lectures in design delivered by the terrifyingly bitter Winter Sorbeck, whose ‘Introduction to Graphic Design’ course changes the way his students view the world forever.

Written by Julie Pena: This is a guest post contributed by Julie Pena. She writes on behalf of Julie is a designer from the UK who enjoys blogging and sharing her knowledge of graphic design. To find out more follow her on Twitter.