The following annotated bibliography suggests useful texts for graphic design educators. The materials listed are not exhaustive. They are simply intended to inspire educators in their quest for provocative classroom material.
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Barnard, Malcolm. Graphic Design as Communication. London: Routledge, 2005. Barnard argues that the function of graphic design is communication. It should be “treated as a language rather than an art form.” He considers this language in relation to modernism, postmodernism and globalization, as well as a range of post-structuralist theoretical approaches.
Bennett, Audrey, ed. Design Studies: Theory and Research in Graphic Design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. This scholarly collection of contemporary essays applies quantifiable research to the practice of graphic design. The book as a whole encourages designers to develop research-oriented practices that are “more inclusive of audience input and interdisciplinary expertise.”
Biesele, Igildo G. Graphic Design Education. Zurich: ABC Verlag, 1981. This book provides seventeen overviews of various graphic design courses from around the world. Visual examples of student projects follow each course overview. The course descriptions are too broad to actually apply to the development of specific syllabi. They are more useful as a gauge of what was going on internationally in design programs in 1981.
Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley and Marks, 2004. This book became a cult classic for book designers in the 1990s. In it Bringhurst establishes pragmatic guidelines for typography using a sometimes poetic tone.
Buxton, Bill. Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Boston: Elsevier, 2007. This is an informative book for any design educator. Buxton urges us to focus more on the design of the design process than the design of the product. An effective way to do this, he argues, is by “sketching” (prototypes, demos, sketches, models, simulations). Through this book he also encourages educators to integrate into their classrooms more scholarship, a sense of history and a collaborative approach to the design process. The book includes provocative interviews and real world examples.
Dondis, Donis A. A Primer of Visual Literacy. Cambridge: MIT, 1973. This is a basic handbook that attempts to foster universal visual literacy. The text isolates elements of visual language (color, tone, line, etc.) and then applies them through techniques (symmetry, repetition, etc.). Each section includes simple classroom exercises. The additional discussion of media context is now a bit dated.
Drucker, Johanna and Emily McVarish. Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008. Drucker and McVarish provide a critical approach to design history. They consistently revisit the “link between graphic works and the social forces and conditions of their production” as they carry the reader from 35,000 B.C. to the present. The book feels very much like a textbook. Bullet points and timelines capture key events in each chapter.
Foote, Cameron S. The Creative Business Guide to Running a Graphic Design Business. New York: Norton & Co, 2001. This is a practical guide to forming and managing a graphic design business. This is increasingly useful for students as many are attempting to launch their careers initially as freelancers instead of employees.
Garland, Ken. Graphics Handbook. New York: Reinhold, 1966. Garland grounds this basic introduction to the production of graphic design in the tools and technologies of the day (1966). For this reason the book itself is dated as a contemporary classroom tool but fascinating for consideration of how the industry has been changed by the digital era.
Gerstner, Karl. Designing Programmes. Zurich: Niggli, 1968. In this book Gerstner develops a comprehensive system capable of generating a broad range of design solutions, and he connects this system to the field of computer programming. This book became a 1960s cult classic. It is receiving new attention as systems thinking once again moves to the forefront of design thought.
Hall, Sean. This Means This. That Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics. London: Laurence King, 2007. This basic introduction to semiot-ics puts into practice the decoding of signs. Seventy-six exercises ask the reader to first look at an image and then follow along as the authors decode the image while exploring a particular concept of meaning (sign, icon, index, symbol, etc.)
Heller, Steven. Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design. New York: Allworth, 2004. In this collection Heller examines 125 graphic design artifacts, putting each into cultural/historical context. Each essay is concise, breaking the book into quick manageable bites.
Heller, Steven. The Education of a Typographer. New York: Allworth, 2004. Heller presents a collection of essays about teaching typography, as well as sample course descriptionsand projects.
Heller, Steven. Teaching Graphic Design. New York: Allworth, 2003. This book provides sample syllabi, assignments and projects from a wide range of sources for undergraduate and graduate graphic design classes.
Heller, Steven, and Elinor Pettit. Graphic Design Timeline: A Century of Milestones. New York: Allworth, 2000. This book presents an immensely useful timeline of graphic design from 1890 to 2000. It is, in essence, an efficient outline of graphic design history, allowing students to quickly put designers and their work into historical context.
Hollis, Richard. Graphic Design: A Concise History (World of Art). London: Thames & Hudson, 1994. Hollis’s compact, affordable graphic design history has been popular since its release in the early 1990s. Although primarily black and white, it includes some color images among its myriad visual examples of work. The text covers late 1800s to the early 1990s.
Jubert, Roxane. Typography and Graphic Design: From Antiquity to the Present. Translated by Deke Dusinberre and David Radzinowicz. Paris: Flammarion, 2006. This comprehensive, well-researched typographic history begins over 20,000 years ago and ends at the present day. It is richly illustration and amazingly thorough.
Kinross, Robin. Modern Typography: an Essay in Typography. London: Hyphen Press, 1994. This a wonderfully concise yet thorough history of typography. Kinross begins with the Enlightenment and ends with present day. It is a pleasure to read.
Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leeuwen. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. New York: Routledge, 1996. This fairly academic text attempts to establish a grammar of the visual, drawing from established linguistic thought. Each chapter examines “compositional structures” which have become conventions in the course of the history of Western visual semiotics. The text then considers how these structures produce meaning.
Laurel, Brenda. Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. This compilation of contemporary essays and case studies introduce designers to research tools crafted specifically for graphic design. The book covers “research into design, research through design, and research for design.” Many of the research methodologies consider design as part of an integrated system.
Lidwell, William, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler. Universal Principles of Design. Beverly, MA: Rockport, 2003. This book introduces 100 “general design considerations.” The authors attempt to isolate “key principles of design across disciplines” and then organize them in a clear concise, manner. The resulting principles would be particularly useful for teaching an interactive class.
Lindinger, Herbert. Ulm Design: The Morality of Objects. Cambridge: MIT, 1991. Lindinger examines the students, faculty and curriculum of the famous Hochscule Für Gestaltung Ulm (HfG). He also analyzes the work produced
as well as the historical events that comprise the twelve year lifespan of the school.
Lupton, Ellen and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Graphic Design The New Basics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. This is a concise yet comprehensive guide to two dimensional design that focuses on design’s formal structures. Lupton and Cole Phillips explore form from a 21st century standpoint, recognizing that universal form does not have to lead to universal meaning. They include in the book new elements of our visual vocabulary, like layering and transparency, that reflect the dramatic effects of the digital age upon contemporary design.
Lupton, Ellen. Thinking With Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors & Students. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004. Thinking with Type has set new standards for typographic manuals. It includes thoughtful historical background, comprehensive information about the structure and classification of type, as well as basic tenets of effective typography such as alignment and hierarchy. The appendix provides a plethora of additional pragmatic advice and information.
McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade. Seeing and Writing 3. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. This quirky book continually asks the reader to examine and reexamine the relationship between image and text. It is full of provocative essays and images followed by visual and written exercises. Although primarily a textbook for composition classes, it is also useful for design studio discussions.
Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. This broad graphic design history was monumental when it was first released in 1983. It has influenced every graphic design history produced in the last twenty years. This comprehensive text stretches from prehistory to the mid-1990s.
Moggridge, Bill. Designing Interactions. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. This influential book explores the designing of interactions. It includes forty interviews with significant contributors to the interactive field. Moggridge explains his own views toward the end of the book as he encourages designers to focus upon understanding people first and then designing and redesigning prototypes to meet their needs.
Müller-Brockmann, Josef. Grid Systems in Graphic Design: A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers, and Three-Dimensional Designers. Niederteufen, Switzerland: Arthur Niggli, 1981. Müller-Brockmann examines the gird system in rigorous detail, showing students not only how to produce but also how to effectively use a grid system for graphic design. The logical, objective, efficient principles of International Style underlies his approach.
Poling, Clark V. Kandinsky’s Teaching at the Bauhaus: Color Theory and Analytical Drawing. New York: Rizzoli, 1986. Poling closely examines Wassily Kandinsky’s pedagogical approaches while at the Bauhaus (1922-1933). He includes over 200 samples of Kandinsky’s students’s work, some lecture notebooks and the necessary historical background to understand the material.
Purvis, Alston W. and Martijn F. Le Coultre. Graphic Design Twentieth Century. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003. This is essentially a historical picture book. The images are large and lush. It’s useful for giving students a visual overview of the last century of design. Spitz, René. hfg ulm: The View Behind the Foreground. Stuggart: Axel Menges, 2002. Spitz documents the political history of the HGG. He considers the external circumstances of the school to bring readers to a new understanding of this famous institution. This is a huge, comprehensive volume.
Ruder, Emil. Typography. New York: Hastings House, 1981. Ruder’s classic modern typographic manual falls very much in the vein of International Style. He drives home clarity, precision and functionalism as the basis of effective typography. The multitude of accompanying illustrations explicate his typographic principles. This book clearly conveys the kind of typographic experiments performed at Basel during Ruder’s tenure there.
Tschichold, Jan. The New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers. Translated by Ruari McLean. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Through this book Tschichold codified the ideals of New Typography. He originally created it as a guide for printers. It remains a useful introduction to modernist typography.
Twemlow, Alice. What is Graphic Design For? Hove: Rotovision, 2006. Twemlow explores the purpose of graphic design in this basic, introductory guide. She considers current design issues (cross-disciplinary design, designer as author, sustainability, etc.) in the first two sections of the book and then looks at the work of various influential designers and design firms in the last third.
Wick, Rainer K. Teaching at the Bauhaus. Ostifldern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2000. This book explores pedagogical approaches at the Bauhaus, putting them into historical context, as well as expanding upon the sources of these approaches: individual Bauhaus artist/instructors. This is an informative, comprehensive overview of the curriculum at the school.

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