Often as a graphic designer it’s not the design process itself that causes problems, but everything on the periphery.

Writing effective emails and pitches, dealing with tricky clients, knowing how much to charge, and all that other stuff they didn’t teach you as a student. Of course you can learn this from doing it wrong and then fixing things – but sometimes it helps to get a head start from someone who’s been there before.

Here are 10 common problems that designers are faced with, and 10 books that can help.


1 – Grids
Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Mülller-Brockmann

Here’s a paradox: one of the most important aspects of graphic design is also invisible. Learn everything you need to know about grids from the Swiss master in this comprehensive manual.


2 – Not charging enough
Double Your Freelancing Rate by Brennan Dunn

“You want to charge your clients more, but you’re unsure about where to start. Sure, we’re great technically… we can design a beautiful site, craft solid code, or write great copy — but we’re not all the great at selling ourselves at a higher rate”.

If this sounds like a familiar problem, this is the book for you.


3 – Writing
Writing That Works, 3e: How to Communicate Effectively in Business by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson

Sometimes we spend so long crafting how our words look that we forgot to craft the message itself. I’ve read this book at least three times now, and it’s become my goto resource for writing tips. Learn how to write better emails, make your presentations work harder, and how to write a speech that won’t send people to sleep.


4 – Depression
Reset Your Brain’s Operating System by James Greig

It’s not something that people in the industry tend to talk about openly, but depression seems to be a common issue faced by designers (and by everyone else in our stressful modern world). This book talks openly about my experience of depression, and looks at ways to reset your brain’s operating system.


5 – Perfectionism
Just fucking ship by Amy Hoy

We’ve all been there — obsessively fine-tuning the details of a design when the actual content or the thing that needs to happen isn’t in place yet. This book will help you to start and then actually finish a side project, without getting hung up on things that don’t matter. It’s a kick up the backside in words, basically.


6 – Running a studio
How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

This is the book with all the stuff that they didn’t teach you in art school. How to present your work. How to build business partnerships. How to find and hire the right staff. Essential reading for anyone running a studio or seeking to up his freelance game.


7 – The freelancing rollercoaster
Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer by Liam Veitch

You know how it goes. Work dries up for a month or two, and you’re not sure how you’re going to pay your rent. And then suddenly the phone starts ringing with more offers of work than you can handle. This book will show you how to build a predictable income and find your dream clients.


8 – Remembering why
Do Purpose by David Hieatt

Staying motivated as your career progresses can be difficult. After years of clients making the logo bigger and smaller and bigger again, you sometimes ask yourself why you became a designer in the first place. In short, we can forget our “why”, and this book can help. (And for our own studio practice, not just our clients).


9 – Common Sense
The Little Know-It-All: Common Sense for Designers by Silja Bilz

What is a Meta-Tag? What kind of measurement is DIN A1? What kind of clearance and documents do you need before using copyrighted material?

These and many more simple questions are answered in this handy guide which covers everything from design and typography to marketing and the law.


10 – Switching off
Focus by Leo Babuata

Sometimes it’s pretty hard to wind down after a long day pushing pixels around. This free guide will help you to focus when you need to, but also to find stillness when you’re not at work. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s well worth a read (especially as it’s free).



Are you thinking about going freelance?

Here’s the good news about being self-employed: it’s not as scary as you might think. After freelancing for three years, I know how to find work, what to ask before taking a job, and how much I can charge.

So I’ve collected everything I wish I knew 3 years ago about freelancing into a free email course. You’ll learn how to prepare your portfolio, how to scope out the freelance job market where you are, and how much you could earn. Click the link below to get started…


Posted to graphic-design in 2014.

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