21 Must Read Books on Design, Branding, and Business


We all want to become better designers, build our design businesses, and deliver more value to our clients. But with so much content out there, how can you ever get through it all? It’s my mission to help you filter through thousands of options and offer you my reading picks. So here’s a list of my top design, business, productivity, branding and strategy book recommendations for design and the business of design.

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Design Books 

Logotypes & Letterforms: Handlettered Logotypes and Typographic Considerations 

Fonts & Logos: Font Analysis, Logotype Design, Typography, Type Comparison  

Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works  

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative 

My #1 Design Pick 

The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art, and Architecture

Although I wasn't taught how to design using the Golden Ratio when I was in school, this book gave me a crash course in what it’s all about. It was worth the purchase for chapter 1 alone. It was all I needed to understand the basic premise of the Golden Ratio and proportional harmonies in nature that I could apply to my design work. 

Business Books 

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It 

Run Studio Run: How to operate and grow a small creative studio 

101 Things I Learned in Business School 

A Win Without Pitching Manifesto 

My #1 Business Pick 

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It 

It was a hard decision to pick my favorite business book, as they all are really good. But Never Split the Difference is probably my favorite book I’ve read in the last 2 years. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s by a former FBI hostage negotiator. He teaches the negotiating skills he used in extreme hostage negotiations as well as how to apply it in business situations. If you don’t read any of the other books, read this. If you want to get a taste if it, then watch some of his interviews, like this one.

Productivity Books

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results 

Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less 

My #1 Productivity Pick 

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done

I have never been as productive in my life as I was after reading this book and implementing it’s techniques. I now know what to say “no” to and where to put my focus. Before reading this book I was really scattered and didn’t know where to put my energy and effort, but now I have clarity. 

Branding and Strategy Books 

Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists 

Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team 

Creative Strategy and the Business of Design 

Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands 

The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design

Bigger Than This: How to turn any venture into an admired brand

How to Launch a Brand 

My #1 Branding and Strategy Pick

The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design 

I have a tendency to only use the branding and strategy books as reference books when I need them versus leisurely reading. The Brand Gap is short and sweet and to the point. So many quotes about branding come from this book like “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” and “Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.” I appreciate the focus, impact, and brevity of the book. 

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About the author:

Melinda Livsey is a brand strategist, designer, and educator based in sunny Southern California. She’s the founder of Marks and Maker, co-founder of Pre-lance, and co-host on the Futur. Find her hanging out on Instagram and say hello!