10 Must-Read Retro Graphic Design and Illustration Books
Graphic design and illustration books are one of the best ways to improve your skills, learn more about design history, or just get a quick dose of inspiration.
In this article, we've included the best retro books on graphic design and illustration. Whether you're looking to brush up on your typography skills or create more authentic retro illustrations.
Take a in-depth journey into the history of modern cartoon and illustration work. This book is packed with a detailed history of the art as well as tons of inspirational images including everything from 1940s Disney to 1960s cartoons and more.
House Industries is one of the best type foundries and design studios carrying the torch of historical American design. This books helps creatives to find inspiration via stories, lessons, and case studies. The book is a whopping 400+ pages so you're sure to find plenty of inspiration for your design work.
One of the original books on drawing comics. I remember getting this book as a kid and using it so much the pages were falling out. Using Marvel artwork as examples, this book guides you through just about every step of illustrating a comic book from sketches to anatomy to panels to inking and everything in between.
A must-have guide to typography. In this style-guide Robert Bringhurst helps designers understand typography in theory, practice, and history.
One of the definitive design books of the last decade. Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything is a design book that makes you feel like Aaron Draplin is sitting next to you sharing stories from the trenches, lessons, and life advice.
If you're a designer who loves the analog aesthetic this book should be in arms reach of your work area. Bill Rose spent a decade traveling across the country documenting his finds at antique shops, estate sales, yard sales, and junk yards. The result is a virtual encyclopedia of classic American badges, logos, matchbooks, packaging, and more.
A deep dive into mid-century graphic design this book is an in-depth look at the history of the movement, tons of inspirational images, and profiles on mid-century designers like Paul Rand, Alvin Lustig, Jim Flora and tons more.
While not a traditional graphic design or illustration book — Mail Order Mysteries answers the question "Are the products advertised in old comic books as cool as they look?"
Read the book and you'll discover the answer varies largely by product. This book is packed with nostalgic illustrations, design created to sell products in a glance, and beautiful process print illustrations.
Mr. Product contains two volumes packed with retro advertising characters. The books start with a fascinating history of advertising characters and eras (this takes up about 25% of the book but it's useful and interesting). After that each page is packed with inspirational design and illustration work grouped by categories like kids, fast food, and cars.
A massive multi-volume collections of, well, trademarks and symbols. I originally discovered this book in an Aaron Draplin video. The book looked like an amazing resources for ideas and inspiration for logos and identity work.
Unfortunately, with Aaron Draplin's endorsement the price of this rare book shot through the roof. I saw people selling it for over $1000 in some cases.
Luckily, the prices have dropped and with a little research you can find it for under $100.
What retro design/illustration books did I miss?
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the best retro graphic design and illustration books.
Which ones should I add to the post? Do you have one of the books and love it? Is one of these books undeserving of being on the list? Let me know in the comments!
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