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Most Inspiring Coffee Table Books for Designers

Laura Busche April 9, 2024 · 3 min read

As a designer, one of the best ways to get inspired is by seeing the work of other designers. Taking in visual inspiration from the world around you is a great strategy for coming up with new ideas that are uniquely your own. If you’re looking for a source of visual inspiration that is aesthetically pleasing and easy to get your hands on, one of the best sources is a coffee table book. Coffee table books are large, carefully crafted and often considered design feats of their own, and they can give you a condensed and cohesive inspiration source that you can flip through again and again. Here are a few coffee table books that we find particularly inspiring.

Pantone: The 20th Century in Color, by Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker

Pantone has long been considered the world’s leading authority on color. In 2011, the company created “Pantone: The 20th Century in Color,” a coffee table book that explores the colors of more than 200 seminal pieces of art and design over the preceding century. The book is a fascinating look at color trends and psychology, and it’s a must for designers who want a better understanding of how colors have changed as society has changed.

Pantone Book

The Collins Big Book of Art, by David G. Wilkins

It’s indisputable that classic works of art continue to have a huge influence on what’s created in the realm of digital design. So, to get a heaping portion of famous art, as well as an understanding of the trajectory of how art came to be, check out “The Collins Big Book of Art,” edited by David G. Wilkins. The book includes works created as early as 38,000 B.C.

The Collins Big Book of Art

Mid-Century Ads, by Jim Heimann and Steven Heller

The 1950s and ’60s were the heyday of the American advertisement. To get a better understanding of the ads in this golden age of consumerism, browse “Mid-Century Ads,” by Jim Heimann and Steven Heller. The book is packed with photos, graphics and posters once used as advertisements, and is a fascinating look at what historically sold products in America. It’s a great source of inspiration for anyone looking for a mid-century aesthetic.

Mid Century Ads Book

Milton Glaser: Graphic Design, by Milton Glaser

One of the most influential graphic designers of all time, Milton Glaser created iconic images like the “I Love New York” logo. In “Milton Glaser: Graphic Design,” you can page through a collection of Glaser’s best designs, including book covers, album covers and billboards. This book includes text from the designer about his process, influences and philosophies.

Milton Glaser - Graphic Design

Thinking with Type, by Ellen Lupton

Design is not just about pictures, but also about words and letters. For typographic inspiration, one of the best coffee table books available is “Thinking with Type,” by Ellen Lupton. The book explores the psychology behind fonts, as well as the history and theory behind the use of typography in design.

Thinking With Type

Around the World in 125 Years, by Reuel Golden

There’s no better source of visual inspiration than the natural world around you. So, for a broad look at the world over decades, across continents, and throughout countless civilizations and communities, browse “Around the World in 125 Years.” This set of three stunning books contains a compilation of the best photographs in National Geographic since 1888.

Around the World in 125 Years

Collecting coffee table books is a must for any designer who thrives on visual inspiration. Countless coffee table books are filled with stunning, artistic and evocative images that can help get your creative mind flowing. And as a bonus, coffee table books make a great addition to your home’s decor.

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About the Author
Laura Busche

Brand strategist. Creating design tools to empower creative entrepreneurs. Author of the Lean Branding book. MA in Design Management from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

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