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My Five Favourite Web Design Books of 2012

Below are five of my favourite design, development and business related books that I am very happy to recommend:

1. Design Is A Job

Design Is A JobMike Monteiro’s book Design Is A Job was my favourite book of 2012 for many reasons. It’s so good I would argue it has something to teach any business owner, not just in the creative field.

I read this book on iBooks and took advantage of the highlighting feature to let me know which parts I thought were interesting and worth going over again. By the end of the book the text was almost entirely yellow due to the excessive highlighting I’d been doing – it really is crammed full of wonderful advice. The tips it gives on working with clients and how to present your work to them was particularly useful to me.

The book is only about 150 pages long and it won’t take you long to read but every sentence has been carefully considered and straight to the point. If you run any kind of business and deal with clients I really do recommend you pick up a copy, you are sure to learn something from it. Actually, buy two copies and give one to someone you know – they’ll thank you later.

Below are three quotes from Mike’s book to give you an idea of the kind of thing you can expect from the book:

“Selling your work directly to clients is extremely important. Not only should you be able to explain why you made the decisions you did, but you’ll get first-hand feedback on where the work needs to go next.”

“Clients are the lifeblood of a healthy business. They are the oxygen in your bloodstream that keeps everything going. No matter how good you are at what you do, without someone willing to pay you for that service you will have to close your doors. Lack of clients is the number one reason design studios fail. The number two reason? Who cares.”

“So how much should you charge? You charge as much as you can. If you can stand in front of a client completely confident and explain why you are worth the amount you quoted, you should charge it. The problem with designers isn’t that they don’t know how much to charge; it’s that they’re afraid to charge it!”

Link: Design Is A Job from A Book Apart

2. The Icon Handbook

The Icon Handbook by Jon HicksThe Icon Handbook by the mega talented designer Jon Hicks was actually released in December 2011 but I’m squeezing it in to this 2012 list because it is well worth your attention.

Jon is a very well known icon, mascot and web designer who has worked with many leading brands online including Mailchimp, Opera and Mozilla. As you’d expect from Jon Hicks, The Icon Handbook is as beautifully designed and presented. The quality of the print from publishers Five Simple Steps also deserves a special mention. The book feels like a quality coffee table book and is presented in a square format.

As well as advising on the best practices for designing icons Jon also provides an interesting history of iconography at the beginning of the book. You can dip in and out of the book to learn more about the craft of icon design. This really is a book that looks and feels like it was lovingly created.

Link: The Icon Handbook from Five Simple Steps

3. The Shape Of Design

The Shape of DesignFrank Chimero’s The Shape of Design really is a work of art. Rather than being a traditional guide on how to design, Frank’s book details the more subtle and hidden methods behind the world of design.

Beautifully illustrated throughout, the book will leave you with a warm glow when you’ve finished reading it. There are so many lovely little touches both in terms of the design of the book and in the thought provoking content it contains. A breath of fresh air for designers.

Link: The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero

4. Client Centric Web Design

Client Centric Web Design by Paul BoagPaul Boag’s Client Centric Web Design is an eBook written to accompany series 3 of the new Boagworld Podcast. It promises happier clients, better websites and improved job satisfaction and if you follow the book’s advice it should certainly deliver on these claims and make any designer’s life easier when it comes to working with clients.

The book encourages designers to embrace clients and their feedback and not to shy away from the advice and guidance they can contribute to the project. At the same time Paul advises on how we can appear more positive and professional when dealing with clients leading to much better collaboration and results.

As with all of Paul’s eBooks this one is full of screenshots, diagrams and real world examples to expand and explain the advice clearly.

Link: Client Centric Web Design by Paul Boag

5. Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS

Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSSJonathan Snook’s Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS (or SMACSS for short) presents a new way for designers and developers to write and manage their CSS. The ideas put forward in the book will help you streamline your CSS process for both simple and complex websites.

The layout ideas are logical while being easy to integrate in to your workflow. Unlike a rigid framework you don’t need to worry about completely change how you build websites, you can pick and choose the parts that are relevant to you and your workflow. Since reading SMACSS earlier this year I have changed how I write and organise my CSS code which has resulted in a much more logical structure with very little effort.

Link: Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS by Jonathan Snook


If you’ve got a favourite web design, development or business related book that you’ve read in 2012 please leave a comment below with your recommendations!

An honourable mention must also go to The Mobile Book by Smashing Magazine which was released in December 2012. I’m only half way through reading this but I’ve already learned so much about planning and building websites for mobile browsers. This area has always be something I’ve wanted to learn more about especially with more and more of my web design clients becoming keen to embrace responsive and adaptive designs.

Let’s hope 2013 provides just as many quality design books. I’m already looking forward to Joel Hughes’ book that is in the early stages of planning and due to be released next year.

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  1. Phil, Happy New Year and thanks for sharing these with us. I look forwrad to getting my hands on them and getting stuck in! One of my all time favourite books is “DONT MAKE ME THINK” a great ook on website usability that I would reccomend to all web designers

  2. Always looking for books worth buying and usually sit in the book shop for a couple of hours reading books to see if they are worth buying. Will give some of these a shot, like the sound of ‘Client Centric Web Design’ and ‘design is a job’ but my love of CSS will most likely mean i get hold of ‘Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS’ first.

    One book / series of books i like is ‘The Web Designer’s Idea book’ volume two was published in 2010 though the eBook in 2012, Volume 3 is ready for April this year! You can let a client take a look a to get a feel for what they like and they are also good inspiration for those creative blackouts.

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