2021 Summer Reading List

In search of your next good book? We’ve put together a list of summer reading recommendations to spark new ideas and inspire your creative practice. This collection of nonfiction works—including designer autobiographies and The New York Times bestsellers—features some of our board members’ all-time favorite design books. Take a look and see what books made the list and why they made such an impact. 

Start With Why & Find Your Why by Simon Sinek

Ever felt stuck in a rut, listless or uninspired? Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and the companion workbook Find Your Why aim to help readers find inspiration at work—in turn inspiring colleagues, clients, and customers. By exploring esteemed and influential leaders, Sinek hones in on what he calls “The Golden Circle” to provide a framework for tapping into inspiration beginning with asking “why.”

“These are great books for leaders looking to not only take a deeper look into their own motivations and purpose but to help their team and organizations find—and better understand—their ‘why.’” —Henry Ngo, President

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

What makes high achievers different? This question is at the heart of Malcolm Gladwell’s #1 bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success. He takes a deep dive into the nature of success—examining the context and circumstances of high achievers—to understand what factors play an important role in an individual’s success.

“This book was part of our summer reading when I was a design student. Looking back, Outliers helped reform my idea of success and achievements, especially when applied to my design career. By reconsidering society’s view of ‘success,’ it allowed me to define how I personally view ‘success.’ Ultimately, it gave me confidence to own the steps I take in my own design journey. ” —Tracy Ngo, Operations Director 

The Cheese Monkeys:  A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd

An autobiography by iconic book cover designer Chip Kidd—known for his designs for Haruki Murakami, David Sedaris, and Donna Tartt, among others—The Cheese Monkeys takes readers back to his days as a college art student. At turns hilarious and heart-wrenching, this coming-of-age story explores the process of finding one’s true calling—and the painfully relatable quest for meaning, exploration, and inspiration along the way.

“A hidden gem that will resonate with every graphic designer, this book is one of my all-time favorites. Combining principles of design with humor and wit, you can’t help but learn and laugh along the way.” —Hannah Fei, Email Chair

William Morris Decor & Design by Elizabeth Wilhide

Get swept up in the rich natural colors and intricate floral patterns of William Morris. A leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, Morris was a British textile designer, writer, artist, and social activist whose wallpaper and fabric patterns feature lush, highly detailed designs. Elizabeth Wilhide explores how the elements Morris embraced that were radical in his time now serve as the foundation for modern decor and interior design. 

“William Morris was such an influential textile artist and inspires me in my own art and design. I think this book is a great resource for any creative, whether an interior, graphic, textile designer, or just someone who wants to bring some of the William Morris flair to their life.” —Sabrina Smith, Social Media Chair

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart 

Written by a chemist and an architect, Cradle to Cradle weaves science and design together to present a bold new vision for reducing waste and supporting eco-conscious industry and creation. It has been dubbed “one of the most important environmental manifestos of our time” and challenges makers and designers to reimagine their approach to creating with principles inspired by the natural world. 

“This book looks at changing the way we design to be more environmentally friendly!” —Andrina Stewart, Programming Director

Creative Strategy and the Business of Design by Douglas Davis

For the creatives who feel lost in a world of business-speak and jargon, Douglas Davis’ Creative Strategy and the Business of Design is here to help bridge the communication gap. Pulling from his first-hand experience as a designer-turned-strategist-author-and-professor, Davis helps simplify business terminology and processes using case studies and storytelling. 

“This book gives creatives who want to add strategy as an offering to clients a roadmap on how to get there!” —Sanders Anderson, DEI Ambassador

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson & Jessica Helfand 

Exquisitely designed for re-release, this edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous essay features the classic work—which explores themes of discipline, confidence, and resistance to conformity—along with 12 contemporary essays by the designer Jessica Helfand. The new edition was published with Design Observer, a digital design publication co-founded by Helfand.

“A beautifully designed book on the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson with poignant essays written by Jessica at the end. It is a fabulous reading for a summer afternoon, inspiring to reflect and think about life decisions and our creative pursuits.” —Natacha Poggio, Design Advocacy

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to add a new volume to your bookshelf, a visit to local Houston favorite and AIGA Houston partner Brazos Bookstore may be in store. We’d also love to hear what the community is reading. Leave a comment below to let us know!

By aigahouston
Published August 9, 2021
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