Self-Study: The Best Design Books I've Read So Far



"Designers inevitably and instinctively prefigure solutions to the problems they are confronted with, but the depth and range of their design vocabulary influence both their perception of a question and the shaping of its answer. If one's understanding of a design language is limited, then the range of possible solutions to a problem will also be limited."

-Francis D. K. Ching

Have you ever experienced a professor or teacher suggesting to the class to read the entire textbook or given material start to finish/front to back? My first design studio professor did just that and damn, I'm so glad I listened because I ended up not only expanding my vocabulary in the process but also being able to see my creativity in design from an entirely new perspective that wasn't on my radar beforehand.


This quote from Francis D. K. Ching from Architecture: Form, Space, and Order really stuck with me over time. Basically, if you want to be the best you can be in this field, you always have to keep learning and expanding your knowledge. Listen, I know it's hard to get all of that reading done in the heat of the moment or while trying to balance life, work, and school. Luckily, I had a quarter gap to get some extra reading/practice in and made it my sole mission to take advantage of the opportunity. During that time, I was blessed enough to accumulate some great books and resources. Here are my top 5 books that have helped me so far inside and outside of the classroom.


1. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order by Francis D. K. Ching (4th Edition)

By far the best "book" I've read thus far and the book is in quotations because it's really a textbook. This is all about the basics and an introduction to the field of architecture & design. When it comes to ordering principles, form, and space, starting here to accumulate a design vocabulary is an absolute must. The fourth edition does include major changes with a ton of contemporary examples. I purchased mine from Amazon but feel free to shop around for the best deal that fits your budget.


2. Architectural Graphics (6th Edition) by Francis D. K. Ching

Technique, technique, technique, and oh, technique. Learn the true techniques behind floor plans, sections, elevations, and much more. Where this really helped me was in my handwriting. Yes, my handwriting. There is a certain way you must write and this textbook will help you achieve it. After this read and practice, reading, drawing, and identifying graphics in the real world became much easier. Again, hit up Amazon or shop around.


3. The Interior Design Reference & Specification Book updated & revised: Everything Interior Designers Need to Know Every Day by Chris Grimley + Mimi Love

Outside of the classroom, this one shines bright like a diamond. For exact specs on a project, this book will have you covered. From measurements to jargon, it's all there. It truly is everything, or quite close to everything, that you'll need in your career. This book will be great to refer back to when minute details get lost over time. Add it to your library! Buy.


4. The Architecture Reference & Specification Book updated & revised: Everything Architects Need to Know Every Day by Julia McMorrough

Again, outside of the classroom... wow! This is a must-have in your career. Aside from actually building the building, this will get you pretty close. Like the previous read, It truly is everything, or quite close to everything, that you'll need in your career. This book will be great to refer back to time and time again. The examples are excellent and the language is easy to understand. Get it here.


5. Architecture of Happiness by Alain De Botton

I'm not going to lie to you, this was a hard read at times for me. The jargon is deep and if it's the first time you're experiencing it, it won't make any sense. However, the creative way the author chooses to tell the stories of buildings and what messages interiors and architecture convey to us humans is absolutely beautiful. Understanding how to capture a feeling in design will make much more sense after this read. Grab it here.


This is only a so far list and on the queue are Art's Principles by Arthur Gensler, A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander and Sara Ishakawa, Architecture and Interior Design: An Integrated History to the Present by Buie Harwood, Richard Neutra by Barbara Lamprecht, Mies Van Der Rohe by Claire Zimmerman, and Case Study Houses by Elizabeth A. T. Smith. More reviews? Absolutely. For all of them. Want to hear more in-depth reviews? Contact me!


Are you an interior design or architecture student? Are you a design professional? Have something to add? Let's connect!

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