Beyond The Screen: 6 creative books that have shaped me as a designer

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

If you’re a college or university design student (or have been in the last 10 years) you have probably heard many of your instructors have a list of books that are not required for the class but “strongly recommended”. For many students, if the book isn’t required, they will not be picking it up any time soon (especially if there is a large $$$ attached to it). When it comes to books recommended to creative students the books are either heavily wordy or heavily visual, which honestly is never helpful on either end of the spectrum. Creative people want to see it, but also read about why “this piece is relevant” or “how was this created”. Out of the many recommendations over my four years from my instructors, professors, fellow students, and handfuls of YouTube videos, here are the ones I’ve held onto over the years, and refer to frequently.

Annie Atkins — Film Design Master

I dream about this book sometimes. When I first graduated high school I was really passionate about the idea of working in film as a designer (and if I am honest I still think about it). This iconic book should be on every designer’s shelf, and I do not say this lightly. This book discusses how designers make paper goods look straight out of the 1800’s and how design is usually meant to blend into the background. Annie Atkins is a Graphic Designer based in the United Kingdom whose work has been seen in a variety of movies ranging from The Grand Budapest to Boxtrolls. I suggest watching this presentation she gave at an AIGA conference to have a view into her body of work.

The “Steal Like an Artist Series” (if you haven’t heard of this series, do you live under a rock?)

I remember reading this book my Freshman year at my university, and it all stemmed from a heated debate between an instructor and some students who were discussing whether “all art already been done” and if so “is art theft is even real?” Although these are conversations I had heard in the past, it did get me thinking about how we even determine if something is stolen. After a quick search in my campus library’s online database, I went and retrieved the book instantly and read it.

Key points discussed in this book are art theft vs original creations, how Kleon grew as a creator, and how creativity really looks over time. I still reference this book from time to time when it comes to art block and highly recommend it to all creatives.

Similar to Steal Like an Artist, this book focuses on the creative process. This book stands out on its own discussing the key points of how to share your work (what to share and not to share) and how to create a personal atmosphere in your creative bubble. An illustrator that comes to mind who does this well would have to be Radhia Radman. She is a 22 year old New Yorker who, in the last year, has seen a large jump in growth in the digital world. I believe the reason she is talented at doing this is because she shares much of her art life on the internet and lets you see the work she is creating. I am personally still learning how to do this myself, but seeing how social media can make you a known creative in the field, shows how the internet can change your life.

To end this wonderful series Austin Kleon discusses the hardships of growing as an artist (whether or not you are on the internet) and how that can impact you over time. Kleon discusses in one of his chapters, Make Gifts, on how everyone will overwork themselves with the things we are passionate about. “We used to have hobbies; now we have side hustles.” When I read that, I realized how many times I have been told this, and how many people I have seen as creatives on TikTok turn what was a small hobby into something bigger. With all success has large implications over time.

The Digital Paintings of Lois (aka you wish your dreams looked like this):

These two books by Lois van Baarle, currently based in the Netherlands, have been an artist I have loved since early high school. Although many of her books focus on digital painting, I still reference it from time to time especially since I still use illustrations in my work, I constantly look at her work to get ideas. Within her books she also provides tutorials and walkthrough of her in depth process which to this day, has not failed me. Also this book is visually stunning, so even if you aren’t into digital painting you can still appreciate this masterpiece.

Notable Designers & Illustrators with helpful links:

(Designer) Kel Lauren

Redoing My Entire Graphic Design Portfolio -

how i pitch merchandise to music industry clients :

  • (Designer) Julia Fletcher

You cannot tell me this isn’t the coolest portfolio site ever…_

  • (Designer) Tad Carpenter (He is based in KC, so cross my fingers I’ll get the chance to meet him lol)

Check out his studios portfolio site!

Great Video Below:

  • (Illustrator) Radia Radman (I love her YouTube channel with my entire heart)

I love all her YouTube videos! I re-watch this one the most

Moving Forward — quarantine in nyc, graduating sva, shop launch & packing up my studio):

  • (Illustrator) Sha’an d’Anthes aka Furry Little Peach:

She gives the best advice + check out her work here






Graphic Design Student. Illustrator. Plant mom. Tiktok Aficionado.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Is everyone creative?

1 + 1 = infinity

7 Things I Learned From The Greatest Writer Ever (Madeleine L’engle, Author of “A WRINKLE IN TIME”)

The Power In Being Creative | Gain Confidence Through The Creation Process

question mark

Why daydreaming works for your career

What’s the best way to open your mind and be more creative

The Most Important Reasons I Waste My Life Writing

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jocelyn Sands

Jocelyn Sands

Graphic Design Student. Illustrator. Plant mom. Tiktok Aficionado.

More from Medium

Get on the Path to Accessible and Inclusive Design with Laura Kalbag

5 Struggles of Aspiring Illustrators

10 Creative Websites Worth Wasting Your Time On

pink circles with decorations

50 million readers, 30,000 articles and 25,000 creatives later; how have we enabled creativity to…