death of the design book

Checking out the graphic design books at Borders was one of my favorite hobbies since around 1995. (Every single Barnes & Noble store I have visited had jack crap for design books.) Over time I learned that Rockport was a reliable publisher with a consistent flow of titles. Certain publishers and editors I grew to avoid like David E. Carter, whose selections were quite vanilla and lacked a level of sophistication found elsewhere. But the industry dramatically changed the last couple years. Some may argue the destruction of Borders in 2011 forced the end of graphic design books. No, no, no, the death of graphic design books actually happened in 2009 for two reasons.

Reason One: In 2009, Borders basically stopped stocking new graphic books. Actually, the well was starting to get dry in ’07 and ’08. There still may be publishers producing quality GD books, but if the market has no way of reviewing an entire book before purchase, then their function is terminated, at least for me. I bought a couple GD books in ’08 and haven’t purchased any since. It’s been a sad, sad sight visiting the design section at Borders the last couple years seeing the same weary titles filled with dated designs. We can now look back and say this state of affairs foreshadowed the downfall of Borders.

Reason Two: The maturation of free web sites featuring graphic design samples is what ultimately killed the quite expensive industry of graphic design books which were usually $35 for about 200 pages of samples with either one or two samples on a page.

Now we have many strong websites with resources that are constantly updated with the newest, freshest and most creative designs of the day. Published books were always six months behind the design trends due to the schedule of developing and producing these books. Also, bookshelves are no longer clogged with the designs of yesteryear. (On most levels that’s a good thing, but there’s still a place for understanding and reviewing the history of the ever-changing world of graphic design).

Currently, my favorite web sites that feature graphic design samples are:,,, and and are also good sites, but they tend to favor illustration-based design often with a feminine touch. And there are dozens of agencies and gd shops with sharp portfolios online.

I have a hard time getting rid of my design books, but in all honesty, I’ve opened only one or two of them in the last year looking exclusively for alternative brochure formats (of which I found none that suited my needs, even from the book series titled “Brochure Design”).

Ironically enough, the first graphic design book I purchased was “David Carson: 2nd Sight: Grafik Design After the End of Print”. (See below).

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
12 years ago

lovely package *snicker*