10 must-read branding books for beginner designers

Marcelo Smith smiling portrait

Marcelo Smith

Brand Designer

Marcelo Smith is a brand designer, content creator, and founder of Fun Studio, a brand design agency that helps businesses build powerful brands that stand out and connect with their audience.

Subscribe to our


0% Spam 100% Fun

Table of Contents

branding book cover thumbnail
branding book cover thumbnail

Table of Contents

The 10 Best Branding Books for Beginners

Understanding branding is crucial to become a well rounded designer.

Brand design isn’t just about making stuff that looks good; it’s about creating designs that deeply resonate with people and perfectly reflect a brand’s identity. That’s where the real magic happens.

That’s why I put together this article. I’ve got a list of ten books – a real mix of gems that I think every designer, especially beginners, should read. These aren’t your typical design manuals. They explore everything from design and branding to psychology, business, marketing, and more.

The idea behind this list is to give you a mix with some more visual identity leaning books that focus more on the graphics side, together with books that cover broader and more philosophical or strategic topics related to branding.

By the end of this list, I hope you’ll have a toolbox of fresh perspectives that will help you create designs that are not just pretty, but strategic and meaningful.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

1. The Brand Gapby Marty Neumeier

The first time I read “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier, it was like being hit with a branding enlightenment bolt. Neumeier has this refreshing knack for simplifying complex ideas and presenting them in a way that’s relatable. His mantra “A brand is not what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY say it is” completely reframed the way I looked at brand building. It’s a recognition that brands live in the minds of customers, and our job as designers is not just to create a pretty facade, but to shape those perceptions. This book, compact yet powerful, will reframe the way you think about brand design from the ground up. Reading it feels like having an experienced mentor guiding you through the subtleties of brand strategy. If you’re just starting out, or even if you’ve been in the game for a while but want to touch base with the fundamentals, this is an absolute must-read and one of my personal favourites that I keep revisiting.

2. Identifyby Chermayeff & Geismar

Transitioning to something more visual, “Identify,” embarks us on a journey through the minds of some of the greatest brand designers in history – Chermayeff & Geismar. The iconic logos they’ve created have become part of our cultural fabric. Flipping through the pages is like stepping behind the curtain and understanding the creative process behind these masterpieces. What struck me the most while reading the book was their belief in simplicity. The elegance of distilling a brand’s essence into a single, easily recognizable symbol. It reminds us that in branding, as in life, less can indeed be more. Their work not only inspires me but also pushes me to constantly rethink my design approach, to strive for that blend of simplicity and memorability in my own work. If you’re seeking inspiration and insights on the creation of timeless brand identities, this book is for you.

3. Branding In Five and a Half Stepsby Michael Johnson

Branding in Five and a Half Steps” by Michael Johnson provides us with a detailed roadmap of the vast and often complex world of branding. Johnson breaks down the intricate process of brand creation into digestible steps, making the journey feel less daunting and more accessible.

The ‘half step‘, an investigation into the client’s world, was a particular game-changer for me. It stressed the importance of truly understanding the client’s business and audience before even starting to think about the design. It’s not just about creating something visually appealing—it’s about making a strategic visual solution that communicates the essence of the brand.

This book encouraged me to look beyond the aesthetic and to delve deeper into the strategy behind successful branding, and I’m sure it will do the same for you. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s something to gain from Johnson’s deep-dive into the branding process.

4. Logo: Revised Editionby Michael Evamy

Logo: Revised Edition” by Michael Evamy takes us deep into the world of logos, taking you through an eclectic mix of designs that cover all kinds of brands, from global giants to small startups. The wealth of visual references not only serves as a source of inspiration but also as a reminder of how a great logo can encapsulate the identity of a brand in a unique and memorable way.

The book itself has a very appealing and clean aesthetic (previous versions have been known to have printing issues so I would suggest you go for the revised edition).

The most powerful takeaway for me was the enduring power of simplicity in logo design. The most iconic logos aren’t necessarily complex or intricate, but they’re clever and perfectly represent the brand they’re attached to.

Evamy’s book is a testament to the impact a well-thought-out logo can have and provides valuable inspiration for any designer who wants to explore the fascinating world of logos and the stories they tell.

5. Zagby Marty Neumeier

I couldn’t help myself from giving Marty Neumeier a second appearance on this list. This is because his book “ZAG” is the perfect follow up to “The Brand Gap“. The title itself, “ZAG“, suggests the need for brands to stand out, to diverge from the norm, and Neumeier delivers on that premise. His insights into how to create a brand that truly stands out in a saturated market are both innovative and challenging. The core idea – ‘when everybody zigs, zag‘ – is so simple yet profoundly impactful. It sparked in me a deeper understanding of the necessity for differentiation in branding. I found myself questioning how to create branding that disrupts, that stands distinct in the minds of consumers. Reading “ZAG” really encourages you to challenge conventions and think differently, and I recommend it to anyone seeking to create brands that make a real difference in the market.

6. Start With Whyby Simon Sinek

Start With Why” by Simon Sinek was not just a book I read, but a philosophy that I wholeheartedly embraced. Sinek’s central thesis, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it“, resonated with me on so many levels. It’s not just about the aesthetics or even the functionality of what you create, but the purpose, the vision behind it. Sinek’s framework lead me to connect on a deeper level with the brand owners I work with. Understanding their ‘why‘ has become a cornerstone in my branding approach. What’s compelling is that this book doesn’t just apply to branding, but to leadership, motivation, and life in general. “Start With Why” will challenge you to look at things on a deeper level and search for the ‘why‘ behind every decision, big or small. If that sound interesting, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the read.

Contagious” by Jonah Berger isn’t your run-of-the-mill marketing book. It’s a dive into the mechanics of why things catch on, why certain ideas, behaviors, or products become viral.

As I delved into Berger’s STEPPS framework, which outlines the key factors behind virality, I found myself constantly reflecting on how these insights could apply to branding. The idea of ‘Social Currency‘, how the things we share affect our image, got me pondering about how we can create brands that not only appeal to consumers but also elevate their social standing.

Similarly, the concept of ‘Emotion‘, the role strong feelings play in driving people to share, challenged me to think about how we can craft brand narratives that stir powerful emotions.

Reading “Contagious” unlocks a new level of understanding about the dynamics of sharing in our interconnected world. It’s a fascinating guide for anyone keen to create brands that people feel compelled to talk about and share with others.

8. Made to Stickby Dan Heath & Chip Heath

Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath promises to unravel why some ideas survive and others die, and the book doesn’t disappoint. The Heaths introduce a SUCCESs model (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories) which outlines the components that make an idea ‘sticky‘. Each concept explains on how these principles can be woven into the fabric of brand messaging. “Made to Stick” isn’t just about creating sticky ideas, but about creating brands that stick – that resonate and live on in the minds of consumers. If you want to get better at building and working with brands, this book offers  some valuable, enduring lessons.

9. Purple Cowby Seth Godin

Purple Cow” by Seth Godin wasn’t just another book on my reading list. It was a wake-up call, an invitation to see the world of branding through a new lens. The book’s central premise is brilliantly simple: in a field of monochrome Holsteins, be a Purple Cow – be remarkable. As I soaked up Godin’s insights, I realized how critical it is to break away from the safety of sameness in branding. To stand out, we need to dare to be different, to not just be better but to be unique. “Purple Cow” urges you to embrace boldness, to take risks, and to create brands that are truly remarkable. If you’re searching for a fresh perspective on how to make your brand stand out in today’s overcrowded marketplace, this book is a must.

10. Zero to Oneby Peter Thiel

Zero to One” by Peter Thiel is a masterclass on innovation and entrepreneurship. Though not a traditional branding book, the principles Thiel shares resonated deeply with me as a brand designer. His central idea, to build something new instead of iterating on what already exists, was a profound call to originality. As I navigated through Thiel’s thoughts, I began to see how this ‘zero to one‘ mindset could apply to branding. Instead of simply following trends or replicating successful brands, I started to explore how we can create unique brand identities that disrupt the status quo and pave new paths. Thiel’s book may not offer traditional branding strategies, but it provides a refreshing perspective on creating brands that break molds and redefine expectations. It’s a valuable read for anyone in the design space who’s eager to push boundaries and rethink the rules.

Closing Thoughts

Reflecting back on these books, it’s hard to overstate their impact, particularly for beginners finding their feet in the expansive world of design and branding. Each book has brought something unique to the table, offering a mixture of practical guidance, theoretical understanding, and a healthy dose of inspiration. 

As a fellow learner and design enthusiast, I cannot recommend these books enough. They’ve shaped my understanding, challenged my preconceptions, and helped me to develop a well-rounded perspective on branding. Remember, learning is an ongoing journey. These books are stepping stones to a greater understanding of branding and design. So, delve in, explore these worlds of knowledge and keep that spark of learning alive.

Got any thoughts or other personal favourites? I’d love to hear about them! Also If you found this article useful, please share it with others who might benefit from it. And if you enjoy content like this, go sign up for our newsletter and let’s continue this journey of learning together.

Happy reading!

Subscribe to our


0% Spam 100% Fun