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The 10 Best Diversity in Design Books You Should Read

Diversity in design is an important topic to us at Shillington and we aim to support and strengthen equity by cultivating diverse and inclusive representation in the design industry—within our classrooms and beyond. We also encourage our graphic design students and teachers to learn about the different facets of diversity and inclusion and their importance in both design history and contemporary design practices. We have always thought books are an immeasurably important tool in studying graphic design and diversity in design is no different—there’s some incredible books out there.

Though there are a whole host of amazing books on the topic of diversity in design, we wanted to bring you ten of our favorites, on a range of fascinating topics, that help to teach and inspire in equal measure:

1. Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-Racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers

Extra Bold is exactly what it says on the cover—a field guide for everyone. Written and put together by seven designers: Ellen Lupton, Farah Kafei, Jennifer Tobias (who also illustrated the book!), Valentina Vergara, Josh A. Halstead, Kaleena Sales and Leslie Xia, Extra Bold features  interviews, essays, typefaces, biographical sketches and projects from contributors with a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, abilities, gender identities and positions of economic and social privilege. The zine/self-help manual/comic book/manifesto/survival guide covers theory, history, work and interviews making it an absolutely essential read.

2. The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression and Reflection

Published in 2022, The Black Experience in Design is a beautifully designed anthology of perspectives, spotlights, researches, practice, stories and conversations from a Black/African diasporic lens. The work of six editors and over seventy Black designers, artists, curators, educators, students and researchers, the book explores practices, activisms and designing for Black joy. It also features forewords from revolutionary graphic artist Emory Douglas and sociologist Ruha Benjamin to give the book historical and socio-political context and an afterword from Eddie Opara, partner at Pentagram. The book is a true tour de force in the past, present and future of Black design. 

3. Queer x Design: 50 Years of Signs, Symbols, Banners, Logos and Graphic Art of LGBTQ

Andy Campbell’s Queer x Design is an incredible exploration of half a century of LGBTQ+ design. Tracing a history that starts in 1978 with Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag, Queer x Design is a celebration of the crossroads of queer design and queer activism. The fully illustrated book includes some of the most iconic and important pieces of design from LGBTQ+ history, including ACT UP’s Silence = Death poster, the AIDS quilt, work from Keith Haring and 2017’s NYC Pride typeface. Queer x Design also features the Lexicon of Pride Flags, which is an important visual grouping of more than dozen flags that represent different segments of the queer community. 

4. Black, Brown + Latinx Design Educators: Conversations in Design and Race

From Princeton Architectural Press, Black, Brown + Latinx Design Educators features twelve interviews with graphic design educators of color by Kelly Walters, designer, author, researcher and founder of multidisciplinary design studio Bright Polka Dot. Walters gets personal with each of her interviewees—who come from a variety of backgrounds including African American, Jamaican, Indian, Pakistani, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican and Brazilian—learning about their childhood experience, studies and own career paths into academia. With relevant images weaved throughout, the book will be hugely helpful to students and emerging designers of color. 

5. Women Design

Libby Seller’s Women Design has the subtitle ‘Pioneers in architecture, industrial, graphic and digital design from the twentieth century to the present day’ and that sums the book up perfectly. Women Design not only celebrates female amazing architects, product designers, textile artists, graphic designers and digital innovators throughout history, but also portrays how their contributions are so often overlooked, especially in comparison to their male counterparts. The book showcases their talents and celebrates their influence—stretching it way into the future.

7. CAPS LOCK: How Capitalism Took Hold of Graphic Design, and How to Escape From It

Through simple language and some excellent visuals, CAPS LOCK unpicks how graphic design and capitalism are inextricably linked. It shows that things that uphold capitalism—banknotes, branding, adverts—would not exist without graphic design. Through case studies, the book shows how designed objects relate to capitalist societies and cultures and examines how designers support and uphold the market economy. To counteract this, CAPS LOCK closes with six radical design initiatives which oppose capitalistic thought—to inspire designers to stand against the capitalist mechanisms. A fascinating look at the possible future of design.

8. Design for Belonging: How to Build Inclusion and Collaboration in Your Communities

From designer and educator Susie Wise, Design for Belonging is a practical guide on how to design to create inclusion, collaboration and respect—in groups of any size. Though not focused specifically on graphic design, Wise’s book simply examples how to use design as a tool for allowing belonging to emerge in any space. Through inspiration and stories from a diverse range of people combined with frameworks, tools and tips, Design for Belonging allows you to view the world in a different way and design accordingly—towards a more inclusive, collaborative society.

9. DESIGN(H)ERS: A Celebration of Women in Design Today

An incredible book, DESIGN(H)ERS  features the work of 30 talented women, including Jessica Walsh of & Walsh, Verònica Fuerte of HEY, Yah-Leng Yu of Foreign Design Policy Group and doodle artist Hattie Stewart. It also features insightful interviews that bring to light the thoughts and stories behind their successful careers, along with a foreword by Roanne Adams of RoAndCo Studio. Designed by an all-women team, and covering a wide range of backgrounds, crafts and skills, the work is reproduced beautifully, often across full double-page spreads. All in all, this is a book that serves to inspire and encourage the creatives of the future.

10. Gender: A Graphic Guide

Combining the powers of activist-academic Meg John-Barker and cartoonist Jules Scheele, Gender: A Graphic Guide is a beautifully designed and illustrated guide to our shifting understandings of gender. The guide explores ideas about masculinity and femininity, non-binary and trans genders and the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, disability and more. Comprehensive and expansive, John-Barker’s words paired with Scheele’s engaging illustrations make this essential book as digestible as it is beautiful. It breaks down what could be seen as complex ideas into unambiguous readings.

10. Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden Consequences

Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden Consequences is a series of fifteen illustrated case studies across the design spectrum—including graphic design, product design, architecture, marketing and more—that explore the consequences on the total human experience that design can produce, in the decisions and processes used to reach design outcomes. This important book explores how gender, race, class, age, disability and other factors influence the ways in which designers think and design. In turn, it explores the importance of understanding how diverse cultures can affect design so designers can design for a more inclusive world, avoiding discrimination, isolation and segregation. An essential book for any designer who wants to learn to design for all. 

Learn more about Shillington’s commitment to Diversity in Design and our full Diversity in Design Scholarships and Industry Mentorships—open to aspiring designers from underrepresented groups.


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