Fancy pens and impractically beautiful notebooks from well-meaning family members are nice and all, but if your auntie happened to slip a check in her “Congrats, Grad!” card, cash it and pick up a copy of the newly updated third edition of The Little Know-It-All (Gestalten) book of “common sense for designers.” Okay, maybe the last thing you want to do right now is crack open another “school” book, but this pint-sized piece of print might just be the most important thing you page through this summer (or, if you have the whole job thing on lockdown, adorn your brand new office desk with).

Why? Whether working independently or as part of a large studio, today’s designer is expected to be skilled (or at least competent) in more areas outside his or her immediate field of expertise than ever before. Even if you don’t strive for multidisciplinary domination, you’ll need to speak the language of other disciplines as well as those micro-niches within your own field. So if you specialized in digital media but don’t know your saccades from your shanks, see chapter four on Typography.

Or say the project you’re working on already has a dedicated typographer (if so, hold onto that job and don’t let go) who’s got those bowls, balls, and bars in the bag. That’s great—awesome, actually—and maybe you can skip chapter four for now, but I don’t know a single designer who could find their way around a contract or other legal document without a little outside help. Yeah, I know, you just graduated and you’re all full of ideas and ideals—who cares about contracts?—but sooner or later (hopefully sooner), you’ll be paging through paperwork for a new position or for your own LLC, and you’re going to wish you had taken that dreary-sounding Business for Designers course in school. Never fear, just turn to chapter eight on Law. There you’ll find a condensed but nonetheless helpful guide to things like intellectual property rights, internet content liability, and online advertising—the “boring” yet utterly necessary foundation for any self-starting designer. You know all those freelance folks who look like they’re having so much fun calling all their own shots? Well, they probably are, but that comes at a very unsexy price called contract law.


We get it. You went to school because you’re creative, and now you have a degree that proves you know your stuff, but making a living in a creative field means doing business. Maybe one day you’ll hire a business manager and an accountant and other fancy people, but in the meantime take a shortcut that won’t leave you short. Given your over-achiever status we bet you can burn through this fat baby book in a week or two, tops. No book report required.