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Unexpected class cancellations are the best. It’s not quite like Christmas vacation when you’re obligated to interact with your weird relatives or like summer vacation when you’re always headed to the next beach party.

Think of APEC week as a blessing in disguise. You’re stuck at home (because braving the traffic is worse than being in the Hunger Games) with all the time in the world. You can finally work on your art!

When it comes to graphic design, Pinterest can only get you so far. It’s one thing to know how to make something look pretty but making it mean something — something actually useful — is a different story.

This week, we asked four design studios about their graphic design book must-haves. Your bookshelf will never look better after you grab hold of these.

1. This is Service Design Thinking by Marc Stickdorn & Jakob Schneider

This book helped us understand the nature of our business — from approaching our clients’ needs with an efficient design solution to streamlining our own workflow.

2. Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life by Todd Oldham

Charley Harper’s style of illustration still looks fresh even today; it’s the kind of work that resonates with both young and old.

3. Designing Brand Identity by Allina Wheeler

It helped us a lot in terms of forming a competent workflow, getting to know our industry, and managing client relations — things we had to familiarize ourselves with as we joined the branding and design business.

And A Half

1. Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

This is a comprehensive yet simple approach to typography. It dissects type, its parts, and its use in layout, print, and graphic design.

2. How To Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaugnessy

You’ll learn the nitty-gritty of working in this industry whether you’re freelancing, starting your own studio, or somewhere in between.

3. What Is Graphic Design For? by Alice Twemlow

What is graphic design for? How are global issues changing contemporary design and the role of the graphic designer? Read this and find out for yourself.

Plus 63

1. Design as Art by Bruno Munari

It contains different writings and essays on how design can be beautiful, functional and accessible. Reading this book was so enlightening.

2. Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

A very helpful book if you’re looking for ways to turn your ideas (both good and bad) into reality. It is always important to mix both good ideas and craft.

3. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley & David Kelley

So inspiring, it will change you forever. The book was written by two awesome people from IDEO, a design and innovation company that we’re big fans of.

Serious Studio

1. Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far by Stefan Sagmeister

This is a great and insightful book into the mind and passion of one of the best designers in the industry.

2. Typography Sketchbooks by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico

This is an awesome compilation of hand typography from some of the best creators in the industry.

3. A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand

A comprehensive look into the folio of Paul Rand, it’s a great source of insights and inspiration on the design process.

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