I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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Rare Design Books

Are you sick of the gluttony of wretched design books cluttering the shelves at Borders and other megabookstores? Why not look to the past for inspiration. Many of my favorite design books were published before I was born, and unlikely to ever be printed again. To find these rare design gems from the past, you don’t have to live in a used bookstore. Just use my favorite bookhunting site, AddAll.

The site searches over 20,000 dealers worldwide, and since its not owned by a bookseller, AddAll claims their results and listings are unbiased.

I’ve been using AddAll faithfully since my design school years, and here are some of the classic hard-to-find titles I scored.

Compendium for Literates: A System of Writing by Karl Gerstner

Rare Design Book Rare Design Book Rare Design Book

Film Design by Peter Von Arx

Rare Design Book Rare Design Book Rare Design Book Rare Design Book

Designing Programmes by Karl Gerstner

Rare Design Book Rare Design Book Rare Design Book

Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand

Rare Design Book Rare Design Book Rare Design Book

Design with Type by Carl Dair

Rare Design Book Rare Design Book Rare Design Book Rare Design Book

I’m never ever parting with these until I die!


  • Vincnet

    gravatarJul 27, 2007
    12:19 pm

    Another great place to get old design books (though it’s very hit-and-miss) is book sales. Most local library systems host book sales wherein they sell used books for literally pocket change.

    Most people leave with entire boxes of books, but when I go, I head straight to the art/design section and pick and choose. I’ve found a few gems, including some old lettering and typography manuals from the sixties and seventies.

    It must be said: I only recently subscribed to your blog and really like it so far. And the site’s good-looking enough that I leave the confines of my feed reader to see it!

  • jos

    gravatarJul 27, 2007
    6:34 pm

    very interesting, i am going to have to check out that site, everything at the “megastores” is so clique thanks for the tip :)

  • Jonathan

    gravatarJul 27, 2007
    9:29 pm

    Wow, what a great idea! I think we have all grown weary of current crop of design books at the big box retailers. I mean, how many Sagmeister books does one store need?!?

  • Chanpory

    gravatarJul 29, 2007
    11:28 pm

    Vincent, thanks for the extra tip about book sales. I’ve also had some luck with eBay, although it takes some diligence to patrol the listings. Thanks for being a reader!

  • Dennis

    gravatarJul 31, 2007
    4:37 pm

    Really jealous of that Paul Rand book :)

  • Eppel

    gravatarAug 13, 2007
    3:21 pm

    Thanks so much, I’ve been looking for Thoughts on Design for years!

  • LogoMotives

    gravatarAug 16, 2007
    9:03 am

    For several years I lived four block from Powell’s City of Books here in Portland – very dangerous for a book lover. I have always been able to find some great old design books there – and at powells.com

  • Jeremy

    gravatarNov 27, 2007
    4:51 pm

    Hi Chanpory. You have some real classics there. I have a first edition ‘Thoughts on Design’ and interestingly the interior page design is completely different, must have been a work in progress.

    Also, note of caution. The 2007 Lars Muller edition of Design Programmes has been redesigned, and looks nothing like the original design shown in this post. In my opinion the redesign is just plain ugly, not what you would expect from Lars Muller.