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

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Giant megabookstores like Borders and Barnes & Nobles are great for getting coffee table design books that everyone and their momma has. But if you want to snag ultra-cool limited-edition books, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Here’s my favorite places to discover new books before everyone else. Most are in Europe because that’s just where the better design books are published. This means If you live in the states, you’ll have to pay a bit extra for shipping. It’s a small price for the extra cool-factor:

  1. Nijhof & Lee
    I’ve been ordering from this little design bookstore in the Netherlands for 9 years. You’ll find a select list of their latest offerings on their website. If you’re looking for an obscure or older title, you can contact them and they’ll try to hunt it down for you.

  2. Amazon UK
    To get European design books before everyone else in the states, you’ll have to order it directly from, that’s right, The Europe. Fortunately, Amazon has a UK store which will let you buy these books before their US version carries them.

  3. Magma Books
    This English bookstore was recommended to me by designer extraordinaire, Conor Mangat. He also happens to be British too, but there’s no bias whatsoever. Besides stocking design books, Magma also carries supercool homeware, posters, lighting, and “weird stuff.”

  4. Hennessey + Ingalls
    I stumbled upon this place in sunny Santa Monica when I was about 19. It’s a large bookstore, and the staff clearly cares for the books they sell. All of the design books I saw were meticulously wrapped in clear library protector sheets. Very professional.

  5. William Stout Books
    There’s no way I can forget to mention the best design bookstore in my town, William Stout. It houses an enormous collection of architecture-related books, but you’ll also find a large visual design section in its basement. Of course, you can order from their website as well.

Remember, new and shiny ain’t always better. There’s plenty of used rare and amazing design books to find using my favorite book searcher, AddAll.com.

Do you have a secret design bookstore you’ve been hiding? Please share the love and tell us!

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  • Summer Ordoñez

    gravatarOct 9, 2007
    8:08 am

    I go here for my design book needs :-) http://www.youworkforthem.com/

  • bob

    gravatarOct 9, 2007
    9:30 am

    museum stores usually have a good selection too – the SFMOMA usually has some nice current books (not to mention books on all things art related)

  • Sonny Dee

    gravatarOct 9, 2007
    9:56 am

    Who needs books? Design is so ephemeral. Every design book I own was out of date and boring to look at as soon as I finished it up on the subway. Paying $40-80 or even more for some trendy stuff you can get online for free seems pretty pointless.

  • Jeremiah

    gravatarOct 9, 2007
    10:18 am

    I had the pleasure of having Conor Mangat respond to an ad for designers I posted on CL. He’s amazing!

  • Chanpory

    gravatarOct 9, 2007
    10:24 am

    @Sonny, totally agree with you on the lameness of newer books that are just filled with pretty pictures. It’s why I tend to go for the rarer (used) design classics such as books by Karl Gerstner, Josef Muller-Brockmann, etc. Occasionally however, new books come out that does interest me for more than two seconds–books that provide either inspiration, useful reference, or substantive opinion. In those cases, I’ll more than likely check out my fave online stores or local independent bookseller.

  • AA

    gravatarOct 9, 2007
    11:57 pm

    I’ve bought from Hennessey + Ingalls and there selection is pretty amazing. The only thing is that the books tend to be really pricey and I agree with Chanpory that many are just compilations of pretty pictures. There are only 3 design books I have that have been both useful and inspirational for me. Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographic Style”, Edward R. Tufte’s “Envisioning Information” and Bruce Mau’s “Massive Change”.