Books. Read as many as you can. Although they can age rapidly, especially those concerned with technology, there isn’t a much better way to get an overview of something. Good ideas never lose their value and you’re more likely to find something other people haven’t considered, or have forgotten about, especially if you consult older books. For example one of the best texts I’ve ever read on the subject of design is the wonderful ‘What is a designer?’ by Norman Potter. Because he focuses on theory not exposition, there is still much that can be taken from it that is useful.
Take this snippet, from the chapter ‘Advice for beginners’:
If you think that someone in your group has a better design concept for a job than you have, why not accept and develop it in your own way? The end-result wil be very different, and a comparison valuable. You may have the best approach to the next job. Work towards objective standards.
Excellent advice I think, for anyone in a creative job, not just designers. It is unusual for a design text in that it has no illustrations; but it bristles with useful ideas, designed to make you think, not simply lead you by the nose to the author’s particular dogmatic conclusion or prove how amazing a designer the author is. A fantastic book, despite being originally printed in 1969.
Yes web-based media can be more current. But as people have pointed out in the blogs vs twitter debate, long forms of writing have their merits, and will continue to do so, even as our methods of communication become faster and ever more diverse. And there isn’t a longer form than the good old book, whether on paper or screen. In fact, despite the controversy of Kindle and other electronic books, by putting books on a par with other screen-based media, they might help refocus attention on the book format and it’s benefits.