I am often asked the question: “from where do you get your creativity?” The answer is: “mostly in keeping my eyes open, from storechecking, and being curious. That is what I would call the visual input to my brain. However, these images need stimuli to be of value and this stimulation comes from my verbal memory, from books I have read.
In the communication business the visual and the verbal go hand in hand. I therefore take all opportunities to learn from the masters. Masters in typography, design, management, marketing, etc.
I have noticed that most schools do not offer a ‘good list of books to read’ and this is why I will here give a list of those books which have made an impact on me and helped me go further designwise as well as in respect to human relations. In fact, you always have to deal with people before you deal with a design project.
If the reader has other proposals, please inform me and I will include them in a possible future edition!
Now, how do I find the time to read? Well, as everything in life, it is a matter of priority – how you travel, how much time you spend with yourself. I prefer to take the train where I can read calmly instead of rushing through airports. I prefer to lie on my bed in a hotelroom in the evening with a good beer instead of going out eating and drinking. I love to roam around in bookstores!
So, now to my proposals. I have divided my list into the following chapters:
- General knowledge for a richer life
- Books on Design
- Books on Marketing
- Business books
- Brand identity
l. General Knowledge
The first book to read (or at least skim through) is Richard D. Lewis’ “When Cultures Collide” (Nicolas Brealey International), right now in its 3rd edition. Great reading to understand the various cultures on this earth.
Two books which tell us what work is all about: “Winners never cheat” by Jon M. Huntsman (Wharton School Publishing) and “It’s called work for a reason” by Larry Winget (Gotham Books). These books are a must! They are highly inspiring as they deal with honesty, generosity and everyday values.
If you wish to know how to overcome your shyness and learn “how to talk to anyone, any time, anywhere”, read Larry King’s book with the same title.
It is probably unnecessary to mention here, but “The Peter Principle” by Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull (Bantam) back in 1969 is more valid than ever.
“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson (Hyperion) is easy reading and so is any book by my favourite business writer Charles Handy. I like “The new Alchimists”, but “The Empty Railncoat” and “The Elepant and the Flea”, as well as his autobiography “MYSELF & other more important matters” are more than worth reading.
The book I open most often is no doubt Roget’s Thesaurus with some 250’000 words, phrases and synonyms.
So much about the general stuff.
The main editor in this area is no doubt Phaidon and a must for anyone in the design business are the 3 volumes “Phaidon Design Classics” from 1 to 1’000”!
Terence Conran’s “Terence Conran on Design” has a great selection of designs. For the reader interested in graphic design Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart’s “A Smile in the Mind” (Phaidon) takes us on a very creative trip and so does Bob Gill’s “Forget all the rules you ever learned about graphic design, including the ones in this book”.
Two books by Paul Rand, “From Lascaux to Brooklyn” and “Design, Form and Chaos” show what an outstanding man Paul Rand was.
Jack Trout and Al Ries “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is the first book to read, as well as David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising man” and “Ogilvy on Advertising”. Marc Gobé’s “Emotional Branding (Allworth Press) and Sergio Zyman’s (ex CocaCola) “The End of Marketing as we know it” are interesting and so is “Cutting Edge Advertising” by Jim Aitchison (Prentice Hall). There are many more books on marketing worth reading – it is just that I have not focused on this category as the marketing I have learned has been ‘on the task’, solving communication issues at Nestlé.
Having said this I cannot avoid mentioning Jack Trout’s “In search of the obvious” and Martin Lindström’s “buy.ology”.
My favourite business author is Anita Roddick. Her “Business as unusual” is a real gem! Lee Iacocca’s “Talking Straight” may be a bit outdated and so is most likely also Jan Carlzon’s “Moments of truth” (Ballinger). A more recent book is “The Big Moo” edited by Seth Godin (Penguin) with articles by a.o. Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Kelley and Tom Peters.
Jonas Ridderstrahle and Kjell A. Nordstroem’s two books “Funky Business” and “Karaoke Capitalism” are interesting and so is Jeffrey J. Fox’s book “How to become CEO”. David Firth’s “How to make Work Fun” is a much needed book, especially nowadays!
If you need quotations for a speech Charles Robert Lightfoot has written “Handbook of Business Quotations”.
The book one cannot miss is from Tom Peters and is called “Re-imagine”. It is so complete (layout, content, etc.) that I could mention it in all eight categories!
Two books I do not know where to put as they deal with design as well as marketing are Paul Arden’s “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” and “Whatever you think, think the opposite” (both Phaidon). As I prefer small books to big heavy ones, these have become my favourites!
Most of the books I have studied to learn more about typography or calligraphy are in Swedish, French or German. They will not fit into this list as I have decided to only mention books in English. However, there is one book in English I suggest to read and that is “The Alphabet” by David Sacks (Hutchinson) as it gives a fascinating insight into the archaeology of language and the mystery behind the 26 letters which make up the English alphabet.
6. Brand Identity
Corporate identity and brand identity is one of the richest section in any library. It seems that everybody wants to write about all these popular world brands as CocaCola, Nike, IKEA or Apple. I have skimmed through dozens of books, but only two ended up in my library: Kevin Robert’s “Lovemarks, the future beyond brands” (Power House Book) and Per Mollerup’s “Marks of Excellence” (Phaidon) – a Dane who is very knowledgable within the design community.
7. Art Books
There are thousands of them … it is just a matter of what painter, architect or sculptor you prefer. However, there is a book which has fascinated many readers (although it has very few illustrations) and that is “COLOUR” by Victoria Finlay which can be summarized as “Travels through the Paintbox”.
One thing is for sure, you cannot become creative just by reading books on creativity. It is more difficult than that! However, reading anything by Edward de Bono helps to ‘think creatively’. His books on lateral thinking are sold in millions of copies. His latest is called “Think! Before It’s Too Late”. My favourite books are Alan Fletcher’s “The art of looking sideways” and Herb Meyers/Richard Gerstman’s “Creativity (Unconventional wisdom from 20 accomplished minds)”.
Now, do I only read business books? Of course not! Here are my favourite five: Nelson Mandela “Long walk to Freedom”, Bryce Courtney “The Power of One”, Jack Kerouac “On the Road”, Paul Theroux “The Great Railway Bazaar” and Astrid Lindgren “Fifi Longstockings”.
9. Presentation skills
I love to teach and to present new designs in a convincing way. A recent book which may help the reader to sell ideas is no doubt “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo (McGraw-Hill).
Well … now to you the reader, build up your own library! It will most likely be different, but maybe you have found inspiration from the above.