Monday, February 19, 2024

Five Art and Design Books Every Creative Marketer Should Own

Part five of five.

By way of context, I studied graphic design when a 14pt Pica type-slide and cow gum were essential to the craft. I still use ‘lorum ipsum’ and the fleuron. Second-hand bookshops are one of my happy places. I have more ephemera related to graphic design, photography, painting, art history, perspective drawing, and the creative process than is probably healthy should the house catch fire. Some of these books are good, solid guides to creative practice, and some are reference books that have inspired me over the decades. All are worth the few quid you can find them for on eBay.

As a content marketer, it’s important to stay creative and inspired and to embrace the creative process. Humans are, for the most part, visual creatures. We need to understand the basic concepts of layout and emphasis in design and lead our prospects to that final point of action. The power of brand is undeniable. Just look at this blog; it sets a tone and visual standard that stresses the (possible irreverence of) the content. Often, even if we don’t have our hands on the design process directly, we will have to talk to infographic designers, illustrators, and other visual creatives, and we need to be able to speak the same language. An undervalued part of staying creative as a content marketer is surrounding ourselves with creative inspiration, and good design is inspiring.


And we’re away…


Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Almost a pamphlet at a mere 160 pages, this is brimming with frame-worth illustrations of refreshing takes on creativity, urging readers to embrace influence through study, remixing, and transformation rather than striving for pure originality. Kleon advocates for starting creative endeavors now, without waiting for a fully formed distinctiveness, and stresses the importance of doing work that resonates personally, even if it means emulating heroes or engaging in side projects for the sheer joyful shenanigans of it. This book champions kindness, routine, and the power of subtraction in navigating the overwhelming possibilities of the creative process, making it a guide for anyone looking to unlock their creative potential in a connected yet overwhelming world. It’s a lovely little thing to read and even more precious to give as a gift—but be careful with the spine, or it will explode on day one.


A Designer's Art by Paul Rand

Frankly, I’d watch Paul Rand paint a fence. Rand was a trailblazer in American graphic design, and left his mark with iconic logos for giants like IBM, UPS, and ABC. He pioneered the Swiss Style in the U.S., blending simplicity with functionality. Rand would be at the top of my ultimate TED talk wish list, but sadly, he passed away in 1996. This book, however, is essential reading and crosses all creative disciplines, including online, which was almost before his time.

This is a truly insightful look into the deeper aspects of graphic design, going beyond simple aesthetics to explore visual theory and design philosophy. This is the Tao Te Ching and Jonathan Livingston Seagull of design thinking. He examines the power of repetition, a principle that brings rhythm and memorability to art and to everyday life. It's a thoughtful read more suited to reflective moments than bedtime reading. Perfect for anyone fascinated by the intricate philosophies behind art and design and looking to understand better the nature of our relationship with our clients, the audience, and our art. While the book is a treasure and a joy to hold, and recently reprinted, a decent original is as rare as rocking horse do-do. It is, however, such a seminal classic that it’s available online as a PDF.


100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design 

by Veronique Vienne and Steven Heller

This one’s a bit left-field and personal, but it’s been a source of great inspiration to me over the years. There is a difference between art and graphic design, and this book is a comprehensible window into a discipline that has changed perceptions, culture, iconography, and minds—indeed, a discipline that created and crafted social revolution and transformation.

This is a visually stunning journey through the milestones of graphic design and a treasure trove for anyone looking to improve their understanding of the visual arts. This book isn't just a read; it's an experience. With hundreds of concise vignettes showcasing the evolution of visual communication design, and each idea is graphically illustrated in a way that’s pleasing to the eye and suits the subject matter. While certainly not structured for cover-to-cover reading, it’s an ideal reference for creative stimulus and skimming. Still, its breadth of corporate art and design aesthetics makes it a worthwhile addition to any creative’s coffee table. It is a call to consider beauty and style in design as much as function and suitability, and a fresh lens on our visual world that I pull off the shelf for pleasure, often.


The Art of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins

This isn't your typical how-to book; it's an animated feast to stir the creative appetite. Judkins, hailing from the much-acclaimed St. Martin's College of Art, serves up 90 short, thought-provoking chapters. He draws from a diverse well of historical and contemporary figures, the sort of approach I eat up like cheese and charcuterie, blending anecdotes and a smorgasbord of ideas to challenge “conventional” thinking.


This book isn't meant to be devoured in order, and one should dip in and out as one’s pallet demands. While some might crave more depth or diversity among the examples, it's a Harrods hamper for those seeking a taste of creativity in their daily lives. I’ve talked before about staying creative as a content marketer, and this is one of the places to which I turn when Calliope and Erato are “out at lunch with their sisters.” If I open any page, something will invariably stir me to think, create, and even contradict—because that's where true creativity begins. A must-have for under £5 on WoB.


Well, those should keep you occupied and give you something to think about. I hope you find them as useful as I have. Sorry about all the food metaphors in the last one; I’ve no idea where they came from. Low blood sugar? Anyway, please share your thoughts with me on Threads—a more friendly place where I’m invariably talking about my latest reads. Should I write more reviews from my bookshelf?


Books are brilliant. They smell nice, look nice, they’re tactile and are filled with wisdom and inspiration. Whether you beg, borrow, or bag a deal online, please jump in and enjoy the journey. Let the scent of pages fill you with joy. Let the wall of colorful spines bring you happiness. Revisit your favorites, and maybe (if you can part with them) pass them on to a friend. 


If you enjoyed finding these, you might also like:

If you’d prefer to read this as one big list, you can do so on LinkedIn


Sic erat scriptum, and Boomshanka.