New Year’s Resolution: Read more books!

by Matilda Scullion

January. The tree’s been dismantled, the tinsel’s in the attic and you can’t imagine ever wanting to eat a mince pie again. It’s a time for fresh starts and self-improvement; for resolutions — go to the gym, eat less chocolate, read more books — to be made and promptly broken.

We’ll make sure that that doesn’t happen — at least not on all fronts. For those of us who have pledged to expand our literary horizons, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite creative and strategic books for you to peruse at your leisure. Be inspired, be informed, be astonished. Exercise your mind. Then maybe you won’t feel so guilty when you break your promise to exercise your body…

Greg Quinton, Executive Creative Director

How to Have Great Ideas: A Guide to Creative Thinking, John Ingledew

From How To Ride Your Unicycle to How To Remove A Brain (I’m not kidding, this does actually exist): bookshelves are crowded with practical guides that map out a clear path from amateur to accomplished. But instead of demonstrating one method for success, How to Have Great Ideas offers many different routes to unlock creative thinking: a solution for every scenario.

Filled with innovative examples, John Ingledew translates theory into practice, demonstrating that his advice and methodologies really do work. So, in those moments when you’ve hit a brick wall and can’t imagine producing another creative thought ever again, this is the book you want to have on your shelf.

Uri Baruchin, Head of Strategy

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters, Richard Rumelt

Uri’s all-time favourite introduction to strategy aims to elucidate one of the most common yet confusing terms in business. In order to define what strategy is, Richard Rumelt emphasises what it isn’t — an ambition, a vision, a financial goal. All are valuable when supporting a core business strategy. But when used in substitution, all are hallmarks of what Rumelt calls ‘bad strategy’.

It’s easy to get bogged down in strategy — in the research, the terminology, the sheer size of the task at hand. But Rumelt’s crystal clear arguments and real-life examples distil strategy into its simplest, most effective form: the recognition of a business’s key challenges and the identification of practical steps to overcome them.

In marketing, the biggest problem is rarely the lack good strategy, but the prevalence of people producing bad, and this book is very effective when it comes to teaching the difference. So don’t be one of those people. Read this book.

Mark Wood, Design Director

The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher

Words and pictures; thought and imagination; perception and paradox. Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways is an exploration of both the ‘serious science’ and the inconsistencies of perception and imagination. Taking visual intelligence as his subject matter, Fletcher investigates the interplay between the visual and the verbal, and the expressive possibilities of imagery, colour, typography and space.

But the true magic of this book is the lucky dip of facts and curiosities, images, quotations, anecdotes, jokes and memories. From this muddle of the human mind springs a book that inspires you to look at the world in a different way. Terence Conran says it better than us when he argues that The Art of Looking Sideways could have been described by René Magritte: ‘A truly poetic canvas is an awakened dream.’

Kath Tudball, Design Director

Branding in Five and a Half Steps, Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson, founder of design studio Johnson Banks, identifies five key steps in the branding process — investigation, strategy and narrative, design, implementation, and engagement –but argues that there’s a crucial half-step between strategy and design where the effective translation of one into the other is key. It’s in this semi-step where branding refuses to be linear: strategy may influence design, but occasionally, design fights back and calls for a rethink of the strategy.

Where Branding in Five and a Half Steps is truly valuable is in its simplicity — it strips the jargon from branding and asks the simple questions: what, why, who. Oh, and Kath also helped with the design. If that doesn’t persuade you to read it, we don’t know what will.

Nick Clark, Executive Creative Director, The Partners New York

The Important Book, Margaret Wise Brown

First published in 1949, The Important Book is an educational book written by Goodnight Moon author Margaret Wise Brown. Crafted through rhythm and imagery, the book aims to help children identify the main property of everyday things.

In the face of complicated problems, it’s easy to lose sight of the simplest solutions. The Important Book may have been written for children, but its encouragement of asking questions and considering the basic essence of a thing is a valuable approach when thinking about brand strategy and design. But even if you’re not involved in either, read this book for its beauty. Because, by adopting a child-like perspective and language, Wise Brown ‘rekindles the sense of wonder we were born with’. Books like that don’t come along very often.

Scott Lambert, Design Director, The Partners Singapore

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls — 100 Tales to Dream Big, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

From science and sport to art and authoring, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls celebrates curiosity, determination and courage, empowering young girls to change the world.

When Elena Favilli and Francesca Caballo, co-founders of children’s media company Timbuktu Labs, realised that most of the books and TV shows that they grew up with lacked prominent female characters, they decided to make a difference. After fundraising on Kickstarter they launched Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a children’s book that tells the stories of 100 great women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Each featured woman is illustrated by a different female artist from around the world, resulting in an immersive, culturally diverse, beautiful work of art.

Read it to every child you know, then read it for yourself. As Favilli and Caballo say, “every girl deserves to grow up thinking that she can be anything she wants.” And occasionally adults themselves need reminding of the same possibilities for the future.

All of us!

A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design (Revised and Expanded Edition), Beryl McAlhone, David Stuart, Greg Quinton, Nick Asbury

Victor Borge once said, ‘Humour is the shortest distance between two people.’ A Smile in the Mind, the definitive book on intellectual playfulness and ‘witty thinking’, expands on this idea, demonstrating how humour’s ability to bring people together can also be used in a business setting.

First published in 1996, A Smile in the Mind quickly became one of the most influential books in graphic design. Now, our very own Greg Quinton, along with co-author Nick Asbury, has updated this treasure trove of design ideas and revised it for a modern audience.

Featuring over 1000 projects, interviews with creative thinkers, and updated commentary and analysis, A Smile in the Mind argues that wit powers big brands, communicates serious social messages, and shapes both products and the environments in which we encounter them. A testament to the enduring power of wit, this book demonstrates that humour and intellectual playfulness is the shortest distance not just between people, but between brands and their audiences.

Spoiler alert: this book contains a rock n’ roll zimmer frame, a demure egg and Taylor Swift as the star of a seventeenth-century painting. Intrigued? Good. Read it.

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