Food for Thought: 5 Books of Note for Design-Minded Writers and Creatives

Food for Thought: 5 Books of Note for Design-Minded Writers and Creatives
Paul Tefft
November 06, 2014
Man holding stack of books

“If you ain’t lovin’ you ain’t livin’.” These words have been sung by many a country music star, nay, legend. From Faron Young to George Strait, Tommy Collins’ Nashville gem made for a rather insightful sing-along among the country music community.

I am indifferent to the message (though I do love the tune, particularly George Strait’s recording, which, incidentally, became his 15th hit single), but it’s a nice sentiment with a nice ring. Right? So here’s my version of “if you ain’t lovin’ you ain’t livin’,” and it goes something like this:

If you ain’t readin’ you ain’t writin’.

Which is why I’ve put together this list of books you should at least know about, but probably should just sit down and read. They may inspire you to sharpen your pencil and write, if not better, more conscious and more design-minded content. Whether you’re a designer, social media magician, code-coveting developer, digital rock star or captain of the creative team, these titles will help you indentify your role, your process and your writing. They may also offer insight or examples of things you experience every day at the shop, including creative briefs, design thinking, content management and conceptual processes.

5. “Writing for Visual Thinkers” by Andrea Marks

The AIGA did everyone a favor by putting this one on the bookshelves. It’s a cerebral investigation of how and why visual thinkers cringe at the thought of writing. It offers advice through scientific fact, famous examples and inspirational quotes, which serve as a much-needed pep rally for artists and designers who would benefit from better writing. See what the AIGA has to say about it here.

4. “Content Strategy at Work” by Margot Bloomstein

I had the pleasure of meeting Margot after her presentation at last year’s HOW Digital Design Conference in Chicago. Her talk was top notch, and as it turns out (to no surprise), so is her book. She demonstrates the importance of content, its structure and how it’s presented – particularly in the digital landscape. If you need help with your content hierarchy skills, skip my dialog and order her book here.

I also suggest following her on Twitter for consistent communicative commentary: @mbloomstein

3. “Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design” by Michael Bierut

This one is for those of you readers with commitment issues. You can skip all over the book, reading each three- to four-page essay as you see fit. They’re pretty great for two reasons, the first being Bierut. He’s a great writer and will keep you engaged. The second reason why I liked this one so much is that it encouraged me to reflect on my own work and experiences. That’s enlightenment, folks. Whether it’s used or shiny and new, pick up a copy here.

2. “Creating the Perfect Design Brief” by Peter L. Phillips

They’re intimidating. They’re taxing. But they’re also the cornerstones of great creative work. If you’re a little leery about your creative brief skills – be it creating or understanding them – you should drop everything you’re doing and read this one, available here.

1. “Cutting Edge Advertising” by Jim Aitchison

Finally, the quintessential “ad book.” Here you’ll find the classics, from those vintage Volkswagen ads you adore to the innovative agencies that you’ve always wanted to work for. Travel through time and thought and mediums in this must-have book. If you’re like me, you won’t even feel as if you’re reading – it’s more or less consuming great content through osmosis. Get your copy here.

Q: I’m a copywriter so I already know how to write ads, avidly with accounts of alliteration. So I don’t have to read, right?

A: Wrong. Incorrect. False. You are mistaken. In fact, you should be leading this parade of pros. Why? Because if you ain’t readin’ you ain’t writin’. Sometimes you’ve got to feed your mind to use it more. Consider the aforementioned food for thought the mouth-watering cutlets of the leanest beef your brain has hungered for. Bon appétit.

However, in the words of LeVar Burton, “you don’t have to take my word for it.”