RULE NO. 9
Read. A Lot.
One of the qualities we love the most about the creative industry is the speed with which things change. It’s all very dynamic, we’re constantly encountering new problems, and our means for solving them evolve in tandem. We keep up with this speed by being endlessly curious and constantly exploring new domains which train us to be fast, future-oriented thinkers.
But we don’t go about the work of training our brains alone. We have a team of peers to collaborate with, a network of personal role models and a world of phenomena that inspire us. However, one of the most powerful tools we have for staying sharp comes dog-eared, coffee-stained and fits in a 6” bag. We’re talking of books, of course, in the name of International Book Lovers Day this August 9th. And while we’ve all enjoyed some good reads, we’d like to share with you the kind of books that have made us think even long after we’ve put them down. Here are the reads that have stirred something profound in the A&S team.
For the Design Mind
Connor, Junior Developer:
By Ken Kocienda
People often talk about how it can help junior developers to talk about your failures and mistakes and this book is a great example of that. He tells the story of when he realized that the work he was doing wasn’t considered a priority by Apple. He told his manager that he wanted to be put on the secret internal project he had heard about or else he would be exploring options at Google. Although that project ended up being the infamous Project Purple, or as you may know it better, the iPhone, he gives the advice that this is not the best way to go about asking for a transfer.
Ken also provides insight into the Apple design process, what it’s like to work in the small eating your own dog food team, and some good insights on when it’s best to bring someone new onto a team. He tells the story of when they were in a rut getting an MVP for Safari working. They eventually brought someone in who was able to look at their problem in a whole new way and create a working MVP for them. It shows how someone else can provide new insight. Even if you don’t end up going their route, they can unblock your engineering rut with just a change of perspective.
Hanieh, Senior UX Strategist
By Mike Monteiro
Currently reading this but it’s essentially about ethics in design. What has happened in the tech industry to get us here? How can we fix it? What is the responsibility of designers?
Aswin, Senior Designer
By Austin Kleon
Steal like an artist is a book about the creative process. It does not specifically apply for visual artists, but to anyone who creates.
The book offers guidance on staying creative and, to make creativity a routine. It can also clear a lot of the self-doubt and the much-experienced ‘Imposter syndrome’ and help creatives get into the comfort zone.
The format of the book is very easily digestible. Peppered with suggestions by the author and positive quotes throughout, the book is very succinctly written. It is not a ponderous read and deep-dives directly into the takeaways which don’t shy away from the truth of the creative process. Instead, it reinforces the less talked about ideas behind creativity, such as procrastination, day-dreaming and doodling which in fact, add momentum to the process.
One of those rare books where you can randomly pick a page to read and step away wiser.
Connor Smyth, Junior Developer
By Dave Thomas & Andy Hunt
My friend and fellow developer on my team gave me this book as well as Clean Architecture for my birthday this year. If you create software, manage teams that create software, perform QA on software, design software or anything in between, you need to read this book. The lessons in this book are timeless. Although the book is in its third edition, it is mainly to update some of the examples and add a mobile section. What I really appreciate from the book is the resources referenced. In particular, it is an article about accessibility research that Steve Krug references by Janice Redish and Mary Frances Theofanos titled, Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web.
Elli, Account Coordinator
By Tim Brown
A design thinking bible of sorts, this book was one of my textbooks in a university course on collaboration and problem solving. I noticed it on the shelf in the A&S lobby when I first came in for an interview and it confirmed my sense that I was in good company. It’s a practical guide to solving problems woven with storylines from Tim Brown’s (CEO, IDEO) own anecdotes. It’s about building understanding, empathy and insights – and figuring out how to bring them to life. An absolute must-read for creative leaders.
Lucia, Account Manager
By Byron Sharp
This book is as close as you’ll get to a marketers new testament. A scientific look at how advertising actually works It also has a number of theories that are counter to popular opinion in marketing in the last 20 years. Byron Sharp helps to disprove loyalty and the importance of going after light buyers. A book I often like to come back to when researching a new category or starting a brand strategy project.
Dave, Executive VP Client Success
By Randall Rothenberg
Simply put – it teaches you everything you want to know about this industry, but we’re afraid to ask.
Adam, Vice President
By Terry O’Reily
I’m somewhat embarrassed by this, however I really liked Terry O’Reily’s “This I know” which is a collection of lessons and stories from his CBC “Under the Influence” podcast. It’s not exactly a digital marketing book or some deep thinker but it’s something.
Natalia, Digital Project Manager
By Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama tells her story from growing up in the South Side of Chicago, becoming a Yale graduate and Harvard Lawyer to then meeting the love of her life, becoming a mom and then moving into the most historical and famous house in the world.
Michelle’s story itself, in striving to be better, be the best version you can be, really does inspire me to be the same. Always remember where you came from and move forward with a good head on your shoulders. Michelle’s passion to help empower young people has inspired me to start mentoring high school students. She taught me that they really are the future and they need as much respect and guidance. I hope that one day I can inspire someone just like she has inspired me.
Lucia, Account Manager
By Brene Brown
At this point, most people have heard of the TEDx phenomenon and Professor of Social Science Brene Brown. If not, her 2010 TED talk on “The Power of vulnerability” is a great place to start. Brene has written several books on the topic of vulnerability being the antidote to shame and how the feeling of shame can often hinder us from reaching our fullest potential. In this book, she unpacks how self-awareness, courage and self-love can dare you to be a vulnerable, wholehearted leader. Who we are is how we lead. Brene offers some great exercises, tools and case studies from large companies she has consulted. The favourite tool I use almost daily is What does done look like. It consists of the 5 C’s used to brief someone or ask for clarification on a task: Connective-tissue, context, colour, cost and consequence.
By Daniel Pink
Drive is one of the most interesting and accessible reads on motivation that I’ve ever read. Daniel Pink masterfully synthesizes a mountain of research to demonstrate the different external and internal motivations that influence behaviour. Since first reading it I’ve applied many of the books core ideas in our client engagements, as well as how we structure and run A&S.
Manda, Digital Project Manager
By Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
A guide to working as a distributed team. This book identifies the challenges and benefits for companies that operate with a partially remote team or a fully distributed team.
It offers guidance and advice for individuals to implement in order to make working remotely advantages for them, and to help them be efficient with their team.
It also runs through the advantages that companies have, and how they can better utilize technology, and make savings through distributed teams.
With a strong focus on how to achieve a harmonious work-life balance that increases productivity and employee satisfaction.
This book is empowering for employees, informative for employers and a great starting point for companies that need to be distributed, especially during a pandemic.
Samir, Content Intern
By Duncan Watts
This book really makes you question what you think about common sense. It explains how much of what people think about other peoples’ actions is based on cognitive biases and how what is often thought of as “common sense” is situational at best and culturally dependent. It tackles such issues as why Germany and Austria have such radically different rates of organ donors and how circular reasoning is used to justify things like the Mona Lisa and Shakespeare. It’s also relevant for right now because it speaks to the inevitability of failure when trying to predict the future and how there are better ways to figure out what may happen by taking a more scientific approach rooted in the present.
By Daniel Kahneman
This is one of only a few books that I will return to and re-read sections of periodically. It is full of incredible insights about human behaviour, our biases and tendency toward the irrational. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it is probably the most interesting book in the category of behavioural economics ever written.
Chris, Digital Marketing Manager
Jacob Burckhardt. 1860
How do you describe an era of history? Jacob Burckhardt seminal work on the renaissance unfolded a relatively undefined period of history in the 19th century as a panorama of culture, rather than a list of names and dates. What’s the best way to communicate how things were in an era? Burckhardt chooses to present it as a robust, contradictory, explosion of life, rather than a narratively sequential series of events.
So – the next time you have a moment to yourself, or an inkling to exercise your brain, pick up one of these reads. They’ve each inspired us in unique ways and we can only hope that they might do something similar for you.
We’re always on the lookout for new ways to exercise our own brains. Have a business challenge to be solved? Chat with Elli!