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Books for creatives – 6 reads to help boost your career

Silvia Ferrari, Created Learning Support

If you need some advice on taking your creative career to the next level, these resources are for you. This collection of books is here to help you think, deconstruct and rebuild who you are as a professional creative and support you in building a successful and rewarding career while finding a healthy balance with your personal life.

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul

1. How to become a graphic designer without losing your soul

Despite the specific title, this book by Adrien Shaughnessy can be useful to many creative professionals just starting out, going from what it means to be a designer (both on a philosophical and practical level), to actual advice on how to work either in a studio, in-house for a firm or as a freelancer.

Shaughnessy dwells on the concept of cultural awareness, explaining how a designer must be a careful observer, relying on forms of expression that go beyond verbal or written language. To produce a meaningful piece of work, it’s important to weave in cultural references that range from politics, tech, business, to sports and entertainment.

What grounds this piece – apart from the author’s personal experience – is the different perspectives of established creative professionals.

The Vignelli Canon


2. The Vignelli Canon

In its conciseness and timelessness, this book by the famous Italian designer Massimo Vignelli is pretty much a staple for all designers. It’s the perfect book both for beginners exploring the essential principles of design and the more experienced professionals seeking inspiration.

Divided into two sections called The Intangibles and The Tangibles, Vignelli goes through his philosophy of design and shares his own design process, including practical advice. You can learn more about his conceptualisation of design here.

I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless.

Massimo Vignelli
10 ways to show your work


3. Show your work! 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered

The little brother of the bestseller Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, this book explains how sharing your work and ideas for others to use can be beneficial for your work to get exposure, build an audience, influence others and grow as a professional along the way.

One takeaway is tip #5: Tell good stories. Storytelling is a naturally recurring element within a designer’s work, but to be able to use it compellingly is a skill itself. People will only consider your work valuable if you present it in a captivating, memorable and understandable way.

You can learn more about the book by Austin Kleon himself here!

tell me about yourself


4. Tell me about yourself: Six Steps for Accurate and Artful Self-Definition

Tying in nicely with Show Your Work!, Tell Me About Yourself by Holley M. Murchison is a handy guide for helping you nail networking, with brilliant tips on how to present yourself and what you do in a professional context, focusing on empathy and active listening. Much like Kleon, Murchison highly values storytelling, defining it “part of our social and cultural currency”.

Stories illustrate who we are, remind us what we’re capable of, highlight our uniqueness

Holley M. Murchison


5. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Along with excelling professionally, it’s vital to take care of your own wellbeing and nurture activities and relationships that are separated from your career objectives. In this book, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington gives a refreshing take on the life/work balance, breaking down those areas that are often completely overlooked to prioritise what she calls the “traditional metrics” of success: money and power.

In three sections, called “Well-being”, “Wonder” and “Giving”, Huffington emphasises the importance of sleep, exercise and meditation, reminds us that we need downtime and space for self-reflection, and highlights the value of helping others.

The Shift


6. The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here

While it’s important to be focusing on your own skills, preparing yourself for what society and the world of work will be like in 10+ years time is essential to future-proof your career and make sure you can thrive as a professional creative in the long run.

In her book, Lynda Gratton analyses the global forces that are shaping these changes, identifying three key shifts people will have to make to adapt to them:

  1. Serial mastery – being highly proficient in a specific area, but maintaining a general awareness that allows you to move across other competencies.
  2. Connectivity, collaboration and networks – effectively communicating your knowledge and collaborating with people in an increasingly remote and virtual world of “serial masters”.
  3. Quality of your experiences – actively building the working life we want for ourselves, prioritising your quality of life rather than “going head first for consumption and quantity” as our society prompts us to do.

To develop these skills, Gratton suggests identifying specific actions you can take within the next five years. These will help you tackle the challenges the future will bring to your working and personal life.

I am convinced that we can prepare for the future in a way that increases the possibilities of success. By doing this we are ensuring we are better equipped to construct a working life that excites us, brings us pleasure and creates worth for others and ourselves

Lynda Gratton

So there you have it! A selection of reading that will help you take your career to the next level, look after your well-being and future-proof yourself in the process. Quite a handful! We hope you find this useful. If you do, let us know on social media!

If you want to delve more into upskilling and future-proofing your creative career, check out our courses and get in touch with us. Applications are open for our next Created In Motion Design course launching in April!

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