Our new ‘Studio Picks’ series will offer up the advice, best practices, favorite resources, and inspiration – to name a few – that our team is living by. First up!…our resident bibliophiles share their favorite books which have given the gift of empathy, strengthened creative resolve, and challenged the perception of self. Let’s dive in to learn what it is that makes these reads so valuable!
Erin Foose: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
What made you pick it up? This book has been on my (waaay too long) “to-read” list after I read her novel Americanah a few years ago.
What is it about? It’s a collection of short stories circling around the complicated relationships – closely entangled and acquaintances- experienced by African immigrants to the US and the cultural bridges and gaps that occur across continents.
What are the greatest lessons that you learned? My greatest take-away from reading books that highlight a life experience different from my own is that it’s so easy to see the world through only your perspective. You are constantly at the center of your own universe because everything in your life is happening to…YOU – you can’t help but see every detail of every day from your very specific lens. Therefore, it’s way too easy to get caught up in the ridiculous notion that everyone sees life exactly as you see it and thinks, anticipates, comprehends, and acts exactly as you would.
How are you applying those lessons in your own life? Reading accounts of others’ lives helps remind me to fight that subconscious, ‘self-centered’ urge to see life only through my view. In business and personal encounters, these stories help me take a step back and consider that everyone has not viewed the problem or situation exactly as I have and pushes me to try to understand where others are coming from, rather than jumping to conclusions that can lead to misunderstanding or unnecessary conflict.
Finally, why do you think others should take the time to read this book? There are so many nuances to every interaction based on what each person brings to the table in terms of previous experiences. If we all pushed ourselves to read more authors or character accounts from those with different backgrounds than our own, it could go a long way to instill more empathy and humility into our fast-paced and often judgmental world.
Dan Wothers: Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
What made you pick it up? My parents had just adopted a one-year old puppy with a lot of energy and a deep curiosity with all things outside of our yard. Cars, leaves, people, squirrels, etc… I grabbed it upon a friend’s recommendation and years later still find myself referencing it to coworkers, friends and family.
What is it about? The book takes a wide view of available strategies in remediating subject behavior and focuses the discussion through the lens of animal training. Each training method is covered in principle and in practice, bouncing from examples of animal training to human training for deeper understanding of why these techniques work.
What are the greatest lessons that you learned? A large portion of this book discusses incentive types and their applications. More importantly, it discusses how to increase and decrease the pressure of those incentives. Too little pressure and the subject can become immune to the stimulus and too much pressure can create stress, rebellion and adverse behavior. A trainer does this through variating the frequency of reward or punishment.
How are you applying those lessons in your own life? All actions create a ripple effect of incentives that affect the interactions we all have with the world. Understanding more about the mechanics of those interactions gives me more empathy for negative interactions and more caution for positive interactions. Most tangibly these principles have helped me to troubleshoot design solutions and most abstractly guided improvements in relationships.
Finally, why do you think others should take the time to read this book? The book is a quick read and packs a lot of information and entertainment into a very small package!
Lyndsi Dengler: The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson by Lewis Blackwell + David Carson
What made you pick it up? I originally bought this book as a graphic design student in college. At the time I was still trying to figure out exactly what graphic design was and if my heart was really in it. I spent an afternoon at the bookstore looking for something that would speak to me and came home with this book. A few years ago, my original book fell apart from years of flipping through and tabbing pages, so I have the revised edition now. I still turn to it when I need inspiration or a reminder of why I love design.
What is it about? The book is about the work of graphic designer David Carson. He was a surfer turned graphic designer in the 90’s and the forerunner of a new style of graphic design. While it’s mostly images of his work, there are interviews with Carson and stories about his process and philosophy sprinkled throughout. The way these more informational pages are laid out are so beautiful that it can be confusing to know what part of the book is actual content, and what part is past work.
What are the greatest lessons that you learned? Carson created this 90’s surf and skateboard grunge aesthetic that was heavily typography based. Seeing how he worked with type and didn’t abide by any of the typical graphic design rules I was learning in school really opened my eyes to what I could do as a designer. I found this appreciation for type and just fell in love with how it can shape a design. I learned how to be open to and seek out inspiration. And how it can spark so many ideas – which at the time was so foreign to me.
How are you applying those lessons in your own life? If I am ever stuck on ideas or get “designer’s block” I turn to this book. Every page is different from the next, so I’ll just open it up at random and start to ideate from whatever turns up. These initial concepts may be junk, but they almost always end up snowballing into something that gets me out of a design funk.
Finally, why do you think others should take the time to read this book? If you have any interest in southern California surf culture, interesting people, or cool design you might find this book exciting. It is filled with images of great design that is maybe even a little jarring at times. You might also be interested if you like stories about how innovators and entrepreneurs built their brands. And the intro is written by David Byrne which is reason enough!
Joan Scott: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
What made you pick it up? Sometimes I need creative inspiration, something to get my mind ticking, something to guide me to the next “thing”. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love and City Of Girls, two all-time favorites and Big Magic seemed exactly the inspiration I was looking for written by a beloved author.
What is it about? Gilberts unique perspective on creativity, where inspiration comes from, and how we can live our most creative lives.
What are the greatest lessons that you learned? Gilbert affirmed my belief and strengthened my resolve to always seek inspiration wherever and whenever in this statement; “Most of all, be ready. Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvelous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day. Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly passing through us, constantly trying to get our attention.”
How are you applying those lessons in your own life? With leaps of faith and vulnerability, because putting yourself out there creatively takes courage.
Finally, why do you think others should take the time to read this book? Creativity is Somewhere in all of us. If you’ve lost it or never felt you had it this book will give a unique perspective on harnessing it. No matter what you make or what you do – creativity can bring such magic and joy to your everyday life.