Creative inspiration

12th November 2015

The best creative work often comes from the best inspiration. The best inspiration is often found in a good book. What better way to inspire great work than reading about it?

More than just learn about what other creatives have done, you will also motivate yourself to do better. What were they thinking? What paths have some of these brilliant minds followed to get there?
There are plenty of books available out there to read about creativity. In Amazon, eBay or a book store, you will find a section dedicated to creative minds.

To narrow it down a bit, here are my ten favourite books to get you started on your creative journey. What do they have in common? They allow you to further develop something we are all born with: creative skills.

01. Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
Lazy thinking is the bane of creativity. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman talks about how there are really two different thinking systems within the brain. System 1 lets us make fast decisions based on intuition, while system 2 is more deliberative and slower. Sometimes quick, emotional decisions are great for creativity, but often we need to take a step back and reassess, bringing the second system into play. Kahneman explores different exercises you can do to make sure that for any creative decision you make, or any creative thinking you do, you are accessing the correct part of your brain. Definitely worth a shot.

02. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision & Reality – Scott Belsky
Tenacity and determination are just as important to creativity as that initial bright spark. In Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky takes this a step further and gives you concrete strategies for realizing your ideas and developing the skills to make them happen time and time again.

03. Things I have learned in my life so far – Stefan Sagmeister
Stefan Sagmeister is one of the world’s most famous graphic designers. One of his many beautiful books, Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far incorporates material from his exhibitions alongside his maxims for great design and true creativity.

04. How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World – Steven Johnson
If you learn one thing from How We Got to Now, it would be that we have no idea where we are going, but genius, fate, and serendipity drive us there. Steven Johnson tells wonderful tales of creative genius and the curious connections between one breakthrough after another.

05. The Elements of Style – Strunk and White
The Elements of Style is a style guide, which will allow you to communicate your ideas and creativity most effectively. The book contains lists of words that are often misused or misspelled, as well as information on punctuation and grammar. It also has some helpful principles of composition to help you write clearer, the most famous probably being number 17: omit needless words.

06. The Laws of Simplicity – John Maeda
John Maeda is one of the world’s top graphic designers and a professor at the MIT Media Lab. In The Laws of Simplicity he lays down ten laws of simple design that can be followed by creatives, designers, and businesses to find the right balance between simplicity and complexity in their creations.

07. Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson
Another book by creative great Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From looks at how certain individuals, societies, and companies come up with all the great ideas. He identifies seven patterns that are behind the greatest innovations of our time.

08. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Austin Kleon
Austin Kleon wrote Steal Like an Artist after a talk he gave to students went viral. The premise is to not worry about originality – everything has been done before. Instead embrace yourself, and add your own personal touch and flair to the world through individual creativity.

09. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
Anyone who is involved with any creativity will understand the warrior metaphors of this book. You are in a constant battle with yourself to overcome resistance to creativity and to win the battle and push through. The War of Art presents this battle as one that can be won through determination and work. The success comes as a by-product of the work, and will come if you continue the battle with the inertia that stops your creativity.

10. How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul – Adrian Shaughnessy
A true How-To guide, Adrian Shaughnessy uses his years of experience, along with insight from leading designers he has interviewed, to offer practical advice to anyone embarking on a creative career.


As I mentioned before there are plenty more of these books available out there, but if you spend some time reading these 10 geniuses, my job here is done.

Note that apart from these amazing books, there is lots of room for inspiration and lessons to be learnt from the amazing work that the creative agencies put out there! So keep your eyes open.

DMCG Global Network Offices