Writing is design.

The quote above is from Ms Chappell Ellison on her recent interview with Jarrett Fuller on the podcast Scratching the Surface. A fair amount of navel gazing in this episode, but there are some good nuggets of wisdom worth uncovering and definitely worth a listen.

Strangely enough, I’ve grown to think of writing as a design problem, only the difference being  that rather than using visuals, the carefully crafted words are used to create images in the readers’ minds. Isn’t that what all writers do? As noted before, I used a similar line of thinking to get me through college algebra.

The parallels are interesting. Drafts are like sketches. Rewrites become the design process. Both design and writing are all about conveying ideas, only attacking the problem with words alone is often the best choice to communicate abstract ideas not easily represented by images. Whatever works best.

To me, at least, this is design thinking.

Favorite Articles in 2018

Back in 1996 when I worked at The ForeFront Group, we had a piece of software called WebWhacker (the packaging is elsewhere on this site). WebWhacker was designed to pull content down from websites to read later when you were offline. A genius app, until WiFi and mobile devices with unlimited reach became the norm. Google’s Pocket is the modern equivalent of WebWhacker. I use it every single day, sometimes throughout the day when I find things that interest me but don’t have the time to read at the moment. Apparently, according to Pocket I read a lot:

Although this is not a comprehensive list, here are some of my favorite articles I saved to Pocket during 2018:

Where Are All the Female Architects?

A museum grows in Houston

The Rise of Riso

It’s Time to Embrace the Creativity Explosion Advertising Is Undergoing

Soul Of A Subversive

Everything Goes With Everything … 

These are the conversations you need to have as a new manager

Creative leadership

Why You Need To Pay Attention To Gen X Leaders

TITTER YE NOT by Dave Trott, of course.

Fear is the enemy of creativity

Creatives Are Overworked

I Visited A Shrine For The Patron Saint Of Procrastinators

Is Jeff Goodby the Best Copywriter at Goodby Silverstein & Partners?

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

A Designer’s Guide to Getting Shit Done

The Curbed Guide to Texas

Stan Lee Knew About Managing Creative People

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple

The Library of Congress Has an Incredible Collection of Early Baseball Cards

R.E.M., in Retrospect



A mixed bag of links to share this week, starting off with a favorite piece of music:

Simon Sinek Explains What Almost Every Leader Gets Wrong

With a daughter considering studying architecture in college, Where Are All the Female Architects? resonated with me.

No matter what stage you are at in your career, Weighing the Risk: What’s the Cost of Not Making a Life-Changing Career Choice? offers some good food for thought.

I don’t know a single person who focuses their attention on just one thing. Marketers need to be polymaths: the modern-day marketing challenges confirms my findings.

Perhaps the single most important thing you will read this week is The Scientific Case for Eating Bread.

Promise yourself you will read Living up to Your Brand Promise from my pals at R+M.

Design Debate: Should You Work In-House or Freelance? has been on my mind a lot lately.

HBR is right. In Set the Conditions for Anyone on Your Team to Be Creative anyone can be creative, givven the right culture.

Design leaders at Microsoft, Google, Ideo, Pentagram, Gensler, and more weigh in on The 9 big design trends of 2019.
Jim Steranko may be one of the greatest unsung influencers of the latter half of the twentieth century.

New logos, new typefaces and even new names abound.


Books Read in 2018

I never feel like I read enough, but this year I kept track of the books I read and surprised myself that I got through as many I did. I re-read a few others, like The Designful Company by Marty Neumeier (re-read at least twice!), The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins, The Corporate Creative by Andy Epstein and Gordon Mackenzie’s classic Orbiting the Giant Hairball all before I started my new job at Sysco. Without further ado:

The book that had the biggest impact on me this year was The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin. Through this book, I’ve been able to reconcile my thoughts on Catholicism, Buddhism and Stoicism. Contemplative action.

Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age by Miles Young

Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and into the World by Tina Seelig cannot be recommended enough. Entrepreneurialism and creativity go hand-in-hand, and Dr Seelig delightfully captures all of the nuance.

The Choice Factory: 25 Behavioural Biases that Influence What We Buy by Richard Shotton

Rise of the Youpreneur: The Definitive Guide to Becoming the Go-To Leader in Your Industry and Building a Future-Proof Business by Chris Ducker

With the arrival of Blade Runner 2049, I decided to read the original story,  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I enjoyed both movies more than the book, but nonetheless quite an interesting read.

Later in the year I read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, thinking I would really enjoy it, but did not. Although the premise is amazing, the story meanders, dragging on endlessly. Couldn’t stay awake long enough to read it.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Dear Client: This Book Will Teach You How to Get What You Want from Creative People by Bonnie Siegler

Before the movie came out, I wanted to read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Glad I did. Much better book than a movie. I thought my 14-year-old son would love it, but he got bored with it because he did not understand all the references to the 1980s culture. D&D, Rush – that was me as a 14-year-old.

BadMen: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace by Bob Hoffman

Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files Book 1) by Sylvain Neuvel was a miss. I love giant robots, should have loved this book, but finished it and decided to not soldier on to book 2.

I love the ancient Greeks, and The Song of Achilles: A Novel by Madeline Miller brought the Trojan War to life.

Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need by Todd Henry

Org Design for Design Orgs: Building and Managing In-House Design Teams by Peter Merholz and Kristin Skinner

I read Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain after Mr Bourdain decided to end his life. As previously mentioned, Part Unknown is one of my favorite programs on TV so I decided I want to read what got his literary career going. Fantastic book. There’s a chapter in the middle that goes into excruciating detail about his everyday life as a chef that every designer should read. Yes, you read that right.

I really wanted to love Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valence outdid not enjoy the writing in the least.

On the other hand, I finally broke down and read Fight Club: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk. Best novel I read this year.

I don’t recommend listening to The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss like I did. Too many near misses while sitting in traffic because I got lost in a thought.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking by Dave Trott

Design as an Attitude by Alice Rawsthorn reminded me of Bruno Munari’s Design as Art. I cannot think of a higher compliment.


Favorite Google Doodle of the Year

Boy, it was a late entry in the year, but the Google Doodle for 18 December is a real winner for me. Honoring Paul Klee, an artist I couldn’t understand while in high school, but grew to love while in college. He painted simple shapes with such a sophisticated color palette. I find his  work both endlessly fascinating and inspirational. Happy birthday, Mr Klee.