Sunday, 14 June 2015

Four Inspiring Books for Designers

Books. You'd have thought during my gap year I'd have found time to open one before this month. Better late than never, I was in a very uninspired mood, searching the interwebs for hand lettering book reviews and three caught my eye. I've had the little black number on the end for maybe a year now, but hadn't had a good look at it until recently.

Today I'm going to discuss four books that I've been flicking through daily to get my creativity juices flowing (which is MUCH needed as I have a hell of a lot to design for the new school year!). Two teach you hand lettering, and the others are informative about keeping a good mindset and growing yourself as a designer.

"Work For Money, Design For Love" is possibly the best title there has ever been. I added this to my basket instantly, without fully knowing what it was about but suspecting it held the lessons I needed. And indeed it does. I'm on page 79 out of 264 and have already gained a great deal. The author is essentially teaching you how to be a freelance designer, as he is, but also discusses working with agencies. He starts by contacting Design graduates, asking what they wish was included in their course, then addresses them. On many topics he includes anecdotes of his own working life, or cases he's heard of. Already he's touched on issues I've experienced (namely, clients assuming you'll work for free). "I feel like certain clients abuse designers. There should be a class on how to deal with them".

Professionalism is something I need to work on, and I fully believe I'll come away from this book with a strong, healthy respect for myself as a designer. This is a well rounded education, and I could not recommend it more to anyone wanting to pursue a career in design.

Now, I'm sure a lot of you creative folk would also groan at the idea of looking at a wordy page. School is out, text books have been flung into the bin with no regret. When going through manuals, I follow the diagrams. When in the Design section of the library I wearily put down the picture-less books, no matter how valuable the contents might be. Unless it's fiction, I just can't concentrate on pages of text. HOWEVER. David Airey, author of the book above, must have considered our short attention spans as each topic is short, to the point and easy on the eye, cohesive with the style of the front cover (of course). Headings are bold, followed by no more than one page of text. This also makes it a lovely read to have in your bag, as you can get through a chapter while waiting in the queue for your morning coffee.

Steal Like an Artist is also very well laid out. Its headings and illustrations are all done in what looks like a marker pen, as if you're attending a talk by a motivational practitioner who's scribbling on a whiteboard (in my head, anyway). And no wonder this is marked a "New York Times best seller", it's simply brilliant. Packed with truths nobody wants to talk about, or confess, this book is sure to enlighten you. I love the no pissing around view that everything we create is a culmination of ideas we've stolen. Being "inspired" is a very sugar coated phrase. Once you've accepted this, your mindset opens up! Steal what you love, then put them all together to create something new, something of your own. It's also packed with helpful advice on how to boost your creativity, so overall a very inspiring book!

"Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again" -Andre Gide
"What is originality? Undetected plagiarism" -William Ralph Inge
"Emulation is when imagination goes one step further, breaking through into your own thing"

Unlike most design books I own, Creative Lettering & Beyond is clearly aimed at amateurs (that's to say, people who are interested in lettering as a hobby, and didn't study it at school), with easy to follow step-by-steps and relatable projects to try out. "With the lettering projects in this book - and helpful artist talks throughout - you'll soon be on your way to developing and mastering your own unique style of lettering". Touching on the very basics of digitalising your work, I've already learned useful methods I didn't know! (as you may have seen me demonstrate on snapchat "pollyvdsz"). Split into four sections (Modern Calligraphy, Illustrated lettering, Chalk Lettering and Lettering Crafts), this book is sure to get you trying something different. It even has pages after most sections to practice in, but I prefer using a sketch book (one page is NOT adequate to try out a new technique). Tips include how to manoeuvre an ink pen, letter spacing, font pairing and how to lay out a typography piece!

Modern Calligraphy is a gorgeous book, perfect for someone who wants to get into the elegant art of calligraphy that is so popular on the likes of Pinterest and Instagram. The wedding invite and decorative print inspiration will have you making your own work in no time. Packed with useful techniques, including: watercolour, coffee painting, gold trimming, sticker making... and so much more. I positively squealed at the pages and pages showing variations of how each letter of the alphabet (upper and lower case) can be formed. Usually modern calligraphy instructions only show you one way, which may not be appropriate for your project! I like to integrate a bit of dainty and loopy, or brush painted calligraphy into most of my hand lettering pieces, but often it's the part that takes the longest to sketch out. So, I'm very happy to now be able to flick through this book until I find a style I can emulate.

So there you have it! I do hope lots of you invest in these books, I know they've helped me tremendously over the past few weeks. The peaceful relaxation that comes with reading, plus some motivational words, or a particularly interesting technique of drawing the letter "L", is the push needed to get you over that creative block.

Polly xo

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