CreativeMornings Book Lists

10 Books on Rebelling and Creativity

February 5, 2014

Our fourth book list developed in collaboration with CreativeMornings, a breakfast lecture series for the creative community, each with a monthly theme, is based on February’s theme: “Rebel.”


CreativeMornings illustration by Adam Garcia

These 10 books drawn from the book lists of our contributors look at what it means to be a rebel in different creative disciplines, and how that rebellion becomes integrated into work and life (what do you do after you rebel?). CreativeMornings quotes these words from Shutterstock: “To rebel is to challenge the status quo and break new ground. Rebels think creatively. Rebels are fearless. Rebels force art and tech to advance forward. Rebels make the world a better place.”

If you have books on this theme that are important to you, and that you would like to note and recommend to the CreativeMornings community, you can do so by going to our Community Book List titled “Rebelling and Creativity,” click “Add to list,” and add your recommendation there.

Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Metahaven

— McNally Jackson Books art and design book buyer Ames Gerould comments on Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?:

“A worthwhile read for the sake of intellectual freedoms as well as for a greatly needed undermining of conventional corporate identity-design practices.”

Dada: Art and Anti-Art Hans Richter

— Graphic designer Bob Gill comments on Dada: Art and Anti-Art:

“Richter recreates that boisterous and fantastic movement of Dadaism in wartime Zurich and Paris in the 1920s. This collection, which includes Man Ray, George Grosz, Kurt Schwitters, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, etc., has been a wonderful source of inspiration.”

Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!) George Lois

— Graphic designer Louise Fili comments on Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!):

“When legendary adman George Lois speaks, we all listen.”

Design Revolution Emily Pilloton

— IDEO partner Tom Kelley comments on Design Revolution:

“Emily Pilloton is my design hero. Thirty years from now, people will be calling her a national treasure, and they will point to this book as an early milestone in her journey. The book’s collection of 100 social-innovation/design projects was just the jumping off point for Emily’s subsequent ventures: a cross-country Design Revolution Road Show, a hands-on design thinking curriculum for high school kids, a design-and-build summer camp for tween girls, and a documentary film on the power of design thinking. It’s not just a book. It’s the harbinger of a bright future.”

The Fountainhead Ayn Rand

— Graphic designer (Pentagram) Michael Bierut comments on The Fountainhead:

“The designer as hero.”

— Graphic designer and art director (Knopf) Chip Kidd comments:

“A bit obvious, and more than a little embarrassing, this book nonetheless truly made me reevaluate what it means to be a designer, at a crucial time in my life (late college). It is NOT to be taken as gospel, but more as a cautionary tale of megalomania. Plus, as a soap opera it’s pretty hard to beat.”

— Architect Stanley Tigerman comments:

“I read The Fountainhead when I was 13 years old in 1943, put it down and decided to become an architect. One may question Rand’s politics, even the ideology of the self, but her gripping tale of an architect unapologetically motivated my prepubescent psyche.”

Irma Boom: The Architecture of the Book Irma Boom
Introduction by Rem Koolhaas
Text by Mathieu Lommen

— Brain Pickings founder and editor Maria Popova, called the mini edition of Irma Boom: The Architecture of the Book:

“A micro-manifesto for the printed book at its most alive.”

#1 Design Best Seller at Van Alen Books, New York (January 2014).

The Medium is the Massage Marshall McLuhan
Quentin Fiore

— Graphic designer Abbott Miller (Pentagram) comments on The Medium is the Massage:

“A model of design and writing, and an exceptional case study of a partnership between a public intellectual and a great designer.”

— Visual literature pioneer Warren Lehrer comments:

“The book visualized notions of hot versus cool mediums, how technologies from the wheel to the telephone are extensions of our bodies and create a sense of comfort as well as anxiety. Some pages were printed backward and were meant to be read in a mirror; others were left completely blank. This ‘experimental’ paperback published by Bantam became a best seller and helped popularize McLuhan’s ideas.”

— Industrial designer Carola Zwick (Studio 7.5, Berlin) comments:

“This small paperback is the result of a typo at the printing house that McLuhan embraced and used to create a ‘reader’s digest’ version of his ‘The Medium is the Message.’” It uses visual means to support his idea that human artifacts serve as extensions of the human body and brain.”

Mirko Ilić: Fist to Face Dejan Kršić
Preface by Milton Glaser
Introduction by Steven Heller

— Visual culture critic and founding editor of Eye Rick Poynor comments on Mirko Ilić: Fist to Face:

“Substantial monographs about contemporary designers don’t come along that often and this one about Mirko Ilić bursts at the seams with the man’s energy, generosity, loquacity and sense of danger. Yugoslavia—as it was then—was never going to be big enough to contain him and he went on to take New York by storm with op-ed illustrations and design concepts of uncompromising directness, and no inhibiting qualms about good taste. Croatian writer Dejan Kršić does a great job of relating the story and the book is packed with the provocative, high-octane images that make Ilić one of a kind.”

Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson

— Gizmodo editor Alissa Walker comments on Steve Jobs:

“There’s plenty to mine when it comes to innovation and branding and product development, yes. But it’s more than that. Jobs spent a lifetime building technology for artists. And designers, as those who have benefited from this process the most, should know the fascinating story behind their tools.”

— Jewelry designer Temple St. Clair comments:

“I found the story of Jobs completely inspiring, especially his defiant refusal to compromise on design and quality.”

Things I have learned in my life so far, Updated Edition Stefan Sagmeister

— Written by graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister.

Among the book’s “maxims” is: “Honesty can solve any problem.”

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