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Industry Insights

Six Business Books for Creative Directors

Diego's must-reads for creatives — and some for small business owners too!

In our fast-moving industry, most advertising and marketing books will be nothing more than a relic within a year or two of their release. Some might transcend their obsolescence, becoming doorstops or the legs of makeshift tables in the bachelor pads of Pinterest-loving millennials.

Yet, once in a while, a book will come along and change everything.

This canon of six books serves as the cornerstone of my philosophy in creative direction. The few books that, after reading, left an impact so profound that to this day, I keep a copy beside my desk for reference.


It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden.

This little book has the potential to impact your daily thinking in a big way. We live in a highly competitive world, yet companies of all sizes can quickly become breeding grounds for mediocrity. Paul Arden uses quirk to share the lessons he learned during his prolific career, showing you how to overcome mediocrity and become the best version of yourself.


The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier.

Brands! Brands! Brands! Everyone wants a brand. But what is a brand? “It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is,” says Marty Neumeier. This book uses what Neumeier calls the “visual language of the board room” to define “brand” and present five principles for applying creative thinking to business strategy. This book helped me understand “brand” and inspired me to focus my career on bridging the “brand gap.”


Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.

How can your brand stand out in our crowded marketplace? The answer is simple: tell a compelling story. Donald Miller shows us how to use an age-old storytelling framework to tell stories with more clarity. The biggest takeaway? The customer is the hero of every story.


The Power of Healthy Tension by Tim Arnold.

We live in an increasingly binary world in which the social, political and moral right and left are in a constant tug of war. Tim Arnold explores the phenomenon of healthy tension, polarities and paradox and shows us how to better manage conflict or tension in our daily lives. Changing how we cope with tension helps us better navigate life and perhaps make the world a better place, one managed tension at a time.


Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler.

From preliminary research, to long after launch, Alina Wheeler wrote the textbook for the branding process. This book is an essential read for everyone from the executives casting a vision for the company to the project managers who are keeping the brand moving. I keep the latest edition on my bookshelf and reference it quite often. You should too.


The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

This is the story of a seasoned Cuban fisherman who, after a long dry streak, comes face to face with the biggest fish anyone had ever caught. While many writers lean on length to paint details, Hemingway mastered the art of writing concisely without sacrificing meaning, and at only 112 pages,this story is no exception. I keep a copy on my desk, as a reminder to aim for clarity, depth, and brevity in my writing.

NOTE: This post was featured on the RGD (Registered Graphic Designers) blog in January 2020. It was their top-read post from 2020!

Written by Diego Lopez, RGD

December 18, 2020