We’ve compiled our favorite books; essential for design-oriented, creative business and superhuman success. In our opinion, these are the most influential and powerful books we know, some of which inspired us to start Crowbar Studios in the first place, and others which have guided our visual process over the years. Yes, they are all over the lot, but we’ll explain why. Here they are, not in any particular order, collect them all and absorb them deep into your brain:
To our friends, associates, and distinguished guests:
The past six months have been good to us, very good. We have experienced successes that we never imagined possible, and we’re stoked. We took risks, and things paid off.
Right around holidays the economy was getting bad, CNN and Fox News ran around like chickens with their heads cut off warning of “The worst economic crisis since the great depression”. The media frenzy spread to general conversation of daily life, it got to the point where you couldn’t talk to any business contact without hearing some mention of, “the way the economy is right now, blah, blah, blah”. The sky was falling, the sky was falling, and for those who didn’t know any better, it did fall, on your head, and you got screwed, slaughtered.
If you got screwed in real estate, I’m sorry, I really am. Lots of people ended up getting screwed in real estate. In a MAJOR nutshell, people got greedy, took out loans they shouldn’t have and went into unwise and uneducated debts. Value is subjective in the world of real estate and the values went down. What can we learn from this? Debt is stupid. If something seems too good to be true then it is, tattoo that on your forehead so you see it every time you look in the mirror.
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Luxor Price was an Illustrator. I once found a very old book he did hidden away at a library. It was an illustrated world atlas, it was eerily creepy, and I loved it. It’s been hard to find any information about Luxor Price’s life or any more of his work, so if anyone has anything to share, I’d love to see or hear it. I thought people should see this stuff, or maybe put it on t-shirts.
Everybody is crazy about outsourcing and working remote. Luckily for many freelance graphic designers, you have the luxury of your work already being remote, and you work from home, Starbucks, or wherever. Others work in 9 to 5 design studio environments, or corporate in-house design environments. And many of you reading this aren’t designers, and perhaps you work a regular career 9-5 job sitting at a computer. Either way, if you can become more effective at what you do, then you become more valuable, and thus have the opportunity to make more money, becoming harder to fire. So whether you work from home, a big office building, or a small studio space, here are 8 of the best tips I’ve picked up along the way that have enabled me to achieve super-human productivity.
#1. Separate your work area from your living area.
If you work where you sleep, your work day never ends. Separating your work area from your living area creates a necessary mental barrier for peace of mind. If you go to bed at night and your laptop is sitting 2 feet away you’ll be tempted to pick it up and finish the last bit of that project or send out one more email. Create some form of home office or work space and work until a certain time of day: 6 o clock, 7 o clock, then leave that space, close the door, revert to your personal or family life, then return to the work re-energized, creative, and ready to complete tasks.
This still applies to those of you who work 9-5’s, when you have to go into an office building. You already have the separation. You already have a place to escape from, and a place to escape to. The reason why I include you is because maybe you have secret plans to quit and start something from home, or maybe your career goal is to keep your job while negotiating a remote work agreement, or maybe you just want to work on side projects from home in your spare time. Keep this in mind for the future.
If you’re a maid, your soul purpose is to provide your clients with a clean house. If you work at Mcdonnalds then you have to get burgers assembled, quick. If you’re a designer, then you have to provide your clients with custom creations that help their businesses do better. It’s business. If your portfolio is good that’s half the battle. Clients want to see that not only can you create value for them, but deliver it. This means creating practical solutions that they can quickly have up and running.
This applies not only to graphic design, but in every field. Creating and then delivering value will get you ahead. Don’t worry about money, just focus on providing the world with value, then you’ll be rewarded.
If you don’t properly plan, then you plan to fail. If you have no guide then you can become lost. At times during our careers we can become complacent and confused. “Why do I still work here?”, “How do I become better?”, “How do I earn more money?”. But if you have a map, all you have to do is follow it, and you can reach your outcome. You don’t ever have to re-invent the wheel, so don’t bother.
As contemporary designers, we follow in the footsteps of those who came before us, and we can easily look at what they did to replicate the process of becoming successful from scratch. The definition of success is entirely up to you, weather it’s critical acclaim and awards in the design community, landing a prestigious design or art director job, starting your own design firm, or simply working on creative projects and being able to support yourself financially while doing it. If you’re still in school, then read this, and begin following these principles now. If you’re already well established in your design career, then use these principles to brush up on lost habits. They won’t lead you astray. Here’s how to become the best designer in the world:
Massimo Vignelli once said, “A good designer must be able to design anything from a spoon to a city.” This means that the principles of good design are universal, and that these same principles must be applied to everything from logos to websites, to packaging, to planets. Raymond Loewy is perhaps the most influential designer of the last 100 years, having designed nearly everything in our modern world. His life and work spanned the majority of the 20th century, following changes in style and technology.
Warning: this is a very long blog post, but it’s worth reading:) I wrote this originally as my Bachelor of Fine Arts thesis paper when I was at BYU, but the subject matter is timeless, and I think it will be useful to everyone, not just other artists and designers. Conformity vs. Revolution is a subject that had interested me throughout my lifelong education in art. The concept of completely new ideas and ways of doing things was what drove the art world forward. So it was only appropriate that I focus most of my senior year in BYU’s graphic design program studying it and writing about it. As I said it’s long, so get a snack and make yourself comfortable, enjoy:
I was studying Art at BYU Hawaii. While taking a contemporary art history class, I experienced one of the highest points of my educational career. The course followed the movements of modernism and postmodernism, from the works of Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, to Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Marcel Duchamp.
It was then I began to internalize this concept of the Avant Garde; the idea of those who pushed the limits of art and thought. I dug deeper into this realm of thought and applied these concepts to my day to day thought process. I looked at everything different from that point on. Each piece of architecture I passed on the street, every song I listened to, every t-shirt graphic I saw someone wearing, I thought to myself, “Is this modern? Is that post modern? Is this cutting edge? Is this innovative?” I began to wonder at every piece of culture I experienced, “Is this original? Is this the “next thing”?, Is this what comes after post modernism?”
The class went through the history of the 20th century, through each sequential art movement in chronological order, and when we came to the end of the semester we had a discussion of all we had covered up to that point. Our teacher posed the very question that had been on my mind the entire time, “Whats next?” He offered a few examples of current artists who were currently doing interesting work, but then he offered us a possibility of the next major direction the world of art and style could take. From the book, A Theory of Everything: “The Physical Universe actually has an inherent tendency to create order, just as when water chaotically washing down the drain in your bathroom sink suddenly organizes itself into a beautiful swirling whirlpool.”
After San Diego, we flew up to Utah then down to Vegas for the whole following week. We went with the Demon crew. I hadn’t been to Vegas for exactly one year since SIA last year. Wednesday night, Skullcandy flew Snoop Dogg in to town for a special concert/party at the Palms. We had a great view.
Demon’s booth was right across from Billabong, so their old buddy Marius Otterstad dropped by. Here’s a shot of his new tattoo, the Viking’s sword points to his home town in Norway:
During day 2 of ASR, We decided to check out the Agenda trade show, which takes place simultaneously with ASR. Agenda is quite sick. They send black limos over to the front of the convention center where ASR is going on, kidnap us ASR attendees, and whisk us away to their show. In the limo I talked to a sales guy for another company who told me, “Agenda started as a sort of protest for the boutique skate brands who didn’t fit in with the ASR circus, but now it’s basically for all the companies who think they’re too cool for ASR.” He was right, they really were too cool for ASR. We saw some really innovative design and super-cool product at
Agenda, and it seems like much more actual work was getting done there. Two thumbs up for Agenda.