Admittedly I am an amateur in my endeavors in creativity.
That’s why I look to others for inspiration and guidance. Here’s 5 of my favorite creative people I follow — take a look, and maybe you wan to follow them, too.
When I first picked up a copy of Steal Like An Artist to look at it, it was the simple outline on the back that convinced me to buy it. Or I should say, to buy my first copy, as I have given away multiple copies. Austin, who describes himself as “a writer who draws.”
First known for his “blackout poems” collected in his first best-selling book, Newspaper Blackout. I caught up to him at the next stage and have been following him ever since. I also bought and gave away multiple copies of his next book, Show Your Work, as well, and now I have an official Steal Like an Artist calendar on my wall and a Steal like An Artist Notebook.
Austin sends out a free weekly email every Friday morning, listing books, music, podcasts, and other things that have caught his interest that week. This past week, he listed his top 15 books of the year as well as 100 things that made his year — there’s something interesting every week.
Subscribe to Austin Kleon’s email list here for a weekly list of wonders to check.
I think Dan Roam’s Blah-Blah-Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work, was my first foray into reading more about visual thinking and communication through simple doodles. I especially liked his explanation of why our lack of a visual grammar hampers our ability to communicate more effectively with visuals. Similar to how I caught Austin Kleon, I missed Dan’s first book of note, The Back of The Napkin, so I doubled back to read that one as well. Since then, I’ve also read Show & Tell and his most recent one summarizing 10 years of his work, Draw to Win!
Dan also runs the Napkin Academy for people interested in learning how to use these principles of visual thinking and communication more effectively. One ongoing feature for Napkin Academy Associates like myself is the series of live webinars with other creative thought leaders in webinars titled “Draw Together!” Dan has hosted these co-drawing sessions with Austin Kleon, Daniel Pink, Laura Duarte, and Sunni Brown, among others.
Join in the fun by joining the Napkin Academy.
Hugh McLeod (Gaping Void)
Probably the first book I ran across on creativity was Hugh McLeod’s brilliant little guidebook, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. Whereas I found most of the other creatives I follow through seeing their books at the SXSW pop-up bookstore, I found Hugh’s book in the bookstore in tiny Marfa, Texas. After spending awhile in the advertising world smack in the middle of its capital, New York City, Hugh hung it up and moved to West Texas to open a coffee shop. Now, he helps run Gaping Void, a “Culture Design Group,” consulting with organizations ranging from corporations to government groups to non-profits, healthcare, and educational entities.
Sign up for Hugh’s email list for a spot of daily creative inspiration.
Sunni’s book, The Doodle Revolution, really gave me the wings to more freely doodle. I had bought an earlier book, Gamestorming she co-authored with Dave Gray, and had seen her at a couple of SXSW Interactive sessions previously, but Doodle Revolution really laid out the reasons our doodles are meaningful, the basics of playing with doodles, and how to use playful doodles for serious work like collaborative group meetings.
Sunni does not send out a weekly email or daily doodle, but she is forever active, and simply a delight to follow on Twitter. You not only get to see what she’s up to and what she’s working on, but also her delightful observations about life’s foibles and wonders.
Lee LeFever (Common Craft)
I don’t remember where I ran across The Art of Explanation — it must have been online, as I bought the ebook version first. Reading it that first time, it felt like someone else had finally pinpointed what it was that I did, and I blurted out to my wife & son, “That’s it! I’m an ‘explainer‘!” They both looked at me and nodded, saying, “Yeah, we know.” Okay, I suppose that my over-explaining can be annoying at times but it’s also central to my profession. I feel compelled to clarify confusion when I see someone struggling to figure something out.
Well, Common Craft (Lee and Sochi LeFever) created a style of explaining complex subjects in simple videos with minimalist but functional visuals. By now, they’ve created over 90 explanatory videos on topics from digital literacy to credit card responsibility to net neutrality. Despite the variety of topics, all of these videos can all be characterized as “Common Craft” style: focusing on a simple explanation generally no longer than 3 minutes that illustrates the basic concepts of that particular topic.
Common Craft uses cut-outs of generic people and objects to create their simple visual style. These cut-outs can also be used to create custom explanations, if you join Common Craft as an Explainer. I’ve used these cut-outs in everything from developmental documents to storyboards to final graphics.
There you have 5 creative people I turn to for inspiration. Maybe you’ll enjoy their stuff, too — tell ’em Alan sent you!