Article by Martin Gibson – Twitter: @martingibson @embody3d – 14.02.2012
ISBN – 9781592537372
365 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers: Insider Secrets from Top Designers on Working Smart and Staying Creative by Laurel Saville, Joshua Berger, Steve Gordon Jr. and Sarah Dougher and published by Rockport is a unique approach to providing buddying designers with insight on how to run a successful design business and how to be a successul designer from some of the worlds best. But does this book achieve this? In this review I am going to try and stay as positive as possible but it is hard not to be very frustrated by this book. Of course the books title ‘365’ of course referencing the amount of days in a year suggests that you would read one number a day, a number being a handy tip being around half a page long followed by half to a couple of pages of pictures. But I just don’t seem people reading it in this way, I would suspect the audience would skim this book and find something that looks new and interesting or they might find something they can work on.
I only see this as a coffee table book that designers would read at lunch and have a laugh at how some of the things relate to their daily loves. Or a book a non-designer would buy for a designer thinking that it would actually help them be a better designer and that they might actually appreciate the gesture. I get the impression this is not the use-cases the authors had in mind for this book.
The huge issue with this book is quite simply it states the obvious. I have even shown this book to non designers and even they had the same reaction to me “well duh of course that’s what you should do”. Despite the huge volume of editorial content, all 493 pages long the book feels so empty. I feel like you could replace every mention of the word “design” and replace it with the word “business” and the book would be of equal value to a business student because of the general unoffending language used throughout. Here is just an example of just some of the tips used in the book (and I didn’t proactively seek these headings out, this is a fair representation):
It is these ambiguous headings that kind of set up the following half page up for limitations. Don’t get me wrong some of the advice stated is absolutely true (probably the far majority) and I think in some cases it would be very relevant to design students, but there’s a lot of competition for design education resources. I just can’t see students crying out for a casual light-hearted approach to learning about what should be considered professional and somewhat serious issues. It feels like they really had to push 365 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers to the brink to just get 365 unique and interesting entries and that is a really difficult task to start with. A better approach would be having less but more in-depth lessons that the market needs to learn. Ultimately books are about messages to people, give the people what they want and what they need to know. Do students really need to know they have to “look within” or “read a good book” or “bring something extra to the table” to be a successful designer? There is a lot of overlap and there are a lot of basic tips that could have easily been forgotten.
However let me end with a few positive elements of the book it would only be fair. The illustrations, photographs and design samples are wonderful, they certainly support the main arguments raised in the book. As mentioned previously for a lighthearted coffee table discussion this book might have found it’s place, it really would be great for this purpose. In the right hands, someone who can digest this information and really apply it might get a good kick out of 365 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers. In the books defence if anyone is going to be creative about how they can implement advice it should be a designer! Some students who like this general overview information might enjoy this book and also a professional might see this book as the ultimate checklist…am I doing this well? Can I improve on this? And so on…so while it is not the best book we have come across at Embody 3D, for some it might be able to fit in somewhere especially if you like to keep things short and not too technical.