On the rise of the creative self-help book

The design monograph has been replaced by the design self-help guide as the new stamp of career success. Emily Gosling explores what’s behind this new trend and what it suggests about the industry today

Don’t be, or work with, an asshole. Try something weirder. Feck perfuction. It feels like there have never been more pages devoted to helping designers navigate the tricky job of, well, being a designer. In a world where it’s easier than ever to get guidance for free online, why is it that we’re seeing more and more books about being better at creativity? And what are those books telling us that other platforms or people can’t?

Publisher Laurence King is behind a number of such books, with titles including Creating a Brand Identity: A Guide for Designers (2016) by Catharine Slade-Brooking, a rare female author among the bunch; How to Do Great Work Without Being an Asshole (2019) by Edenspiekermann CCO Paul Woods; Now Try Something Weirder: How to Keep Having Great Ideas and Survive in the Creative Business by Michael Johnson (also 2019); and Oh Sh*t… What Now? Honest Advice for New Graphic Designers by Craig Oldham (2018). This year also saw the publication of James Victore’s book, Feck Perfuction, from Abrams & Chronicle Books.

Maybe the idea of a physical format is in part proof that the designer writing the book can design for print. Maybe – as the often bold, lurid covers and large, prominent typography suggest – these tomes are easy to skim through and look good on a creative bookshelf.