New year, new ideas

Whether you find yourself snowed in or you’re choosing to stay in for a ‘silent night’, consider cracking open a book or two during the holiday season. Below are three book recommendations to help re-invigorate your flow of ideas, just in time for the new year. These are books that I’ve found helpful in my professional practice as a writer, teacher, and entrepreneur in the areas of branding, marketing, and business strategy. Although they’re not new releases, they each reveal a profound viewpoint on topics relevant to the graphic arts industry.

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

Read This Book If: You want to understand the fundamental principles related to brand management.

Read It Because: It’s short and sweet and designed to be read on an intercontinental flight. In the book’s short preface the author states: “By presenting the least amount of information, and by using the shorthand of the conference room – illustrations, diagrams, and summaries – I hope to bring the big ideas of branding into sharp focus.”

Core Idea: A brand is not a logo, nor is it a product or service. Instead a brand is an intangible force, defined by individuals who interact with it. Therefore, a brand is merely influenced (not controlled) by the company itself.

Notable Quotable: “When enough individuals arrive at the same gut feeling, a company can be said to have a brand.”

About the Author: Marty Neumeier is a designer, brand strategist, and writer who worked with communications giants (Apple Computer, Adobe Systems, and Hewlett-Packard to name a few) in the 1990s to design brand collateral and packaging.

We Are All Weird: The Myth of Mass and the End of Compliance by Seth Godin

Read This Book If: You want to better understand your customers by learning about the power of ‘tribes’.

Read It Because: It’s designed to be easily digestible and read in a couple of hours. It focuses on how the digital revolution is shaping human self-organization (into what Godin calls ‘tribes’). A tribe represents a group of people who are connected to one another and connected to a common idea. The Internet has enabled these people to find each other and communicate, which has opened up huge possibilities to create products and services for these narrowly focused groups. To reinforce the theme of highly specialized “weird” tribes, the book’s cover stars Jeremy, a competitor from the World Beard and Mustache Competition.

Core Idea: Ditch the idea of “mass” (generic products and services, as well as generic advertising that tries to speak to everyone) and cater to the “weird” to succeed in today’s highly segmented world.

Notable Quotable: “Everyone hates advertising in general, but we love advertising in particular.”

About the Author: Seth Godin is an influential author and thought leader in the areas of marketing and branding. In the last 16 years he’s published nearly 20 books, several of which are New York Times’ bestsellers. He blogs every single day at

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

Read This Book If: You want a clear strategy for starting a new project, product, service, or company.

Read It Because: It’s organized into sections that are each designed to get ideas off the ground (causation, articulation, activation, proliferation, and obligation). The content is easy to follow because of the use of subheadings, lists, charts, and diagrams throughout. It’s also meant to be actionable with exercises after each lesson.

Core Idea: A chart on page 23 summarizes the book’s topics best, but the most important advice offered includes finding a niche that your new venture will serve, keeping the planning and pitching process as simple as possible, and using all available resources to keep the costs of your start-up low.

Notable Quotable: “The hardest thing about getting started is getting started… Good enough is good enough. There will be plenty of time for refinement later.”

About the Author: Guy Kawasaki is a marketing expert and venture capitalist with over 30 years experience in the hi-tech sector. He worked as chief evangelist for Apple Computer’s Macintosh Division in the 1980s.


Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.