Books that have shaped how we work
A recommended guide if you’re starting a design studio
Very few books have had the influence on the way we run our business as much as the list below. So much so, that when I went back and re-read some of these I was surprised how closely I had been following some of the lessons learned here. To a certain extent, some of these had become the default behaviour in our day to day practice without even noticing and I can’t imagine what Hangar would be without these books.
1. Rework — Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
This is at the top of the list because it was the first one that I read from the list but also because it influenced Hangar’s anatomy and size. This book came out in 2010 and it mainly talks about how to run a business leanly, agile and remotely and that your location should no longer matter or influence the quality of your work. Indeed, Hangar has been working remotely for more than 10 years now and running as lean as ever.
2. The Win Without Pitching Manifesto — Blair Enns
Simply put, do not pitch for free. Your work costs money. Your work adds value. Your work needs time and research. Do not pitch for free, and you can still win. I promise you. So how many free pitches have we given in the last 10 years? Zero.
3. The Design Method — Eric Karjaluoto
This book re-shaped our design process in the last five years. The simple 4-step process of a project: Discovery, Planning, Creative, Application is now our de-facto system for any new project. It is a process that helps clients understand how a project is broken down and what to expect from each phase, and also gives us direction and focus. We know that this process needs to evolve, and in fact we do redefine it from time to time, but the Design Method gave us a solid foundation to work off.
4. Design is a Job — Mike Monteiro
Monteiro’s writing is casual, provoking, and funny. But it is also incredibly useful. Design is a Job is a book full of lessons that are usually hard to come by, such as dealing with clients, working with contracts and of course getting paid. Many designers tend to forget that no matter how exciting and creative our industry allows us to be, it is still a job. Luckily for us, Mike Monteiro is here to remind us.
5. It’s Not How Good You Are, it’s How Good You Want to be — Paul Arden
A quick read. One, maximum three pages for each idea. Written by none other than Paul Arden (ex-Saatchi & Saatchi). These are lessons learned through advertising applied for the business world. This book helped us learn to find meaning in our work but also to have better conversations with our clients.
6. Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far — Stefan Sagmeister
This book will make a beautiful addition to your collection and bookshelf, not only because of the insightful value it holds but also because of the interesting artworks, photography and printing techniques applied. Full of short stories or one liners, these are valuable nuggets of insight from Sagmeister’s personal and professional life. One that is still with me eleven years later: Either act or forget. And this is not a just a business lesson.
7. Hiut Denim Yearbook 1
The first time I landed on Hiut’s website was after seeing its case study on a studio’s portfolio. For some odd reason I still remember this. Hiut is a denim brand from Wales, so how did they end up in this list? The Yearbook is now in its sixth issue and it is a collection of inspiring essays on things like how to run a small business with a big story to healthier living. It also taught me that you shouldn’t wash denim for the first six months from your first use. Who would have thought?
Each issue has a theme and is a collection of essays by influential people such as Seth Godin, Frank Chimero, Liz Danzico and more. I picked the first issue for this list because it was the one that drew me into the world of Hiut. If you’re not yet convinced about Hiut, you should have a look at their story.
8. The Manual: Issue 1
In 2011, the world of the web was changing. There was a huge shift in the way websites were being designed as browsers and technology were finally catching up, but also on the importance of web design as a medium. New design philosophies were being developed and designers were questioning whether web design processes should be different from those of graphic design. This book is a collection of six essays and six personal-accounts-turned-lessons written by various designers who were making an impact on the future of the web at the time. This book helped to elevate the craft of web design and gave it the importance that it truly deserves. Thanks to the Manual you can still read these on their website.
9. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things — Don Norman
Known as the godfather of UX, Don Norman is a prominent voice and ambassador for user centric design. Emotional Design is a reminder that although design is about ”how it works”, it is also about how it looks, how it feels and more importantly how it makes us humans feel.
10. Imagine: How Creativity Works — Jonah Lehrer
Putting the controversies and scandals with this book aside, Imagine is still a great read and it is hands down one of my favourite books. This book is fast paced and full of interesting anecdotes. It gets into the detail of what influences creativity, be it funding, environment or peers and goes on explaining it with insights and data that give the reader a better understanding of the concepts discussed.
These ten books have had a significant impact on the way we operate and we still refer back to some of them to this day. They have influenced Hangar’s studio’s structure, design process, client relationships, and overall mindset towards running a lean and remote studio. From redefining the design process with The Design Method to learning valuable lessons about contracts and getting paid with Design is a Job, each book has provided us with valuable insights and practical advice.