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InsightOct 04, 2023

Stepping out: Five books that will help you “out” your most creative self

By Parker McLean RGD, Creative Director at Harc Creative

Book Cover photo of The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero

For many designers, myself included, the most challenging aspect of our work is remaining engaged with our craft over time.

Sure, a flashy client-name or high-profile project gets our juices flowing for a while, but soon enough we’re back to feeling the grind of endless stakeholder management. In my career, the ways I’ve personally sidelined myself are innumerable—whether I was taking jobs in known-to-be-hostile environments, burying my intuition amidst client dynamics or shelving my own expertise in favour of “fitting in,” I spent too many years in a closet of my own making.

Put simply, I’ve been humbled to reconcile how much I’d domesticated myself as an emerging designer. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more and more practised at climbing out of the figurative cave and I see a night-and-day difference across every aspect of my life. Every day, I’m still learning a great deal about how to live a meaningfully creative life in concert with others; I hope that by sharing some of the bright minds who have helped light my way with you, we all can grow to hold ourselves a little taller, together.

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work

By Seth Godin

As a creative, I’d always taken for granted that my work—from crayon-scrawled drawings all the way up to photorealistic renderings—would feel vulnerable to share. With equal parts head, heart and humour, Seth Godin walks the creative-minded person through the ‘practice’ of producing risk-taking, world-changing work from start to finish. In doing so, he brings light to the critical respect and attention we ought to pay to the ‘soft-skills’ that can make all the difference between burning out or reaching higher.

The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag

By Sasha Velour

I’d sensed from a young age the power graphic design holds to obscure reality: How many grade school book reports did I over-produce with hardcover bindings and illustrated tables of contents? Several! How many did I actually read the books for? Few! In her debut publication, graphic designer-turned-drag superstar Sasha Velour dives into her relationship with manufactured appearances and high-polish survival tactics to unearth her own journey towards authenticity and creative self-realization. For those looking to do a double-take on your own career, this one’s for you.

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

By adrienne maree brown

In my day-to-day life, it feels increasingly unfashionable to imagine a brighter future than we’re living in today—with a growing litany of crises to respond to, I and other sensitive souls are left wondering: how and when can we begin making things better without getting shouted out of the room? In her multifaceted exploration of change as it relates to self, brown reminds us that while our current challenges are urgent, it was urgent thinking that got us here in the first place. If you need a reminder to go slowly, deeply or intentionally, this could be it.

Thoughtful Leadership: A guide to leading with mind, body and soul

By Fiona Buckland

For those of us in the design agency hustle, the line between management (timesheets omg!) and leadership (values yay!) can become more of a gradient. Fiona Buckland’s Thoughtful Leadership came into my life at exactly the right moment: Harc had been gaining momentum and getting busier with clients across the county, but I felt unsure how to feel my own heartbeat when the rhythm of client-work and office politics were playing at such high volume. By shifting my focus inward and cultivating a greater understanding of my innate leadership, I began to once again hear the signal through the noise.

The Shape of Design

By Frank Chimero

On the brink of massive proliferation of AI technologies, the boundaries of what’s possible within design and other creative fields are under open scrutiny. In his canonical, certainly-worth-rereading book The Shape of Design, Frank Chimero draws an unshakeable analogy between how a marble sculptor works with the shape of his material and how we as graphic designers can be constrained and ultimately potentiated by viewing our material through this same lens. Lean into boundaries and watch your creative practice grow.


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