Ten books on creativity and design thinking

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During the last two years, we have been going through not-so-easy days, and our minds might feel stuck on thoughts ending up in low energy, low productivity, or even anxiety and depression. 

Yet, there is always a light at the end, and it may come from unexpected places, for instance: the mind. 

The brain is active at all times, either when we are awake or also when we sleep, our brain keeps itself working and also imagining all kinds of scenarios, for example when we meet new people, when we go to school, when we are about to marry, when we are about to undertake a new business or when we are before something uncertain, this fact is the raw source to boosting creativity and innovation processes, and we all are able to tap into it. 

It is in fact this source that has helped professionals and experts on the subject to come up with more structured and organized ways of thinking.  Have you heard about design thinking?

“Design thinking is a methodology and a mindset, it’s a way of the most fundamental level. A way of creating value for the world so it’s typically applied within a structure of either a business or an organization or any sort of space where someone you know or a group of people are doing something for another people. – Marina Terteryan

Knit Marketing

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is not actually an exclusive ability or job for designers. Great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business, have practiced it before the concept formally existed. 

What is special is that designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply these human-centered techniques to solve problems in a creative and innovative way, in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, in our lives. 

But are creativity and design thinking the same

Not really, but they need each other, and as we have seen in our previous post,  creativity is not always a conscious process, which is when design thinking comes into action. 

While design thinking was initially intended to be implemented in the professional field, it can also help to boost and enhance the creative and innovative process of children and teens. It works for whoever feels stuck in the creative field and wants to help the world become a better place by adding unique pieces to the puzzle, and the good news is that all of us are capable of contributing to this. 

Which books can I read about creativity, innovation, and design thinking?

Even though there is plenty of literature that cover these subjects, we are listing 10 books that we have gathered through our previous readings, friends recommendations, and research: 

  1.  Design{h}ers: A Celebration of Women in Design Today 

We want to start with this informative and illustrative book as a way of showcasing talented females that work and express their love for creation and innovation throughout the globe. These women are conveying and communicating a strong message through designing and its multiple angles.

DESIGN(H)ERS is an art collection published by viction:ary that works as a great work of outstanding talent spanning across a variety of design fields and mediums. On 256 pages, the book celebrates the distinction and eye-catching diversity that women bring to their own creative fields through visuals and enticing interviews. Filled with lots of compelling stories and highly creative arts, the book is intended to inspire women and men of today and the future. And we could say by the reviews already done from people that this fine publication is both aesthetically beautiful and well written.

Leanne Lee, a graphic designer at viction:ary tells “It’s Nice That, “As a design book publishers of nearly 20 years, we’ve noticed a big gap in the bookshelves for a release like this for some time now.” Having worked with a number of talented women around the world, Leanne comments on how the company is “honored to have featured some of the most inspiring people in the industry” and created the book in the hopes of showcasing even more.”

You can get this book with our friends from Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, a black-owned bookstore that’s worth supporting. 

We need more books that promote women’s works where they can show and share that dreams can be achieved by anyone who is passionate enough. 


  1. This Is The Service Design Doing – Marc Stickdorn 

This book is highly recommended by our dear friend Marina Terteryan who is 

an expert on the subject, we will leave you a link at the end of this article so that you can check out more of her great work.

This book was written by many authors, but unlike several other collaborative books the editors; Stickdorn and Jakob have brought the different sections into a coherent whole.

This book delivers a practical framework to those who want to implement design thinking into their organizations. 

One of the features of service design thinking, according to the authors, is that all contributors are acknowledged. The editors have done this by including short biographies of the different contributors. This is a nice touch, they have also included a huge number of references as footnotes. This means that as you read the book you are able to quickly reference secondary information if you wish to sidetrack yourself.

Early in the book, the authors look to explain service design in different ways: 

As a mindset, as a process, as a toolset, as a cross-disciplinary language, and as a management approach. 

You can get this book here

Some remarkable quotes: 

“As a customer of an organization, you are like the child playing Pass the Parcel, the only way to get to the offering you want is through all those layers, they all contribute to your experience.” 

“It is important to understand that prototyping is not just about creating a prototype, rather, the creation of prototypes is only the starting point, which allows us to focus on using and testing prototypes, and learning from them” 

“The value of prototypes resides less in the models themselves than in the interactions they invite” 

This Is The Service Design Doing
  1.  Originals – Adam Grant 

Adam Grant is a psychologist and writer, and also has been a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Originals is a work where his author gathers and details how our uniqueness must be developed through our courage and determination to change. 

It can be addressed from an artistic and a practical approach to finding fantastic ideas by means of hard work. Adam says that the more ideas you can gather, the more quality they will acquire over time. 

Contrary to what most people tend to say “quality over quantity” this book is an invitation to flip the coin and put the same weight on both sides quantity and quality. 

Similar to one of our previous posts, Grant also suggests in the book that some of the best ideas in history have appeared during procrastination. 

If you are searching for a different way of thinking and changing your own perspective and vision, this is a good starting point of reference to lean on. 

Originals contrast the traditional ways of thinking and doing things, it proposes radicality, non-conventional methods, and even controversial ideas to become creative and singular. 

You can get this book here

Some remarkable quotes: 

“Originality is an act of creative destruction”

“Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice”

“Being original is not the easiest path in the search for happiness, but it leaves us perfectly prepared for the happiness of the search” 

“Originality brings more bumps in the road, but it leaves us with more happiness and greater meaning”

Originals Adam Grant
  1. Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

What would creativity be without flow? 

Flow is a book where you’ll find good reasons to live a happier life. The author expresses that a meaningful life is one where the person spends his time in a state of optimal experience called “Flow”. 

Considered a hard read, but likewise worth it for challenging your current beliefs on happiness. 

The author promotes the book as a way to unify your goals, producing the maximum amount of flow to live a great life.

Mihaly explains that people usually end up feeling that their lives have been wasted and filled with feelings like anxiety or boredom. 

What is flow according to the author? 

“The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost.”

Flow is when you’re so invested in a project that you lose track of time. When you feel “in the zone”.

To achieve flow, you need 3 things:

  1. Realistic goals
  2. Your skills match the opportunities for action
  3. Complete focus is on the activity

With a bit of luck, we all will experience this flow once in life, and this book is a supportive friend to help us find it. 

You can get this book here

Some remarkable quotes: 

“The problem of meaning will then be resolved as the individual’s purpose merges with the universal flow.”

“If a person sets out to achieve a difficult enough goal, from which all other goals logically follow, and if he or she invests all energy in developing skills to reach that goal, then actions and feelings will be in harmony, and the separate parts of life will fit together—and each activity will “make sense” in the present, as well as in view of the past and of the future. In such a way, it is possible to give meaning to one’s entire life.”

“The sooner we realize that the quality of the work experience can be transformed at will, the sooner we can improve this enormously important dimension of life.”

Flow Mihaly
  1. The accidental creative – Todd Henry 

Todd Henry provides us with a straight and strong approach to creativity and how the workflows in organizations tend to be inefficient most of the time by creating a false sense of hard work. 

Also, he speaks out about the freedom of creativity and he suggests setting effective limits rather than biased ones. 

I like the way he addresses the current fact of short-term gain and how this affects seriously our capacity of focussing on long-term rewards that demand certainly an extra effort but that offer better and long-lasting results.

In this book, we will find tough ideas that awaken our sense of routine and established reality with clear statements that pinch our arms and push us to think out of the box.

Todd Henry proposes a new way of approaching creativity with sincere thoughts that reflect a lifetime of work to get to the expected and desired results and not settle with average.

The accidental creative could be considered as a practical framework for those who are constantly putting in all efforts into their works with few or almost no results.

Highly recommended. You can get this book here

Some remarkable quotes: 

“What you must avoid is the kind of frenetic activity that seems like productivity but is really more about the appearance of being busy than the actual accomplishment of effective work. You want to work strategically, not desperately. When it comes to your effectiveness, fake work is often more dangerous than no work at all.”

“The reality is that we are not capable of operating without boundaries. We need them in order to focus our creative energy on the right channels. Total freedom is a false freedom. True freedom has healthy boundaries.”

“The key to cultivating creatively stimulating relationships is threefold: you need relationships in your life in which you can be real, you need relationships in your life in which you can learn to risk, and you need relationships in your life in which you can learn to submit to the wisdom of others.”

“Contrary to the cultural belief, to remain humble and curious and to bend our life to the advice of those further along the journey is actually a sign of strength.”

The accidental creative
  1. The art of work – Jeff Goins 

When spending a year abroad in Spain during college, Jeff Goins discovered his love for writing, traveling, and realized he really wanted to make an impact on the world but didn’t think he had what it takes to be a writer. 

Here are 3 great takeaways from The Art Of Work:

  • Make a list of all major events in your life to find your calling.
  • There is no such thing as “self-made”.
  • Don’t sweat it too much – live a portfolio life!

From the get-go, Jeff doesn’t sugarcoat things. It’s not easy to find your life’s purpose. If it was, everybody would do it and we wouldn’t look at the grim fact that only 13% of all people worldwide actually like showing up for work.

Jeff suggests introspection to be aware of ourselves and make a list of major events of our lives, like turning points where we could take out experiences that help us shape our goals in life.

Thereafter, Jeff explains that life is not easy even if we are set up with an upbeat attitude, but that does not mean that life is awful either. 

He encourages everyone to have a mentor, a coach, someone to rely on, someone that can speak out about your growth areas, your virtues, and your actual capacities. 

This book addresses success from a creative perspective and gives you a starting point to dive deep into your passions from the most objective angle possible, without sugar, which is part important of the book as he says that our modern times are sweetening almost all. 

In fact, Jeff says next to work, there is also home, which is all about friends and family, play, which is all about having fun and purpose, which is your life’s grand work.

You can get this boo here 

The art of work
  1. Collective genius – Linda Hill, Kent Lineback, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove 

A good read to strengthen innovation for leadership inside an organization or any team that is interested in exploring new angles of creativity with an actual purpose. 

“How can leaders build an organization that is capable of innovating continually over time? By creating a community that is both willing and able to innovate.”

Collective Genius promotes leadership as a way of disruption for the modern businesses tired of the traditional way of getting results to thriving. 

The authors of Collective Genius assert that creative mindset, creative agility, and creative resolve are the necessary tools for teams that want to innovate. And it is the role of the leader to ensure that all these elements are operating in the group. New ideas are generated and tested with these tools

Collective genius is full of anecdotal stories. Each chapter has an extensive case study drawn from well-known companies that illustrate and reinforce the ideas being discussed. Anecdotes are searched in places like Acumen, Google, and eBay. And for the authors, Pixar seems to be an example of an innovative company. The book is well organized and readable, but some readers may wish for more real-world examples, rather than corporate stories.

In the end, Collective Genius is a book where entrepreneurs can find good references on how innovation is a must nowadays for any business in any industry and how it fosters better leadership through a complete set of ideas and tools.

You can get this book here

Remarkable quotes: 

“To build willingness, leaders must create communities that share a sense of purpose, values, and rules of engagement.”

“Purpose is not what a group does but who is in it or why it exists. It’s about collective identity. Purpose makes people willing to take the risks and do the hard work inherent in innovation.”

“Willingness is necessary but not sufficient for innovation to flourish. Companies also need the ability to innovate. That requires developing three organizational capabilities: for collaboration, creative abrasion,or the ability to generate ideas through discourse and debate; for discovery-driven learning, creative agility, or the ability to test and experiment through quick pursuit, reflection, and adjustment; and for integrative decision making, creative resolution, or the ability to make decisions that combine disparate and sometimes even opposing ideas.”

Collective genius

  1. Thinking with Type – Ellen Lupton

And what about designers, writers, and people who are into innovation for words and also after innovation and creativity for their works overall? 

And contrary to what it may sound or look at first sight, this is not a book about fonts. 

It is rather a critical guide for designers, writers, editors, and students.

If you ever had the slightest interest in typography this is a good choice. 

What I found truly interesting is that this book is not only for one reading but also for keeping it close as a guide of reference for any time you feel you need an extra hand when it comes to creating something new, whether it is for a new book, a new design or just a simple draft for the future. 

It is packed with information and examples that allow you to visualize various styles, theories, and methods.

Despite what might seem like a dense topic, Lupton does a great job of making the content easy to digest so you can take as much as can. The book is organized into three primary sections: Letter, Text, and Grid.

Each section begins with a well-researched essay that provides greater context for the material and is followed by a variety of illustrations with a how-to section and exercises.

The bulk of Thinking with Type is made up of visual examples with comments, instructions, and anecdotes from Lupton. She uses carefully chosen graphics of contemporary and historic works and every page is filled with some examples of type.

Although pro designers might find this book too brief or sort of simple, it is meant to be fairly comprehensive without getting too complicated.

One of the best features about Thinking with Type is the bibliography at the end that defines a wide variety of terms for you, so you don’t have to worry about being unfamiliar with the relevant terminology.

We think it is a good point to start or even to become better if you are already on the go. 

You can get this book here

Some Remarkable quotes: 

“The history of typography reflects a continual tension between the hand and the machine, the organic and the geometric, the human body and the abstract system. These tensions, which marked the birth of printed letters over five hundred years ago, continue to energize typography today.”

“Typography helped seal the literary notion of ‘the text’ as a complete, original work, a stable body of ideas expressed in an essential form. Before the invention of printing, handwritten documents were riddled with errors. Copies were copied from copies, each with its own glitches and gaps.”

Type Ellen Lupton
  1. Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

Thinking fast and slow is a book that shows how two systems –Intuition and Slow Thinking–can help us to make better decisions amidst complicated situations.

That moment when you start feeling burned out and your mind seems to get blocked and your set of tools slow down drastically. Yes, those moments happen in the middle of a meeting, when we are working or when we are presenting an exam.

Daniel Kahneman says that it is possible to tap into difficult moments by connecting our intuition along with slow thinking and that this process helps us shape our judgment more efficiently. 

This book is intended for those who are prone to making rash decisions that sometimes regret and it promises to be more than a good piece of advice. 

Sometimes we think fast and sometimes we think slow. One of the book’s primary ideas is to showcase how the mind uses these two systems for thinking and decision-making processes. System one operates intuitively and automatically – and we use it to think fast, like when we are running or recall our name in conversation. Meanwhile, System two uses problem-solving and concentration – we use it to think slowly, like when we calculate the bill or the taxes. 

We will find some practical recommendations like administering our days by taking regular breaks combined with work and then being able to clear our brain, practice some mindfulness strategies and somehow train our two systems to be proactive and reactive at our disposal. 

Kahneman says our system one is gullible and biased, whereas our system two is doubting and questioning — and we need both to shape our beliefs and values. 

So, if you are about to make an important decision in the next few days, or even you are having a hard time settling down or simply are curious about how to enhance your time productivity by implementing these strategies, Kahneman promises a worthwhile read. 

You can get this book here

Some remarkable quotes: 

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it”

“If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do.”

“A general “law of least effort” applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, the effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.”

thinking fast and slow
  1. Creative Confidence – David Kelley 

And last but not least, this one is likely one of the basics to introduce us to the design thinking world. 

The author Tom Kelley is the founder of IDEO and creator of the Stanford d. school shares the key principles to tap into our creative potential. 

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, is about helping people rediscover what they already have: the capacity to imagine or build upon new ideas, and the confidence to act on those ideas to make a change in the world.

In Tom and David Kelley’s experience, everybody is the creative type. They’ve seen it in workshops and seminars time and time again, business types and executives always feel uncomfortable during the fuzzy or unconventional exercises, but after they stick with it for a while and let go of their insecurities about what is ‘supposed’ to happen, they find out that they have an imagination too, and it’s ok to use it.

You can get this book here

Some remarkable quotes: 

“I used to think that to make something happen in a corporation or in the army, you had to be at the higher ranks, to be a general. But you just need to start a movement.”

“That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.”

“Failure sucks, but instructs.”

“Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process.”

“As Brown writes: “When our self-worth isn’t on the line, we are far more willing to be courageous and risk sharing our raw talents and gifts.” One way to embrace creativity, Brown says, is to let go of comparison.

Creative confidence

Thank you! 

And this is how we reach the end of this article that we truly hope can be a good starting point for those who are in the search of innovation, creativity, and design thinking.

We appreciate deeply the contribution of our dear friend Marina Terteryan, you can also check out her work here.

if you think we are missing a good piece that should be included here, please share it through our social media, we will be pleased to read your comments.  

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