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Designers Don’t Read by Austin Howe

December 13, 2015

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Austin Howe is a writer, creative director and freelance creative. This book is a collection of what could essentially be blog posts—short bits (each including an estimated time required to read) on the design/advertising industry. Howe’s not a huge fan of ad agencies for a number of good reasons (although he has freelanced at some of the best in the world). He calls out the same flaws that everyone does, gives advice on how to best serve clients, his thoughts on what makes a good creative environment, tells stories from the industry, etc. Some of it is insightful, some of it less so. This one isn’t on the same level as classic ad industry books like Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple, but because Howe comes at it as a writer talking about design, it’s a unique perspective. And his insistence on the importance of good design in communication is something, as a fellow writer, I whole-heartedly agree with.

My favorite part of the book, in fact, is when he makes the point by recounting the time he met Jay Chiat, co-founder of the legendary agency Chiat\Day and one of Howe’s idols. After a call from a mutual connection, Chiat agreed to meet Howe for lunch in Santa Monica. Shortly after they sat down for lunch, Michelle Pfieffer came walking in and sat at the table behind Jay Chiat.

For the next ninety minutes, my advertising guru waxed eloquently about the future of advertising and communications, and I am absolutely certain that he dropped some serious insight bombs that would have changed the course of my career…except that I wasn’t paying attention to a single word Jay was saying. My range of focus was limited to: Michelle Pfeiffer…Now you might be wondering what lesson there is to be gleaned from such an intensely personal anecdote. Just this: sometimes, beautiful design can actually be more compelling that pure content…Jay = content. Michelle = beautiful design.

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