Book Review: Creative Anarchy

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How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design For Creative Success

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Author: Denise Bosler

I received another offer to review a book just recently and couldn’t pass it up.  The cover and title sounded very interesting to me and certainly with my graphic design and 3D animation business, I thought there would be many things to learn and discover in the book.

First, the book is a large book and about 140+80 pages (more on that later) and a quick thumb through it leaves you impressed with the many visuals and color pages, yet scratching you head as to how its put together.  The reason; This is NOT an ordinary book.  And I loved that aspect of it.  From the first few pages to the back of the book, you quickly encounter the fact that the book reads from both ends and has what you normally expect at the start or end, quite out of order.  This showed me the creative aspects and anarchy topic of the book right from the first few pages, which I thought was just great.  The first half is about graphic design rules and what is typically done and why. It flows through 10 rules, exploring each topic with examples, tips and content to learn.  I found most of this information fairly uninspiring, but nonetheless, good information and some useful tips and examples, as well as at least few new points of knowledge on each of the 10 rules.

The back of the book (flip it around and read it backwards) then covers the anarchy aspect, labelled, Break the Rules.  These chapters cover:

  • advertising
  • branding
  • posters
  • publication design
  • promotions
  • packaging
  • interactive

They include many inspiring stories, examples and exercises you can do to expand your thinking and designs into what is beyond the normal rules of design.  It sparks a lot of ideas reading through the many examples and business cases described, so should help instill new ideas and methods to any design artist or creative individual.

The thing that left me wanting were branching into other graphic areas, like animation, computer illustration and 3D design.  Animation was not even mentioned and 3D came from a sense of physical 3D, not computer graphics or 3D printing.  As a 3D artist doing graphic design solely  in 3D animation, I was disappointed that these areas were not covered in a current book on design and creativity.  However, there is more than enough references to other styles and methods that this did not take away from the book and the creativity it helps tap into.  There were a number of examples of design for websites, but again, there was very little coverage of workflow and usability, which I consider to be the critical piece of creative design as a software developer.  I think concepts from the rest of the book can be applied here as well, but I would have loved to see more on the design aspects and creative aspects of software and computer imagery.

Overall, I think there is a lot to learn from this book and although it covers traditional print design thoroughly without exploring new design concepts like 3D print or animation, I think it has more than enough to spark new creative vibes and gives a load of examples and inspiring content to help any designer bring some new methods and ideas to their own workflow.  The whole concept then of breaking some of the rules to find that creative success is an excellent one and nice to see that this book make a great example of what it is teaching by breaking the rules itself.

Book Review: The Martian

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Author: Andy Weir

I rarely read fiction compared to the many non-fiction titles I devour.  Anyway, I had caught up on books I brought with me while travelling recently and so needed something new to sink into while doing some business travel.  I have to say, most of the fiction rack didn’t interest me at all, either romance or books about someone’s dog it seems.  At the time, I thought The Martian was the best of the worse, since nothing really interested me.  Anyway, I was quickly taken into the depth of this intriguing book and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Basically, the first chapter tells you the start and end of the whole book, which I couldn’t quite figure out why so much climax was put in at the start.  It definitely hooked me though as I quickly learned the astronaut, Mark Watney is left for dead isolated on Mars after a freak space accident with his crew, which they had to abandon him (having every indication and belief that Mark was in fact dead).  Mark quickly reveals how ingenious and inventive he is as he saves himself from death and begins what will be a very long isolated adventure on Mars.  From obvious limitations of food, water, air and company, Mark seems to face everything Mars can throw at him with his engineering mind set to solve each problem and move past it.  I certainly connected with the engineering aspect and some of the science behind his many inventions (I’m certainly no space junky however), and the author has certainly down his research in making every scenario, every experiment and every problem as realistic as you could expect, which I felt really help to draw me into the Martian world.  Mark logs his adventures from his own perspective and the book jumps between his solitude on Mars and the other parties involved from NASA to the crew to families back on Earth.

The whole story is quite an amazing adventure and the incredibly resourceful Mark Watney makes the whole book amusing and gripping. He is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read and I just couldn’t put the book down.  Each setback and problem, left me wanting to see Watney escape and figure out yet another impossible problem.  Its brilliantly written and I hope to see more books from Weir, as this is his first.

So, I hope you pick up a copy if you have any interest in space, science, adventure or even human ingenuity and resourcefulness, as this book has all of those.

 

Book Review: Wins Friends and Customers

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Relationship and Business Success from Empathic AcknowledgingClipboard Image (3)-814x1200

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Author: Lawrence Bookbinder, PH.D.

This book is a short and easy to read book with what is often otherwise complex content and terminology.  Bookbinder presents a wide scope of examples and context around the idea of using empathic communication (primarily listening) as well as acknowledging during conversations to help the reader better connect and understand how to show interest in relationships.  The book jumps between numerous examples, some repeated, to highlight different aspects of conversation that teach how to bring more empathic (the same thing as empathetic) listening into common situations.  People are so often focused (even in private conversation), on what they want to say in the conversation, it is common for neither party to ever really hear what the other is saying and even more rare that they connect and engage on the “important” portions of a conversation.  The techniques in this book help to demonstrate that and give methods and subtleties that can be practiced to change that and be more empathetic in conversation with others.

The acknowledging focus then in the book is essentially recognizing and repeating what another person is actually saying and a more advanced version of that, is to interpret some feeling or meaning from that that connects with the person sharing the information.  This is again a conversation technique and can be used while listening to confirm what has been heard, or to connect and engage the other on what or how it has impacted them, if that can be determined.  The author describes many advantages and disadvantages of each of these techniques and provides some great insight as to when to use them or when to refrain.  I thought these guides were quite refreshing and helped to lay a better context around when these tools should actually be used, as obviously they do not always make sense.

I enjoy reading books on different communication techniques or tools and this book was an easy read, quick to understand and I think one that will be very useful to me as I actually now do some practice with these methods to see where I can better connect and engage others in not just any conversation, but meaningful conversation.

One thing I found very odd about the book, was how much content is in the appendixes and how some of them are written.  They describe the book, they outline why you should read it and they seem to go into great detail to convince you to read it, almost to a defensive stance, which I could understand this on the cover, on the preface, but not in the appendixes.  I, like most people read the book from start to finish and so reading these aspects in the appendixes after reading the book, made me question what I had just read, since it seemed like the author was defending the book and perhaps even himself, despite any reason or challenge to do so.  I found that quite odd and not something I’ve seen before in a book.  If you do pick this up, I’d recommend starting in the appendixes and then reading the main book afterwards.

How and what are you learning lately?

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studying to learnLately, I’ve been doing a lot less blogging.  I still enjoy it however, one thing I’ve shifted from is how much I actually learn from blogging now from what I used to learn from it.  It seems looking back, that learning to blog, research topics, write content, market it, share it and discuss it with others had me learning as much about that whole process as the content itself I was writing about.  That process of so many added things to learn kept me quite excited about blogging and with so much of that becoming regular work instead of something to learn each time I had something to write, I found new ways to learn about and explore that content, not always in a blog article.  One way has been to put more of these ideas into practice and in life, to actually make ideas habits, instead of words.  Habits are something that drive so much of what we do and anytime there is something to change, you should look at what habits you want to form and if there are any habits you already have to replace with those new habits.  This is especially true because you cannot simply stop a habit, you always have to replace it with something new, and that makes habits very powerful for learning and change.

This is something I get to see in my own goal setting, in helping others set goals and in coaching people to drive change.  Habits are one of the first places I look and ideally, you find new habits to practice and make the old habits the triggers for those since they are always going to keep happening.  Change is something I’ve always able to easily embrace and often an advocate for.  It lets me explore and be creative with new ways of doing things and it keeps me motivated when I can explore a variety of things in life, include the tools and methods of how I do things (even old consistent things I’ve done for the a long time).

Recently, the new ways I’ve been doing some of my old past times is in my physical activity and training.  With back injury, I had to really step back from some of the intense physical training and activities I was doing for a while, but I have slowly progressed back to where I was and able to easily keep habits now that allow me to stay physically fit for these activities.  Whether I’m back out on the mountain unicycle in the rockies, practicing parkour or rock climbing, I can be confident that my training regime now better supports these practices and the training I do is habitual.  Bodyweight training with parallettes and gymnastic rings have become my new default training tools and they let me keep in shape for the physical activities I enjoy.

learning

In learning some of these news training / exercise styles, I’ve taken to using and watching a lot of great content online with youtube and finding some of the best channels to learn these skills.  I focus a lot on form and learning how to do things right, safely and with slow and safe progressions to ensure I never hurt myself badly again and to ensure I pick things up correctly so I don’t start or learn any bad habits which then need to be replaced again.  This has worked very well to find and develop skills in bodyweight training and my style of learning is then to train what I learn to others to help really set it in stone and to force a clear understanding of why to do things a certain way, so I can explain and teach that myself.  Again , this works well for me and I’ve since developed my Bodymaster webapp for tracking bodyweight exercises and I’ve setup a small fitness centre at my office and regularly train with some others who are just learning some of these same skills, whom I’ve able to help them through various levels of safe progressions, just like I learned.  The Bodymaster app was similar for me, in that I was learning to write applications with javascript and html5 and also wanted to learn jQuery mobile for making the app run easily on mobile devices.  It was a great learning experience and I was able to merge both learning the programming needed as well as the body weight progressions needed.

So, these are some of my recent learning experiences, I have many more I could write about in coaching, leadership, rock climbing, additional bodyweight training and probably others, as it is a common way for me to learn new skills and I know I will continually looking for ways to make habits of new things, to explore and combine areas of learning and to tie things I want to learn to interests that keep me easily motivated.  I hope you can find similar connections to things you have to learn and I’d love to hear about any ways or things you’ve been learning lately in comparison.

Book Review: Summary of Recent Reading

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Well, without always taking the time to make notes and write up a full book review, I thought I would blast out a summary of 14 books I’ve read recently and my major takeaways and ratings of these books.

 

Superfreakonomics

Author: D.Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

This a great book and sequel to the first, Freakonomics.  If you are interested in some of the strange economics and statistics that lead to questions to the norm, then this book is for you.  I particularly loved the content on global cooling, altruism and the value question between pimps and realtors in regards to add societal value.

 

Wikinomics

Author: Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams

This book covers a scope of how information has become open, shared, global and done with peers.  For bloggers who are well read and informed of the many social aspects, marketing and sharing tools, I wouldn’t recommend the book, but for those are are interested in how these social circles work, the tools and methods within them and to learn more about the shift in information creation, then it covers a wide scope and should give you a deep gain in knowledge of how editable online content has emerged and is shaping the direction people use and rely on for information.

 

Self Promotion

Author: Nancy Ancowitz

I was extremely disappointed in this book as its not a book on self promotion for introverts at all, its cookie cutter advice for business promotion primarily in extroverted methods, which simply don’t work for introverts.  I’m an extrovert myself but was hoping to find better ways to explore and coach introverts in their own methods that would be more compatible for them with self introspection and creatively in their ways, but this book is not that.  I actually couldn’t finish reading it I thought it was so useless and the author’s continual reminders and emphasis on extroverted methods are rather patronizing.

 

CypherPunks

Author: Julian Assange

Well this was an interesting read for the sense of gaining perspective in the whole aspect of privacy and security with internet data and information.  It is really a transcript of various discussions with a panel of experts on the subject and they very intelligently explore some of the challenges society faces and the troubles with internet security and privacy of data.  Some of it is actually quite scary as you learn about the many controls in place on these areas you may not even be aware.  While I found it intriguing, I also found it a bit boring and there is good thought provoking dialog but nothing really to give you much in the way of take aways, really lessons learned or applicable knowledge.  It might be different if you are in this space more closely than I.

 

The Power of Body Language

Author: Tonya Reiman

This was a book I thoroughly enjoyed will likely read it again to help remember, practice and deeply learn the hundreds of techniques, ideas and methods to reading someone else’s body language.  It covers a huge spectrum with interesting case studies and experiences shared for many of the techniques which puts more substance to them.  If you are interested in learning to read and understand people better in face to face communication, then this book is an absolute must.

 

The Half-Life of Facts

Author: Samual Arbesman

Facts are something that may seem like they don’t ever change, but this book challenges and actually proves that to not be true.  All facts and what we know as knowledge changes over time and there are realities to that which we should consider in how we use information and what we would call, “facts”.  Its quite an intriguing book and I enjoyed reading it, as it gives data evidence and examples to prove points (which I like) and it really makes you think about some of the data you “think” you know is true and where much of that comes from.  It forces the reader to ponder some of the ways you use information.

Wait – The Art of Science and Delay

Author: Frank Partnoy

This book was a fun read as it takes a look at many aspects of where waiting to make decisions until the last possible moment can have excellent results, despite common thinking on procrastination.  Its very well written, funny and engaging for the reader as useful and common examples of decisions for life are explored to see how waiting can be a serious advantage.

 

The Long Earth

Author: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Definitely a fictional rarity for me but I did enjoy this book.  The Long Earth is a scientific imaginative exploration story through a journey millions of universes wide to discover and seek out if other humans have evolved in these many universes.  I disliked the lack of plot and real story development as much of the book seems like a stream of story sci-fi bits pasted together as the characters ‘step’ from one universe to another, ever stepping farther from earth.  It’s completely anti-climatic which was disappointing yet I was still a bit intrigued with the whole concept and the ways the parallel universes are exploited and inhabited by humans.

 

What Every Body is Saying

Author: Joe Navarro

This is a good introduction book to learning and detecting body language but it is somewhat simplistic and does not tie in enough cues together to really be able to understand body language well, as the book “The Power of Body Language” above does do.  It makes many mentions about how just a couple cues were used so obviously in the author’s job experiences, that it seems like he is overselling the body language as as set of obvious signs, even though it is not, nor does he lay that claim.  Its a good starting book to start reading body language but I’d recommend the book about on the subject over this one, as its more interesting, much more in depth and covers subtleties and relationships between conflicting body languages signs much better.

 

Just Listen

Author: Mark Goulston

This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.  It is simple to understand, very actionable and the methods are easy to learn and remember.  Listening skills are so crucial to good communication and I found that I learned a lot of things I can still apply more often from this book and some new techniques and methods I would have never had before.  The tools he provides will help you put your mind into the other side of communication and focus on the other person, which many people say but never give you a good set of tools like Goulston does to actually accomplish this.  If you want to improve your listening skills and take some his challenges to overcome some of your own pride, I suggest you read this book, apply his techniques and start listening to what others not only say around you, but what they have to say about you.

 

Connectome

Author: Sebastian Seung

I have enjoyed many articles and books on the science of the brain and so Connectome was a book that really intrigued me.  A Connectome is essentially the entire neural network in your brain that makes you, well, you.  It is a unique mapping to every individual, it of course changes dramatically over time and it is something that scientists would love to be able to map out in its entirety, which is under way for extremely simple animals, but decades away from even conceptually mapping a human mind due to its complexity.  Seung explores neuron types, synopses and the relationships between them as actors and interchangeable parts.  If you know this science at all, you are sure to learn some interesting things about the mind, how it works and how science is discovering its capabilities and simulation of those areas.  Overall, I thought it was a bit too science oriented without a lot of take-aways (unless your a brain scientist) so I’d recommend The Brain That Changes Itself if you are looking for a mix of science and story about the amazing structure, uniqueness and adaptability of the mind.

 

The Thank You Economy

Author: Gary Vaynerchuk

Vaynerchuk is has earned respect from his blogging, videos and now his books as well as he dives into the social arena with this one.  It covers all the necessary advice of how companies must not overlook social media and change the way they think in order to grab attention, act like the small local businesses and reconnect with the people that should be their customers.  He always displays a huge passion and this book is no different as you can tell from his unique style, having as many sidelines and comments stuck in with his thoughts as his videos do.

 

The Art of Non-Conformity

Author: Chris Guillebeau

Non-conformity has never been too difficult to me as I have many unique sports, have a reputation for being different and for often being know to have a bit of a tendency to break the rules.  All these things are covered well in the book by Guillebeau and I thoroughly enjoyed it which I think you will as well.  Whether you connect with these concepts or not, the author gives ample advice on how to change these norms and to not get stuck in the normal day to day life the same as the masses with nothing special to show for it.

 

C.S. Lewis – A Life

Author: Alister McGrath

I’ve enjoyed so many of Lewis’ books I thought I would see what a biography about the man would add for me.  I have to say that while this book itself delivers well on that subject, it just doesn’t seem to add anything to me for thinking about Lewis’ writing or my own beliefs as result, which certainly all of Lewis’ books have done.  If you are interested in the whole story of Lewis, this one uncovers the known, the documented and draws conclusions from evidence to fill in some of the missing pieces of Lewis’ life, but I have to say I thought it was rather boring and uninteresting and I’ve read a few other good biographies as well, so had an idea of what to expect.  While that might be for you, it wasn’t for me, I’d recommend you simply read more of Lewis’ work directly, as he has so many amazing books.

Book Review: The Trust Edge

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How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line

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Author: David Horsager

This is a great book about how you can make a different in an organization by using and leverage trust in how you operate and behave in your organization.  The author stated in the book “Trust flows from individuals, not organizations” and that is a fantastic summary of the book and really the reason to read it.  You can make a difference with how you use trust for yourself, your career and your organization and the trust edge is something that is available to anyway, independent of their organization as there is always room for trust.  Surely different organizations will have barriers or roadblocks (as they all do) to how far or how quickly you can use the trust edge, but you can certainly make some room for it.  Because of this, I think it is an excellent book to read and a lot of very wise advice and behaviors are outlined in the book, making it actionable and applicable to everyone, which I love about a great book.

Horsager outlines the foundation of success, trust into 8 pillars of trust:

  1. Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.
  2. Compassion: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.
  3. Character: People notice those who do what is right over what is easy.
  4. Competency: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable.
  5. Commitment: People believe in those who stand through adversity.
  6. Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends.
  7. Contribution: People immediately respond to results.
  8. Consistency: People love to see the little things done consistently.

Trusted leaders are followed and these pillars allow a leader to develop genuine relationships and powerful reputations leading to higher revenues and success in the business. Horsager includes many useful and actionable segments in the book with questions to pose on yourself and summary steps to help you put more trust into the way you operate in business.  These make the book much more applicable and his guides and methods are all very reasonable and useful to follow.

Horsager based his book on findings from top company research and he provides many examples of how trust is a critical factor to the success of these great companies.  Trust of the internal people and processes but also trust of the customer and vise versa.  Customers will never stick around if they do not trust you and your company.

So, I recommend this book to anyone interested in business, especially if you are interested in making and improving the trust and relationships you have internally and with customers, as it can make a huge impact on your success and enjoyment in your work.

Copyright © 2015 Mike King