What’s Your Creative Bible?

When we asked a range of top creatives to tell us about the books that have most influenced their careers, we expected to hear a lot about Ogilvy on Advertising or Communication Arts. And while some say that reading about and looking at great work help to inspire great work, others give pride of place on their agency bookshelves to everything from Sartre’s Being and Nothingness to The Great Gatsby. – Mae Anderson

Kathy Delaney, Managing partner/executive creative director, Deutsch, New York

Bradbury Thompson The Art of Graphic Design (Yale University Press)

“I get inspiration from so many different things. I’ve made it a point not to look to advertising books or annuals for inspiration. Bradbury Thompson was an amazing graphic designer who started out as art director of Mademoiselle. His ideas were always incredibly simple but executed in innovative and truly groundbreaking ways. His ideas in the ’50s influenced all pop artists of the ’60s. I reference his Mademoiselle cover designs. Basically, they were women shot on a seamless background and type, yet he managed to mix up elements in such a way that they were innovative and ahead-of-their-time pieces of art.”

Linda Kaplan Thaler, Founder, The Kaplan Thaler Group, New York

Geshe Michael Roach, The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Strategies for Managing Your Business and Your Life (Image Books)

“The Diamond Cutter is about the power of positive imprinting, which helps to inspire creativity and really drives growth of a company. We try to have an extremely positive atmosphere at Kaplan Thaler. I try to adhere to a lot of practices [described in the book] at the company, such as ‘yes’ opens up possibilities, and ‘no’ shuts down the creative process. The ability to constantly leave positive imprints on one another helps to draw out the best creative thinking from your staff.”

David Lubars, President and executive creative director, Fallon North America, Minneapolis

Bill Bernbach, Bill Bernbach Said … (DDB)

“It’s a little thing they produced at DDB, with Bernbach’s quotes and beliefs, a skinny little thing, about 20 pages long. It has one remarkable gem after another. It’s still relevant and timely. [Bernbach] would say stuff like, ‘Don’t confuse good taste with the absence of taste’—cool little things like that. ‘Properly practiced creativity can make one ad do the work of 10.’ It talks about what research can and can’t do, what ads can and can’t do. It’s timeless—timeless thoughts, as opposed to clichés.”

Tony Granger, Executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi, London

Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? (Putnam Publishing)

“It really gave me the courage to move out of the wonderful comfort zone I had in South Africa at a fantastic agency [TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris]. And in New York, to move again to London. [TBWA\H\L co-founder] John Hunt gave it to me, but I didn’t read it for a long time. I read it and promptly moved to New York. It’s a very simple book, about mice that live in this maze, and they go to the same place for food every day. They’re very fat, comfortable mice, but one day the cheese is gone. The difference between the two mice is that one keeps going to the same place and hoping for food, and the other goes forth and tries to find food in a different place. It sounds terribly naive, but it really isn’t. I give [it] to senior staff to make them comfortable with change.”

Mark Tutssel, Vice chairman, deputy chief creative officer, Leo Burnett, Chicago

D&AD annual (British Design & Art Direction)

“The book I have read religiously every year since I came into advertising is the D&AD annual. This is known in the U.K. as ‘the book.’ It’s the creative’s bible and a source of inspiration and learning. For the last 20 years, I’ve read every book a thousand times. I recommend this book to every creative, whatever level. We should all become students of advertising.”

Alex Bogusky, Executive creative director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami

Howard Gossage, The Book of Gossage (The Copy Workshop)

“Howard Gossage was an ad guy from San Francisco back in the ’50s. He did this amazing interactive work at the time. He would have loved to have been around now, because it’s so much easier. He did a lot of stuff, like creating coupons so people could send away for nonsense. He was kind of a genius. We bought one for everybody in the creative department probably four or five years ago. It’s fun to see what he was doing with print and think, ‘How do you apply that philosophy to what we’re doing today?’ Whatever you’re reading winds up making its way into the work. It’s good to always be reading something.”

John Hegarty, Co-founder, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London

William Goldman, Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade (Vintage Books)

“[Goldman] is one of the all-time great screenwriters. He understands how to write for the screen—doesn’t matter if your script is 30 or 60 seconds long. His one great piece of advice when you’re writing a scene is to come in late and leave early. That’s fantastic advice. It means you can assume people know things, so you don’t have to overexplain. It’s also just a hilarious read.”

Ann Hayden, Executive creative director, Young & Rubicam, New York

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (Scribner)

“Most of what’s helped me in advertising comes not from advertising. Every year I still read The Great Gatsby because it’s very rich and simple, and it’s kind of a great American myth. It has great symbols and characters, and the writing is really unique. The thing that’s funny is that the eyes of God in the book are actually an advertisement. It’s kind of ironic. It moves me every time I read it. The last line [‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past’] is like advertising because we keep going at it, trying to get somewhere, and my hope is, sometimes you really make it.”

Nina Disesa, Chairman, chief creative officer, McCann-Erickson, New York

Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster)

“It influenced my life more than anything I ever read. It made me a writer. It made me understand how odd the world was. There was a sense of the ridiculous in that book that appealed to me. Catch-22 made me want to be paid to write. If you can deliver a powerful message through humor, it’s a difficult thing to do. Mark Twain did that, and the best writers in American history try to motivate people through humor. So does advertising, and that’s hard to do.”

Jamie Barrett, Partner, creative director, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

Larry Dobrow, When Advertising Tried Harder (Friendly Press)

“Sort of a brief history of advertising in the ’60s. It described campaigns like Avis and VW and some of the great old stuff, and the point it was making was that, literally, people in advertising were trying harder. They were feeling like what they were doing in some way was important and influential, and [the business] was treated as more of a true creative pursuit. I always got some inspiration from it because it featured a lot of wonderful work, but it was also always oddly reassuring to me that 40 years ago there were people who were working 70-hour weeks, trying to do great advertising. There’s something kind of sustaining about the fact that you’re not the only one who thinks it’s worth the effort.”

David Droga, Global creative director, Publicis Worldwide, New York

Ivan Fallon, The Brothers: The Rise & Rise of Saatchi & Saatchi (NTC/Contemporary)

“The D&AD, The One Show, Communication Arts and the Cannes festival all produce must-have annuals. However, advertising books which have inspired me for longer than 12 months are few and far between. Perhaps the one exception is the biography of Charles and Maurice Saatchi. I’ve only read it once, but I was 18 and my advertising aspiration only extended as far as the outer suburbs of Sydney. Their vision, their arrogance and, most important, their work opened my eyes. Ironically, 10 years later I found myself working behind Charles’ old desk. I often wondered how many times Charles had thrown my chair at Maurice.”

Ewen Cameron CEO, Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (Washington Square Press)

“It teaches you about the struggle for meaning and identity through action and belief. Kind of instructive in how you build brands. Sartre’s core idea is that people define themselves in the context of others—’the look,’ he calls it. We are in a constant perceptual battle with ‘the other’ to be perceived and to live authentically. The symbols we use help us gain control over that perceptual battle, because they have meaning that both you and ‘the other’ accept. That is what brands are: commonly understood symbols that generate both internal and external meaning. Viewing brand building through this lens makes what we do make sense to me.”