March 31, 2015Can you learn creativity from a book? …and should you?

I stopped over to the suits’ corner of the office I was freelancing in last week. I’m used to seeing creative ‘bibles’ ranging from The Copy Book to Ogilvy on Advertising on the desks of fellow creatives — the sort of book you can open at any page and be inspired, giving you an idea that will jolt you back into action.

But I was surprised to see one of the best reference libraries I’ve ever seen in an office sitting on the desk of a planner. I immediately picked up a copy of Hey Whipple and flipped it to the section on how to deal with client feedback. Because even though it’s been a few years since I read it, there was a paragraph that I remembered was incredibly relevant to our current situation. I took it over to the account guys and, after reading just a couple of pages, they all decided they wanted a copy of this book.

Can a non-creative learn creativity from a book?

When I wrote my book on copywriting, it was intended to teach people who’d never written commercially before to write something that was true to them and their business — a few web pages or even a print ad. I never intended it to teach anyone how to have a career — Simon Veksner’s ‘How to make it as an advertising creative’ doesn’t teach you how to write or art direct, but it’s a much better read if you’re a junior copywriter looking to get ahead. Tom Albrighton and Andy Maslen’s books on copywriting are probably better than mine, too (well, just as good).

It’s an old question. Is creativity something you can learn? Or is it something that’s a part of your personality? Plenty of people want to be artists, writers — even a few of us want to make ads. But few ever have the ability to do so.

Still, I think two books in particular are incredibly instructive to anyone embarking on a career in advertising. The first of those is the aforementioned Hey Whipple, Squeeze This simply because it’s so comprehensive. It teaches you the difference between good creative and bad, how to handle client feedback, gives you an insight of the type of people you’ll be working for and with. And it teaches you to think for yourself. The other book I’d recommend is Pete Barry’s The Advertising Concept Book. It’s a wonderful companion piece to Hey Whipple and is much more visual and even more practical. It’s the closest book I can think of to a lesson plan that teaches you how to make ads. I enjoy it because I’m a very written word kind of guy, but Pete Barry’s book is much more about the visuals, the art direction, and how copy works inside a given space.

These aren’t books I’d necessarily recommend to seasoned creatives (although they’re great reference guides). But I’d definitely recommend them to anyone who works in advertising but who doesn’t work in the creative department. It’ll give you the ability to judge work, give your opinions and even make a few suggestions — as well as understand just how hard good creative work is.



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