Beyond Pixels: Why Designers Should Write Their Own Book

There are many design and logo books available, what was your motivation for creating a new book?

It goes back to when I was a teenager. I was really into illustration, so I would collect a lot of movie art-of books from things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. I also enjoyed comics and illustrated books, such as Robota by Doug Chiang, which made a big impact on me, so I developed the dream to do my own epic illustrated book. That book never progressed much beyond just a scrapbook of ideas, but the idea of writing a book has stuck with me since.

When I developed a passion for logo design, I was buying and reading every book I could find, I was reading every article and social post, and asking loads of questions. There was no book that had everything, and while I didn’t have the experience back then, I had this big idea of creating a book that could become “The ultimate guide to logo design”. My ideas changed a lot since then, but the seeds were sown. It just took 10 years to develop the finished book.

In terms of motivation to do this, it was an entirely selfish one. I simply wanted to write a book, and now I have.

But it comes with its benefits, which is what pushed me to get it finished. I like to help people in the design community, and having seen and responded to so many questions over the years, I’ve been able to answer those questions in my book and share what’s worked for me.

If it wasn’t for the generosity of experienced designers sharing their learnings, I would not be here today. I have learned so much by reading books, listening to podcasts, watching youtube videos, and asking people questions. I’m almost entirely self taught, so I have a strong belief that I should share everything I learn and pass that knowledge on to the next generation.

I believe everyone should be doing that. So to be able to put it all into a book, something permanent that will live far beyond my life, feels like the best thing a human can do. Something I’m very proud of.

I’m also really into marketing, and know the benefits that come with being an author. Social proof, reputation growth, and doors open that didn’t exist previously. Trust and reputation is our greatest asses as a designer, and by being an author of a popular design book, my belief is that it will enhance my reputation significantly, and hopefully push my career to new heights (I’ll keep you posted if that’s actually true or not!).

Which design books often come off your shelf and get used as inspiration for your designs.

There’s a lot of logo books out there, and most I would describe as gallery books, so it’s these I will primarily reference for inspiration. 

The one that comes out the most, and the one book to rule them all, is Logo Modernism. If you’re a logo designer, and you have just one book, get this.

Pentagram Marks, and Identity: Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, are 2 books I consider as benchmarks. Work of such a high standard. I dream of doing work this good, so they come out frequently to remind myself where I need to be.

I also really enjoy the logo gallery books by Yasaburo Kuwayama. They’re older, so it’s harder to get hold of decent quality copies, but they’re a joy to look through too.

I would note that my books are not like these – it’s not a gallery book. It’s much more text heavy, as I have so much to share beyond simply creating logos. If you want to make a living designing logos, you need to learn so much more than how to create a logo, you need to learn how to attract clients, how to sell your services, how to build your reputation and so on, and I’ve covered all of that, and more, in my book.

Tell us about the process of writing the book. What steps did you go through?

It’s been a long process. One I started around 10 years ago.

Initially I created a plan using Post-it notes, which is an approach I learned from a youtube video by Pat Flynn. Basically I took a Post-It, wrote down a topic I wanted to include in the book, and I kept going until I ran out of ideas. I then bundled them together into groups, which became the chapters, and I eventually had a plan for the book.

I then planned to take a topic from this list and turn it into a blog. My thinking was that if I could keep writing blogs, eventually I’d be able to put them all together in one book.

But my issue was that I underestimated how much content is needed for a book. I heard somewhere that a small book is around 50,000 words, so in order to get anywhere near that, I would need to write 1000 words a week for an entire year.

My problem, however, was that I struggled to have time to even write one blog a month, let alone one a week. 

Work and life always got in the way, but the dream never left.

A few years later, after following advice from Tom Ross at Design Cuts, I created a lead magnet to build up my mailing list. Tom recommended I create a lead magnet so great that it should be free, and by that point I had written a fair amount of blogs. So I ended up adapting them for a series of ebooks, which I called The Logo Designers Boxset, which became the foundations for the book I’m now releasing.

Year on year I set myself the goal of finishing this book, and each year came to an end without it being complete. It was only when my business went from being a side venture to being a full time job, that I decided that I needed to seriously commit to this goal if I stood a chance of getting it done… 

So I set myself a hard goal, and started a daily routine of writing.

Every day for several months, after I had put my daughter to bed, I sat at my desk to write, with the goal of writing 500 words a day, and I did that daily for weeks. I also shared my progress daily on social media, so that I had some accountability.

No matter if I was tired or not, I sat and wrote. I was committed.

The first draft was best described as a brain dump. I just wrote and wrote and wrote. It didn’t need to be well written, I just needed to get all the ideas out of my head, which also made it much easier to write.

I think it’s worth mentioning here that the idea of the book evolved from my original plan. I can’t remember exactly when that plan changed, but I believe it was when I was working on this first brain dump. What started out as a “how to” book, and the ultimate guide to logo design, turned into something much more personal to me – I started sharing my own personal experiences. What worked for me, what didn’t, what I would do differently, and I wrote it in my own voice too. 

Making this decision made the book significantly easier to write, but I also feel this approach made it a better book too. It went from being a book that’s been done hundreds of times before, to being a very unique book that only I could write. Something raw, real and honest. A book about making a living as a logo designer, from someone who’s doing just that. What I share might not work for others, and may not even be the best way, but I hope it will at least inspire people who dream of doing the same.

I realised that this approach also helped unite everything I had been building over the past several years, from a podcast to community and blog. The book could become core to a larger ecosystem, all focused on supporting people who make a living as a logo designer. My book, being my story, and my podcast being the story from others.

Everyone’s process for creating logos is unique.

Anyway, back to writing the book.

After writing daily for just over a month, I had a first draft written. I had got all of my ideas and thoughts out of my head and on paper. Now, I could go back through the whole book, from the beginning, to re-work it all.

Reworking the book was harder and less fun compared to just throwing words and ideas on paper, so some days it was an absolute chore to rework sentences, while other days I could burn through pages at a time. Several weeks later I had a second draft finished which I was very excited about!

At this point I decided to hire an editor to take this content and rework it while I continued to work on the additional sections in the background. 

The odd thing though was that writing those new sections was a chore. I actually really struggled. I don’t know if it was burnout from working daily for weeks on end, or if those sections were genuinely more complex than the rest, but I was not enjoying it. So I decided to forget about them for now, and start working on the design of the book instead, the exciting part that I was looking forward to!

Things were coming together, designs were looking good and the edited copy came back. I FINALLY felt that after so many years, I was really close to actually finishing my book.

But then life got in the way, and the book was shelved for almost 2 years. I could write a whole book about what happened during this time, but the simple truth is, life got rough… extremely rough, and it made me unwell and miserable. It was only after months of therapy that I started to feel myself again, and part of my healing process did involve picking up and revisiting the print out of the book that was sat on my desk throughout that whole time.

Although I had lost passion for the book, I printed the missing pages, stapled it all up into manageable sections, and re-read it all. Seeing it with a fresh pair of eyes I was able to see a way of integrating the new sections I had planned to write into the rest of the book, and slowly my excitement returned. I then sat daily, hacking away at the book, with a new sense of determination to just finish it off.

Done is better than perfect. I just wanted to finish it.

The last push was tough. I constantly felt that it was nearly done, so I’d dedicate whole days of focus to continue on thinking I’d be done, but by the end of the day, despite working hard from morning to midnight, it still needed more work.

When I finally reached the end, and having added all the images, illustrations and so on, I actually wanted to cry with joy. The experience had been long and tiring, and I had finally got to a point where I had a finished book – at least finished enough so I could start sharing it with others for feedback, and to order up some personal copies. 

And that’s pretty much where I am with it now.

A friend is reading through it, and has a list of feedback for me, and my sister is proofing it too, with lots of improvements and suggestions too. I just need to make those amendments.

You chose to self publish. Was this an easy decision and why did this end up being the best option?

I mentioned earlier that I’ve wanted to write a book for years, so I was going to write it regardless of it being published or not, but at some point in my journey, when researching everything book related, I came across print on demand. 

Growing up I was always under the impression that book writing was expensive. Not only did you need to write the book, but you also needed to pay editors, proofreaders and designers. Then on top of that, you needed to buy large volumes of stock.

Thankfully this approach is a thing of the past. Now you can write a book, stick it on Amazon, and copies will be printed when people order a copy. How incredible is that? Who needs a publisher when you can do it yourself?

Although there’s another side to this. I didn’t think I could ever finish writing a book, let alone actually have the support of a publisher. But thankfully, the feedback from those who have read it, or seen sections from it, has been very positive, and I feel very confident that the advice I share will be of value.

The down side to print-on-demand though is the quality isn’t on par with books from publishers that have been printed in bulk. You’re also stuck with stock materials. 

It’s not terrible, but it’s also not to the standard I would expect from a design book. It’s also all rather expensive. I’d need to sell my book for £30+, which is expensive compared to other popular design books, and I would make only 50p per copy too. Although I stress that I never made this book for money anyway, so that doesn’t matter. 

I looked at doing the book in black and white, which would be significantly cheaper, but I also started to look at another option…

I ended up getting a quote from a couple of companies for a small sample of books. After receiving those quotes, I made a decision quickly as it was a no-brainer… I decided to launch it on kickstarter so I could order a large batch. It would mean a better quality book and better prices for everyone too. Plus, and one of the biggest benefits, I could start to promote it while waiting for feedback from my friend and sister – I was keen to crack on, and this allowed me to. 

I made the decision one minute… and less than a day later it was up on kickstarter. I cracked on!

Done is better than perfect.

How is the kickstarter going and when will you launch?

It’s been mind-blowingly successful! I knew the book would sell, as I had a handful of people interested from sharing my progress on social media, but I wanted to be realistic too. With Kickstarter it’s “all or nothing”, and I wanted this to happen, so I worked out the minimum I needed to make for the idea to be viable. So I set the goal to £1000, and hoped for the best.

But it went crazy. I did not expect it to hit that goal in just 12 hours. I actually didn’t even tell anyone I was launching it on Kickstarter. I really just decided it one evening, prepped the content, images, a video, and pushed it out. I had also been keeping the book progress private at this point too, so really… nobody, even friends, had a clue this was coming.

24 hours later it doubled. That’s when I started to add stretch goals. Goals that if hit, I offer something extra. 

I thought 5k would be a nice target to reach throughout the duration of the campaign, so I let everyone know that if hit it, I’d record an audio book. 

I honestly thought it might be impossible to hit that, and if I did, it would take a while, but I smashed through that goal just a few days ago, and at the time of writing this, I’m only ⅓ of the way through the campaign, and barely even hacked into my plans for promotion!

Honestly, I’m blown away, and can’t even imagine where this will go, as I have been informed that Kickstarter campaigns spike at the very start, and at the very end too, so things could go even higher. I have a lot of ideas, but I’m just amazed and very humbled.

For those reading this who supported the campaign so far – thank you. Honestly, my personal life hasn’t been easy these past few years, so this has been such a wonderful experience, and I cannot wait to see where things go over the next month. I’ll make sure every backer of the project is greatly rewarded, and I’m incredibly thankful for the support.

My hope is that the book is finished and ready to send to print at the end of the Kickstarter campaign, which comes to a close on 23rd August 2023. It apparently takes about 2 weeks for the money to come through, and then I’ll be ordering everything and working hard. My hope is that I’ll have everything done and dusted by the end of October, but I will keep everyone updated. 

Once I have sent all copies out to the kickstarter supporters, I’ll then stick the book on Amazon KDP, so people can purchase the book print on demand. Note that I may look to working with a publisher, who can help to distribute the book globally at a better price, but we’ll see. There’s lot going on at the moment, and that’s not the priority right now… the kickstarter campaign is.

Finally, would you recommend other designers release a book?

Every designer I’ve met wants to write a book. In fact, almost everyone I know wants to write a book. The reality though, is that writing a book is so incredibly hard. It’s honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But, it’s also been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done too. The feeling of getting to the end, and opening up a sample copy is a really treasured memory… and the whole experience of the Kickstarter campaign has been really quite incredible – so much love and support… it feels like one of the biggest moments of both my career, and my life too. 

So should designers write a book? I think everyone should write a book.

I don’t know what will happen next, but I’m happy to enjoy the ride knowing I’ve finally fulfilled my dream of writing a book after so many years. I genuinely really appreciate all the support so far.

July 22, 2023

You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.