5 Books Recommended by our Creative Director to Balance Artistry and Leadership


Posted on January 17, 2024 by Payton Pierce

Our Creative Director, Maddi Steffen, has embarked on a remarkable journey from being a designer to assuming the role of Creative Director. In this article, she shares the top 5 books that provided invaluable insights and shares the impact they’ve had on her career evolution.

My transition from designer to Creative Director has been an exciting and challenging journey, marked by significant shift in responsibilities, and has required me to become more business-minded, efficient, and a better mentor to my teammates. While I’m not an avid reader, I’ve identified the top 5 books that have been instrumental for me as I take on this transformational journey.

  1. Indistractable by Nir Eyal

Full disclosure, I’m currently in the process of reading this book, but its impact within just a week of picking it up compelled me to share. It was recommended to me by the exceptional Business & Executive Coach, Ron Walters. This book has already guided me to become more intentional in the way I spend my time in order to reach my professional and personal goals and given me a new outlook on how to get the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of me. 

  1. The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

In contrast to my first pick, this book has become a staple in my collection, and I revisit it multiple times each year and highly recommend it to my colleagues in design, marketing, and advertising. The Brand Gap is hands down the most succinct explanation of what branding is and why it matters, which has been instrumental in enhancing my pitching and selling skills. But above all, this book taught me how to leverage consistent branding to stand out in the information-rich and time-poor era we currently live in.

  1. Freelance, and Business, and Stuff by Amy and Jennifer Hood

I first discovered Amy and Jen Hood at the Adobe MAX conference in 2019 and have been a big fan of their work and philosophies ever since. While I’ve transitioned from freelancing, their comprehensive exploration of the intricacies behind running a successful business, whether you’re the owner or not, has profoundly reshaped how I approach time management, how I present myself, my work and my value to both clients and my company. This book is so well designed with beautiful graphics and illustrations and is written in a fun and lighthearted tone which made even the “boring” subjects entertaining.

  1. Herding Tigers by Todd Henry

The day I was promoted to Creative Director I was equally thrilled and terrified. I had finally gotten all of the responsibility I had been asking for yet there I was frantically searching amazon for books on how to do the very thing I had told myself I was meant to do. In that hunt I came across this life changing book, and boy did I gain a lot from it. From practical advice, relevant stories, prompts for discussion and directions for daily, weekly and quarterly tasks, I truly started to feel like I was slowly but surely turning into the leader that my creative team needed.

  1. How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

Initially given to me by one of my Graphic Design professors at SCAD, and as most college students do, I tucked it away in a drawer for 7 years and then dusted it off at the beginning of my freelance career and was mind blown, inspired and motivated by it. While I am no longer a freelance designer, this book still serves as a valuable resource for me as Shaughnessy’s profound understanding of the journey to becoming a successful business professional in the creative industry is truly priceless and furthered my appreciation for agency life and the endless possibilities I have to grow within my company.

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