Chelsea Goldwell on the five books that drive her passion for sparking change and joy

In a career spent working across design, advertising and event marketing, Chelsea Goldwell has been defined by her passion for driving impact, change and joy. Here, we discover the five books that have shaped her inspiring journey so far.

It was during her work on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign that Chelsea Goldwell learned the importance of creating comprehensive visual systems and the great responsibility that comes with considering how that system is expressed.

Now, as Creative Director and Partner of digitally-native branding studio Zero in New York, she applies that same thinking for everyone from the 2020 Democratic National Convention and NYC Pride campaigns to disruptive companies in wellness and health, retail, fashion and style.

Both inside and outside of Zero, Chelsea is a champion of building a more equitable world. Through her own experiences as a woman in the industry, she knows the importance of visibility and having the space to be yourself. That mission is reflected in her most beloved books – tracking key points in her creative evolution and how it came to mesh with her progressive ideals.

Chelsea is a part-time faculty member at Parsons School of Design, currently serving as President of AIGA NY and a regular conference speaker where she talks about design's role in creating change for the better. When not at Zero, she can be found in either New York or Wisconsin, indulging in floral design, crafting, spending time with her dog Joans and exploring nature. Chelsea, it's over to you.

1. My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living by Jonathan Adler

I saw Jonathan Adler speak at a design conference early in my career and promptly bought his book immediately after. I fell in love with his candour, witty humour, his ability to be uniquely himself and the razzle-dazzle way he saw the world. His book emphasises the importance of surrounding yourself with colour, pattern, shapes and maximalist expression to improve the way you feel in your everyday life.

His successful creative career was fuelled by a pottery teacher who told him he "had no talent and should move to New York and become a lawyer", which is a special type of rebellion I can relate to. His approach to design and life is a reminder to embrace who you are and to do great work while not taking design too seriously.

2. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney

When I discovered Grace Bonney's blog, Design Sponge in college, I felt like I had struck gold. It focused on the creative community, with the goal of making the art and design world personal. They didn't just cover beautiful homes, objects and trends, but rather the people behind them, along with their struggles and real-life concerns.

As I've explored my career path, I've continued to follow Grace and was so excited when she published her book, In the Company of Women. This book is a series of vignettes of talented and diverse women who have followed their own creative pursuits and overcome adversity. The magic of this book is in its visibility. I love that I can pick it up, read a few stories and feel inspired by their perspectives and experiences.

Grace says it best in the introduction of the book: "Activist Marian Wright Edelman said, 'You can't be what you can't see'. Visibility is one of the most powerful tools we have in inspiring people to pursue their dreams and educate them about all the amazing options that exist. My goal with In the Company of Women is to provide motivating and relatable examples of all kinds of women running their own businesses, so that any woman, anywhere, can open to a page and see herself reflected."

3. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic is about how our ideas mean everything and nothing all at once. It teaches the importance of living alongside your fear to boldly pursue your creative ideas and that we're our most creative selves when we can be playful.

True to this book's themes of creative fate, Big Magic found me in a moment of transition when I needed a spark of creativity. It was recommended by a friend that spoke about it with such enthusiasm that I had to read it. I read it throughout many subway rides and return to it whenever I need a creative boost.

4. Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers by Ellen Lupton, Farah Kafei, Jennifer Tobias, Josh A. Halstead, Kaleena Sales, Leslie Xia, and Valentina Vergara

I just started reading this one, but it's truly the book of the design community's dreams! Extra Bold was started by Farah Kafei and Valentina Vergara when they were design students. It's chock-full of interviews with incredible people. It touches on subjects such as queer design history, emotional housekeeping, disability theory, typographic binaries, how to be a historian, and so much more.

From Farah on Extra Bold: "While studying design, Valentina and I were frustrated that we didn't have more women at the head of our own classrooms and inclusive education. We asked Ellen Lupton to join a panel discussion, and from there, this beauty of a book was born. It's pretty much everything we felt was missing. How absolutely bonkers."

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey

I have a thing for autobiographies by comedians. Tina Fey's book is the one that started it all. Her honest, funny, self-deprecating storytelling about how she's pursued her creative dreams, and the challenges she's faced along the way was just what I needed when I was first finding my way in the creative industry. This book reads like a conversation with a close friend and is sure to have you laughing out loud.

A few others I love by funny, creative women are: You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling, and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.

Bonus read! Martha Stewart Living Magazine

I know, I know. Technically this one is a magazine. BUT! Martha Stewart was a foundational source of inspiration for me growing up, so I felt the need to include this one. I had a subscription through most of my young adult life, thanks to my florist mom. I lived for the Halloween issue to see what Martha had dreamed up for her costume every year. With each issue, I looked forward to the projects, the beautiful typography, colour palettes and art direction, all in the pursuit of making the everyday beautiful.


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