COLLINS Design Director Megan Bowker shares the top five books that have shaped her career
She's the New York-based designer director renowned for her impactful work at COLLINS, the creative agency famous for its identities for Spotify, Twitch and Mailchimp. Now Megan Bowker is sharing the five books that have helped shape her notable career so far.
Megan has a body of work across a spectrum of emerging to established brands that always sits at the centre of strategy and complex brand systems. More recently, she has been working from her home garden and teaching Design with Typography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Here, we hand over to Megan to tell us more about her favourite titles and why they have positively impacted her life and work.
1. Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
This is a fascinating book. It's about how metaphors are so deeply ingrained in our way of thinking that they actually shape our behaviour. This analysis changed the way I understand language and behaviour and proves the power behind this linguistic tool that designers use daily.
One of the most potent and immediate examples of how metaphors shape behaviour is to imagine the difference between understanding argument in terms of war (to win an argument, to shoot down an argument, to attack an argument, or to defend a position) – versus understanding argument in terms of dance. What might an argument look like if we used a different metaphor? Might it become a more rhythmic and graceful mutual exchange?
2. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens is "a brief history of humankind". It's a best-selling nonfiction book that covers in broad strokes all of human history in an insanely pointed way. The author organises and strings together patterns throughout time that fundamentally changed the way I understood the world.
It's the type of book that makes you feel like a fish that can suddenly see the water. Harari explains complex ideas in a way that seems so obvious that they bring clarity to the chaos of humanity and civilisation. Maybe it's refreshing because this level of clarity and insight is what we constantly seek to do in design. History that forces us to ask questions like, what does it mean to be human? What holds us together? What motivates people? And his succinct explanation of the importance of a myth is wildly relevant to anyone who works in storytelling.
3. The Politics of Design by Ruben Pater
This is a snapshot of the cultural and political context of design elements: colour, typography, image, symbols, and infographics. Its message is blunt; there is no such thing as global design since the interpretation of design is dependent on cultural context and association. This serves as a strong antithesis to Western design narratives and curriculum that emphasise "universality.": It's a strong collection of examples and references that can help us all form a more thoughtful design practice.
We all naturally sit at the centre of our own universes. It means giving our own perspectives and experiences more weight than ones we don't live. This book can pull you out of your own universe.
4. Teaching to Transgress by Bell Hooks
This is a series of essays that challenges the traditional structure of a classroom and rethinks the role of a teacher within it. I would recommend this book not just to anyone who is a teacher but anyone in any leadership position. The act of unlearning dominance and absolute objectivity within the context of mentoring or teaching is a good step towards a culture of exchange, intimacy, and mutual growth.
5. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
One of the most formative classes I took at SVA was a French Existentialist Literature class that dove into Camus. At the risk of sounding clichéd, this book changed the way I experience and appreciate life. This iconic essay uses the Greek legend of Sisyphus - a man punished by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity - to explain the absurdity of life and the struggle to find happiness and meaning in it. I've cited this as one source for my steady foundation of gratitude and wonder.