Creative director Ivan Alonso shares five books that inspire his design practice

Ivan Alonso is a creative director and photographer based in Austin, Texas, whose work spans brand identity, brand strategy, campaign development and creative image-making.

He has worked both agency-side and in-house for various brands across the midwest and west coast, to create brand systems, immersive experiences, and the quirky moments in-between. He's currently associate creative director at Handsome, a holistic experience design agency.

When it comes to photography, Ivan is primarily focused on film photo series documenting everyday life. With experience in studio portraiture, fashion and lifestyle, and product photography, he is up for anything from creative vision to retouching and editing.

During the day, Ivan works from his home studio, helping emerging and established brands realise their ambitions and aspirations. In the evenings, you can find him exploring the ins and outs of noise, developing film, and donating time to community art organisations. Here, in his own words, he shares the five books that have influenced his life and practice as a creative.

1. The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

The Brand Gap was a great read during a sort of pivotal moment in my career. As a young designer, it can be easy to butt heads with business objectives and strategic goals in the name of art. I was moving more and more into brand strategy and creative direction, which forced me to acknowledge much more than brand identity. Building brands is oftentimes about the intangible, and this book provided simple and practical insights into the world of strategy.

2. Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier is a big inspiration for me as a designer, an artist and an interior architecture enthusiast. He checks so many boxes for me creatively. Most notably, he was an architect, but he was also a painter, photographer, poet and furniture designer, some of which I find more fascinating than his structures (hot take, I know). This collection of essays welcomes us into his brain, exploring his convictions on modern architecture. From rooftop gardens to large scale open concepts to dense city planning, you can see his influence on architecture all over the place.

3. Ways of Seeing by John Berger

While attending art school, my mind was being warped, moulded and opened up by so many things. What started as an assignment has turned into a staple on my bookshelf. Berger explores the gaze — what does it mean to see, and who is art meant for? For me, this book is a reminder to challenge the images we put into the world, why and, more importantly, how we might remove socioeconomic bias.

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

Like many other creatives, I’ve been known to battle the artist-designer complex – questioning where I should be in the industry, how I should get there and how to keep my personal ethics/boundaries intact. If you want some reassurance that you’re on the right track, advice on growth, or just navigating the industry, give this book a gander. I read this for the first time as a first-year junior designer, and to this day, I still find nuggets that apply to my journey.

5. Designer for the Real World by Victor Papanek

I read this after a course called 'Design Advocacy', where we explored what the designer’s role could be socially and environmentally. I was also fresh out of an internship with a studio that wholeheartedly believes in Design for Good. All of that, in combination with this read, helped me reshape my definition of design and question the role I wanted to play as I entered the industry. The themes that Papanek writes about still inform conversations I have today that sit at the intersection of design, the environment and capitalism. It’s a solid reminder to be more conscious when producing work.


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