Capsule 18: Must-Reads From Our Library

In celebration of turning 18 this year, the Capsule team takes a look at some of the things we have learned on our journey to adulthood.

This week, we delve into our favorite reads from the shelves of the Capsule library.

Books were photographed with some of our favorite textures throughout our office. 

18. The Black Swan - The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

His pen has been much mightier and drawn more blood than many before him. The alter-ego of The Shakespeare of behavior economics, willing to cleanse your palette with the truth, no matter how hard it hurts. If you have an affection for predictive research, metrics, or our desire to believe we can predict the future, this is your book.

17. The Sense of Style

Author: Steven Pinker

Our signed copy in the office has one of the original Physics of Brand models sketched in by Mr. Dan Wallace. If Pinker knew how much his writing on language and writing influenced our work, he’d be proud. You can’t call yourself an informed writer if you haven’t read The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker.

16. Antique Tins

Author: Fred Dodge

This book is a visual treasure trove of vintage packaging. It is an excellent place to find typographic and illustrative inspiration.

15. No Logo

Author: Naomi Klein

Imagine Naomi writing this 490 page book, getting one copy and throwing it into the ocean of brands and brand speak. The ripples continue today with the 10th anniversary edition. If you don’t want to see your “consumer” self in the mirror, don’t carry around your personal trash for a week and don’t read No Logo. Thank you Naomi for getting up in the morning and writing this book.

14. The Social Animal

Author: Elliot Aronson

We see our society more clearly through Elliot’s writing. Artists are scientific and scientists are artists. His writings, from a legally blind individual, see farther into the social and human psyche than most sighted people see. We are social animals. If you’re wondering about why we do many of the things we do, this is a book you should one-click order.

13. The Physics of Brand

Authors: Aaron Keller, Renee Marino, and Dan Wallace

We thought long and hard about including this book in our list — it is a bit self-promotional. But, in the end, we can’t deny loving the work that was done. It is designed beautifully, the contents are intellectually stimulating and the models actually work. If you’re wondering what the book is about, here it is: customer experience = brand value. And we’ve done the math to prove it.

12. Being Digital

Author: Nicholas Negroponte

Written in 1995 with this quote inside, “Computing is not about computers any more, it is about living.” Reading digital history can be boring, until you run across a line that is just as relevant today as it was when he pressed it into a computer keyboard.

11. Chanukah Lights Pop-Up Book

Authors: Michael J. Rosen and Robert Sabuda

This is simply a beautiful book, the pop-ups are impressively intricate and don’t feel childish due to their all white hue. It isn’t necessarily a go-to resource book, but when you’re feeling uninspired and want to simply look at something that is beautifully well-made, this book can be a nice break from the everyday.

10. Beyond Trend - How to Innovate in an Over-Designed World

Author: Matt Mattus

Matt struck a cord with us when he ventured out from his design world to title a book, “beyond trend.” His influence over our firm started with this quote: “The ability to discover — either through curiosity or experimentation—has enabled mankind to overcome fear through experience, and create a world rich with structure and art.” The finger prints of Matt’s influence are all around Capsule.

9. A Smile in the Mind - Witty Thinking in Graphic Design

Author: Edward de Bono, Designed by The Partners

We have used the phrase, “everything is designed, some things not so thoughtfully.” This book is thoughtfully written and designed. When we have someone enter our office who has little or no exposure to design, we give them this book. It’s like the first film you ever watch being “Citizen Kane.” You are entering the world of design through the exact right door.

8. Basic Packaging 

Author: Pepin van Roojen & Jakob Hronek

This book has all sorts of different package structure designs – each concept shows the flat dieline, how it folds, and a photo of a constructed package. These books are great resources for structure design – they can help you think about different shapes, closures and any other variable we need to consider in box-based designs.

7. 1984

Author: George Orwell

1984 should be on every must-read list. It's remarkable how relevant the larger themes in Orwell's dystopia is to marketing, design, branding and politics of modern culture, and we predict will continue to be relevant for generations to come (and happens to be inspiration for one of the greatest ads to date). 

6. The Observational Research Handbook - Understanding How Consumers Live with Your Product

Author: Bill Abrams

Jane Goodall did not interview the gorillas. She observed them and discovered the truth about their behaviors. This book is the best head start into the world of observation research. And, because only in behavior can we see the truth, this is the best book to get you headed toward more truth in your research.

5. Design Matters // Packaging & Logos Editions

Author: Capsule

The title says it all. We say it all the time. Design DOES matter. We wrote these sister books back in 2008 and the principals still hold true, if not, more true than ever in a saturated world of brands. Our packaging and logo books are a designer's guide to the design process, taking  you from planning all the way to implementation. They're also chalk full of case studies that feature strategically driven and simply flawless design solutions that will make you want to drool.

4. Brand Sense - Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound

Author: Martin Lindstrom 

He may not have been the first to connect our senses to brands, but he was certainly the most deliberate and insightful. If your brand is consumed (sadly) only through a single human sense, you’ll appreciate what this book has to offer. We use all our senses, brands are certainly not excluded from the least likely.

3. How to Nickelodeon

This one is a particular favorite gem of the 90s kids in the office who have great respect for what a strong brand they have. This brand guideline is a great example of how important brand can be to a company, and how well thought out Nickelodeon’s is.

2. The Experience Economy

Authors: B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore

When someone says they do CX work or customer experience design, our first question is, “have you read The Experience Economy?” If not, then you're likely confining customer experience to digital only. Pine and Gilmore wrote this book in 1999 and was popular when it came out, but is still highly relevant today. To say they were ahead of their time is an immediate eye roller and ‘of course’.

1. The Blue Zones - 9 Lessons for Living Longer

Author: Dan Buettner

You living longer isn’t your doctor’s responsibility. It's on you. And there are better ways to live - mindset, location, behaviors and what you consume all contribute to living longer. This book contains profound knowledge hand delivered to you via Dan Buettner nearly a decade ago, now all you have to do is buy, read, and live.

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About The Author

Ellen Pickering

I am a recent St. Olaf graduate with a dual degree in Sociology/Anthropology and Studio Art. Guided by my interests in human behavior, research, and discovering trends and patterns, I am always seeking new ways to follow my curiosities, ask questions and turn ideas on their head. Other passions of mine include taking photographs, shooting hoops and organizing interior spaces.


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