The Art of the Idea

The Art of the Idea by John HuntAnd how it can change your life
by John Hunt
ISBN: 9781576875162

This book is a quirky and pleasant object: it features sort of cardboardy covers, an interestingly flat/matte feel to the illustrations, and inviting, expansive margins with the text. Handling it, I saw that Seth Godin, Tom Peters, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation blurbed it. Okay, that got my attention. Not that I give tremendous weight to blurbs, but I do pay attention when they are by people I like, or they are an unexpected mix.

In this book, John Hunt (Worldwide Creative Director at the advertising agency TBWA) offers seventeen observations, and artist Sam Nhlengethwa illustrates them. The feel is provisional, collaged, open instead of fixed, and the intention is to provoke thought to lead to forward motion.

You may not expect to hear things like this from an advertising guy, but:

If something is fundamentally bad or wrong, it’s pointless trying to embroider it with good ideas. If the premise is false, no amount of great thinking is going to change that. Yet time and time again, ideas are asked to fight lost causes.

It would be pretty easy to soundbite this book (“no one orders a bouquet of beige flowers”, “logic is kryptonite”) and make is sound like something fluffy and easy to snarkily pick apart, but that isn’t the point. The point is to provoke yourself, and hopefully those around you, to more open thinking, to engage with ideas and change things as a result.

Original thinking needs a longer leash. Continuously taking your mind for a walk to exactly the same place doesn’t really exercise it. You can’t connect different things together if what you’re seeing is always the same. It’s because you know the narrow confines of your particular space that you have to venture further afield. The gap between what you already know and what you’re exploring is often where the best ideas pop up.

Recommended if: the bozos are getting you down, if you want a source of inspiration close at hand, if physical books about creativity make you happy.

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