The book: The 46 Rules of Genius: An Innovator’s Guide to Creativity — a stimulating short guide to cultivating creativity
The brain: Marty Neumeier is the perfect person to write about genius because he is one. He rocked the world in 2005 with the book The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance between Business Strategy and Design, a deceptively short and punchy book the shows how to close the gap between brand strategy and creativity. Now Marty has written another short book that’s packed with wisdom and provocative insights about creativity. Marty always combines pithy observations, how-to instructions, and a visual design language that makes strategic concepts accessible and memorable.
The best bits: The 46 Rules of Genius is already a best-of — it conveys the key points from Marty’s last book, Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age — so it’s hard to pick out the best bits from it. But a few rules that were particularly challenging to me were:
- Rule #3: Feel before you think. Marty explains, “Feeling lets you forge a connection with your subject that mere thinking can’t reach.” He advises not to jump to conclusions — instead, “Be still and listen” and “Feel your way forward.”
- Rule #9: Approach answers obliquely. Marty explains, “Creating surprise is a crucial step in creating value through innovation” and we first must surprise ourselves. So he provides nine approaches to help make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas including “Think in metaphors” and “Watch for accidents.”
- Rule #26: Start with curiosity, not belief. “Ideology is toxic to learning,” declares Marty. He even suggests “a key characteristic of genius is a strong disbelief system.” We must put aside our preconceived notions and question why we believe the things we do.
The brand story: When I interviewed Marty, I learned about how he and his team applied some of the rules of genius and ended up creating some of the most iconic packaging of all time: the white boxes that contain Apple products.
Marty explained that when they were approached by Apple in the late 1980’s to develop new packaging for its software, they didn’t start with the conventional approach of showing office scenes with people doing important things and listing the features and capabilities of the software. Instead, they looked at what everyone else was doing asked themselves, “What would be the opposite of everything we saw out there?” And they ended up creating a streamlined design, with only the name of the product, a single hand-drawn image like the drawing of a file for FileMaker, and one sentence to explain why to buy the product — all on a crisp white background. The rest is history, right?!
In the interview you will also learn:
- How Marty defines creativity and why you should read this book even if you don’t consider yourself creative
- Why you should prototype — and shouldn’t do focus groups
- How real genius is about the willingness to break the rules
The bottom line: Chockfull of counterintuitive insights to be challenging and inspiring — The 46 Rules of Genius is another must read from Marty Neumeier.