Top five: Books to break creative block

Creative block happens to us all, but as our clients count on us to be full of ideas every day, and at every meeting, having strategies in place to help us break the deadlock, or avoid it completely, it is something we take pretty seriously. 

Just as scribing gives clients new ways of seeing old problems, we too seek fresh perspectives when inspiration is running dry. That's why our studio is stacked to the roof with an impressively broad-ranging and beautiful collection of books. 

It covers typography, graphic design, data visualisation, treatise on creative and visual thinking, classic comics, maps, graphic novels, even gruesome medical illustrations... there really is something for everyone.  

And, at the start of every new project, our team will pull a few of these books from the shelves and allow themselves to be inspired. So we asked Fiona, a scribe and Scriberia's former chief librarian, to select her top five books setting creative cogs in motion. 


'building stories' by Chris Ware

In much of our work we aim to give structure to information through visual storytelling, and this book is an indispensible guide to that art. The American cartoonist, Chris Ware, proves with this book that there is no story that cannot be told with pictures alone and, as an illustrator, I find really inspiring. His stories reveal themselves with charm and subtlety through sequential images: he is particularly good at using the passage of time to tell a story, as well as giving his audience a really intimate view of the inner workings of each buildings, with cutaways and diagrams. In short, this is my go-to when I want a masterclass in presenting rich stories in an artful way. 


'illuminations' by saul steinberg

Saul Steinberg, a legendary New Yorker cartoonist, once described himself as 'a writer who draws', and it's true his work was imbued with an eloquence that most illustrators can only hope to achieve. And he wasn't just smart, he was really, really funny, too. He had such a darkly comic, satirical eye and an unfailing ability to view the familiar from an unfamiliar angle. I find myself reaching for this book at the brainstorming stage of projects, as a useful nudge to explore ideas from all sides. 


'the art of looking sideways' by alan fletcher

I’ve owned this book since I was about 17 but still refer back to it. I think it's the sheer mesmerising volume of content - page after page of symbols, scripted type and witty visual puns - that make me feel I'll never be done with it. For me, it's the perfect companion when I need a nudge to change style or tack. But whoever you are, and whatever you do, I defy you not to get lost in its pages.  


'Olle Eksell: swedish graphic designer' by pie books

Olle Eksell was a legend of Swedish design, and this retrospective of his work is a real delight. I love his wit and his distinctive colour palettes - making use of flat blocks of colour and simple black lines - but also, this book reminds of his abiding belief that Design = Economy. That was the title of a book he wrote in 1964, and in it - with characteristic economy - he explained: 'Good design is not just aesthetic – it is also good economy. Good design is not just cool – it is bloody serious!' A handy lesson for anyone in danger of overcomplicating things. 


'modern life' by jean jullien

At just 34, Jean Jullien has made a remarkable impact with his work. In the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Jullien famously re-designed the peace symbol (with the Eiffel Tower standing resolute in the centre). But, in this book he demonstrates how deftly he can apply his gift for visual punning and the subversion of cliches, to the mundane and the comic, as well as to the tragic. But aside from all that, he really makes me laugh - and laughter is one of the best tricks I know to free up your thinking.