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Bookshelf Picks: Jo Mitchell Long on visual language, colour palettes and sparking creative thought

An arrangement of copies of Palette Perfect, the covers of which feature a single figure walking across a gallery space filled with hanging colour banners.
An arrangement of copies of Palette Perfect, the covers of which feature a single figure walking across a gallery space filled with hanging colour banners.
Image credit: Lauren Wager and Promo Press.
Written by
Chloe Murphy
Published date
29 June 2020

At London College of Communication (LCC), we support our students to become the future of the creative industries. We're proud to give them the tools they need to develop key critical and technical skills, to build their confidence, and to grow their professional networks.

Our Industry Mentoring Scheme matches postgraduate students with experienced mentors who can offer helpful tips, information and advice on ways to kick-start their career. As the world navigates new ways of working, thinking and doing, we asked some of our mentors to suggest the books and resources that help them to stay inspired and stay creative throughout these challenging times.

Jo Mitchell Long

After completing her BA in Graphic Design at LCC, Jo Mitchell Long first joined publishing house, Dorling Kindersley. Since then, she’s worked as an art editor and graphic designer for numerous publishers and clients including English National Ballet, M&S, Disney Store, Royal Academy of Dance, Avalon Productions, D&AD, Mitchell Beasley and Carlton Books.

Recently, Jo founded the Dib Dab Art Club, which specialises in teaching art and design to children between the ages of 1-16 and running art clubs in schools. Jo continues to be a freelance graphic design consultant and artist, and has been mentoring MA Graphic and Media students for the past 3 years. She offers free monthly online mentoring meet-ups for graduates, freelance creatives and start-ups.

In our latest batch of Bookshelf Picks, Jo explores some of the most influential works which inspire her to think, learn and create.

The front cover of The Art of Looking Sideways is covered in text excerpts from the book.
Image credit: Alan Fletcher and Phaidon Books

1. The Art of Looking Sideways - Alan Fletcher (Phaidon 2001)

“This book is a bit of a bible for me. It’s clever, witty, funny and the ultimate play on words and pictures. Even when you think you’ve seen it all, you can dip into the pages of The Art of Looking Sideways to help spark a creative thought. Amazing creativity transcends time, and this book will go down in history as such an example.

As the blurb says, it’s 'the ultimate guide to visual awareness, a magical compilation that will entertain and inspire all those who enjoy the interplay between word and image, and who relish the odd and the unexpected.'

Do check it out - it’s a must-have classic for the bookshelf of any graphic designer.”

Milton Glaser's iconic psychadelic illustration of Bob Dylan.
Image credit: Milton Wager

2. Graphic Design - Milton Glaser (Penguin, 1983)

“While writing my Bookshelf Picks, I heard the sad news that the great Milton Glaser had passed away. I had to include this book in my Top 5 as I’ve always loved his work. His designs include the I ❤️ NY logo and a psychedelic Bob Dylan poster.

Milton was an amazing, influential designer who helped bring a new visual language to commercial art. He inspired me at the beginning of my career, and I’m sure he’ll continue to inspire young designers for years to come. This book is an all-time favourite for me, and Milton is a hero of graphic design.”

The Book of Ideas front cover, featuring colourful flowers.
Image credit: Radim Malinic and Brand Nu.

3. Book of Ideas: A Journal of Creative Direction and Graphic Design - Radim Malinic (Brand Nu: Volume 1, 2016)

“I’m pleased to say that I was gifted this book by Radim a few years ago, and since then, I’ve collected the rest of his books in the series. Book of Ideas is a wonderful contemporary resource for designers and creative directors: there’s a magazine-feel to the content, with lots of striking examples of cool graphic design. There are also touch-points on facing your fears, finding happiness in your work, the art of self-promotion and beating the creative block.

Whatever stage you’re at in your creative career, this book is an invaluable tool, and the perfect size to travel with you on your commute!”

An arrangement of copies of Palette Perfect, the covers of which feature a single figure walking across a gallery space filled with hanging colour banners.
Image credit: Lauren Wager and Promo Press.

4. Palette Perfect - Lauren Wager (PromoPress, 2019)

“As a designer and artist, colour is a huge part of my life, so when I first picked this book up, I loved the design, layout and content. Palette Perfect is structured on 15 different atmospheres, filled with beautiful photographs and illustrations split into multiple colour palettes, and features work created by designers, illustrators and photographers.

This is a wonderful book to help artists and designers gain a better understanding of the relationship between colour and emotion.”

The Art Life book jacket, which is coloured yellow, blue, pink and red.
Image credit: Bev Speight and Ilex Press.

5. Art Life - Bev Speight (Ilex Press, 2017)

"This is a fun, practical book for making art. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it injects freedom and spontaneity into the creative process.

Art Life helps me to look at creativity from another angle. It’s very much about the process and not about the end result. This isn’t about beautifully crafted logos and sharp design ideas - this is about patterns made with handmade brushes or household materials, or cutting up books to explore sculpture. It’s free, exploratory and fun."

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