We can probably all agree on one thing: 2016 sucked. Hard. A whole bunch of terrible things happened around the world (of which celebrity deaths are the least problematic).
Let's send it away with a “Whooosh!” and hope that better things are around the corner.
To celebrate the pleasant things I've experienced in 2016, here's a little list of books, music, movies, places, art supplies, articles and videos that made my year more delightful. (These things were not necessarily published in 2016, but that's when I’ve discovered them.)
My favorite books
Sadly, I haven’t read that many books this year. Intense focus on work and long days have fried my brain to the point where I couldn’t focus on anything challenging in the evenings. (I'm trying to switch to shorter workdays and more afternoon naps so I can have more energy for intellectual challenges in the evenings as well.)
What I did read was mostly business-related, and directly connected to the topics I wanted to work on, with some fiction sprinkled on the side. Here are my 2016 favorites.
Nicole Fende: “The Prosperity Dimension”*
This book is a class on business negotiation in the form of a sci-fi adventure. At first I was a bit disappointed because I expected a graphic novel, when in fact it’s a regular novel with some illustrated bits. Still, it’s a great book I’d recommend to all my creative friends who need to learn how to deal with clients and run their business in a profitable way. I’ll probably be lending this one a lot.
James S. A. Corey: “The Expanse”*
See: TV shows.
After season 1 ended, I was hooked to the plot and wanted to find out what happens next. I’ve read the entire series in about 2 weeks (the good news is, new books are coming!).
While the writing style leaves something to be desired, the plot is a page turner – it kept me awake until the Sun came up on more than one occasion.
Ivan Castro: “The ABC of Custom Lettering”*
I’m still working through this book, but it’s the best lettering related book I’ve seen so far. It has quite a bit of background on calligraphy and how to use calligraphic principles to make sure hand-drawn letters look accurate. I recommend it to all aspiring lettering artists.
Mark McGuinness “Productivity For Creative People”*
I’ve originally read the first version of this book years ago, and I remember it was an eye opener for me. It was where I’ve first heard of Dave Allen’s GTD system, the “do it later” approach and many other tricks I’ve experimented with. This book is revised and expanded with new material and references, and I’ve gotten new insight from the added chapters.
If you’re struggling with procrastination and disorganization, you need to read this book. (I’m a self-proclaimed expert on procrastination and learned how to become well organized, but it was useful to get a different perspective nonetheless.)
My favorite movies
After years of Hollywood blockbuster torture and pseudo-intellectual vomit masked as sci-fi (looking at you, “Interstellar”), finally a movie I could enjoy without the desire to bang my head on the nearest flat surface. Not only that, it was a truly beautiful movie in many ways. 10 stars.
(The trailer below has some spoilers, but still the movie will be a worthwhile experience.)
"Star Wars: Rogue One"
OK, we're back to the blockbusters that make me want to bang my head against the wall.
The good: It's Star Wars. It features Darth Vader. And a hilarious misanthropic robot. And other cool stuff and familiar faces that I'm not going to spoil for you.
The bad: The entire plot around the datacenter and the tower is complete bullshit because what kind of culture that has freakin’ hyperspace drive uses magnet tape to save information? But if you let these technical details slide past, it's one of the best Star Wars movies ever made. (Which says a lot about the rest of the series.)
This cute anthropomorphic animal cartoon tells a warm story of two characters who accomplish their goals against all odds while fighting stereotypes (and each other on occasion). And Pawpsicles!
My favorite TV shows
“The Expanse” (SyFy)
A science fiction noir mystery set in the near future of the Solar system. The technology is believable, the atmosphere is grim, and every episode is packed with interesting twists and discoveries that open up more questions than they answer. It made me draw fan art for the first time in a million years.
If you still haven’t watched it yet now is the perfect time, since season 2 starts in February 2017.
“Game of Thrones” season 6 (HBO)
Whoa, finally something is happening in the TV show that’s not yet revealed in the books! Exciting times.
One of my friends only started binge-watching the show this year. It was funny to see the comments he was posting on Facebook as he got more and more involved with the show. He converted from a skeptic to a fan within a few episodes. Though you do need to have a stomach for it.
My favorite music
I'm sad to report that I've missed out on a ton of concerts this year, partly due to work. I'm not an avid music listener like I used to be in my 20s (literally not enough time to seek out new, interesting music), so I mostly listen to stuff my friends recommend, and when there's a concert nearby. With that in mind, here's my sad, short list. (Please feel free to recommend other great music in the comments.)
Baroness: “Purple” (2015)
Baroness currently counts as one of the few of my favorite metal bands that I still haven’t heard live. Their frontman John Baizley is also a great artist, who created covers for all of their albums, and for other bands like Kylesa, Metallica and Kvelertak. The new album is not quite as good as “Blue” imho, but it’s pretty good.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: “Skeleton Tree” (2016)
Nick Cave always created the music from a deep, dark place, and then in 2015 his son died in a tragic incident involving LSD and falling off a cliff (which reminds me of this Bill Hicks segment). You can imagine the album following his son’s death is no Disneyland. Its is quite beautiful, though.
Cojones: “Resonate” (2016)
They're a Croatian stoner rock band that played as an opening act for Clutch, if that name means anything to you. I enjoy a good, lively stoner that you can't help but tap your foot on. If you like that sort of thing as well, check them out on Bandcamp.
My favorite places
I traveled to Barcelona on business (Eurocon 2016), so sadly I didn’t have much opportunity for sightseeing, but what little time I had, I enjoyed a lot and would love to come back again.
My favorite thing was climbing up to the Monjuïc castle (because I adore castles, although this one has a rather grim history). The view of the city from above is gorgeous.
This year was only my second time I’ve been to Split (famous for playing the city of Meereen in Game of Thrones) for the WordCamp Split conference, and the first time I’ve spent more than 24 hours there, so I even got to see a little bit. The city center is packed with historical sights, and the only thing tarnishing its beauty are the rows of stands with “souvenirs” (trash) made in China. Do visit if you have the chance.
North entrance of the Diocletian Palace in Split
An old favorite I return to over and over again. It’s near my hometown, so my partner and I like to go there on a one day road trip at least once a year, and this year we’ve booked a weekend for my birthday. Unfortunately the weather was rainy so my photos aren't that great.
I dream of having a holiday home there because the place is equally gorgeous in all seasons of the year.
My favorite art supplies
I’ve had this pen for years, and it’s only this summer that I’ve unpacked it and started using it. The revelation I’ve had was on par with discovering brush pens (one of my favorite sketching tools). I’ve posted some of my calligraphy experiments earlier on the blog.
I’ve received a couple of different Hahnemüehle sketchbooks to review, and this one is by far my favorite one. The light brown paper enables me to use white along with ink to create areas of contrast, and the paper is the smoothest one I’ve ever seen.
It’s super hard to find a good kraft paper sketchbook in Europe, so I’m very happy that the Germans have decided to make some. Now if only someone bothered to import them to Croatia...
My favorite videos
The Biggest Disease Affecting Humanity: “I’m Not Enough” by Marisa Peer
If I could make any YouTube video a part of a high school curriculum, this would be it. I’m serious. Watch it.
Multilevel Marketing: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
I avoid the news, so John Oliver is as good as news to me – his team always finds an important topic to cover, and even though the topic itself is depressing, their delivery is funny as hell. They sure had a lot to cover this year (USA elections, Brexit), but my favorite episode was on MLM.
Metallica: Master of Puppets – Shittyfluted
I should just leave this here without comment... you may find it hilarious, or not funny at all. If you normally like Metallica, I dare you to listen to the very end. (If you do, you’ll probably want to hear the other songs they shittyfluted as well.)
My favorite articles & blog posts
In no particular order...
Havi Brooks: “these are my roots”
The world is designed to keep us busy. Our to-do lists never get smaller, only bigger. Taking care of the home is a full time job in itself. When do we ever get a chance to just be?
even in our modern convenience-filled world and even with the plentiful magic beans I’ve been granted, as a legal citizen, as someone who is white and well-educated and able-bodied and owns a washing machine, just for starters, and without kids or anyone else who requires care
still, even graced with so many advantages, and this immense treasure of time off from my job/s, just the work of day-to-day life — acquiring food, preparing food, cleaning up, laundry, decision-making — just this is already a full-time job,
and that’s the best days, the ones with no chronic pain or unexpected life stuff
Brigid Schulte: “Why time is a feminist issue”
In the olden days, only wealthy men could afford uninterrupted time for scientific research and creative endeavors. Remnants of this are still present in our society, where women perform the majority of unpaid labor.
I read feminist leisure research (who knew such a thing existed?) and international studies that found women around the globe felt that they didn't deserve leisure time. It felt too selfish. Instead, they felt they had to earn time to themselves by getting to the end of a very long To Do list. Which, let's face it, never ends.
I began to realise that time is power. That time is a feminist issue.
Jarrod Drysdale: “We were scribes”
Design as a profession has been here for centuries, and it isn't going anywhere any time soon.
Every few months all the tech blogs brag about a new thing that will replace designers.
- WYSIWYG tools
- Algorithm-driven design software
- Minimalism, Brutalism, and Flat Design
But we designers are still here.
Because the truth is that you can give people the most automagical design tools possible, structure it for them so that it seems foolproof, and they will still mess it up. (No offense, but it’s true.)
Personal creative practice is an essential part of my life and career, but it's not easy to cultivate day after day. I fall off the wagon, I forget, I come back to it. Lisa, an expert in nurturing creative practice offers a bunch of tips on how to do it.
Make your creativity a priority. If it’s not a “must-do” it will continually be a “want to”.
Mark McGuinness: “The Art of Emotional Pricing”
Pricing your creative services is difficult. Pricing your art is even more so. I've provided a simple formula for pricing art, but it's helpful to try out a few different approaches to make sure you're not underselling yourself.
How much should I charge? There are many answers to this question, and several well-known methods for working out your prices, such as benchmarking against your competitors; or deciding how much you want to earn in a year and dividing that by the number of sales you expect to make; or calculating and demonstrating the value of the work to your buyer. Sometimes I’ll use one or more of these methods to help my client work out their fees.
But with a particular type of client I give a different answer.
Tara Gentile: “13 Steps for Creating a Product That Resonates”
Did you ever launch a new product to crickets? Or you didn't launch because you were afraid it would end up that way? Tara has perfected a method of customer research called “The Observation Engine” and her article is as clear as it can get.
Products that resonate with us touch something deep inside. Which is not to say that your products have to be “deep” to resonate. Impulse buys resonate with us not because they fulfill a deep need but because they mirror a very surface desire or concern. [...]
Why does resonance matter? Products that resonate sell easily.
Blair Enns: “The Five Objections”
Typical sales tactics try to overcome objections that the client has about your service. Blair proposes a different way: raise the objections first, and let the client overcome them if they can.
Anytime you sense there might not be a perfect fit between the offering or ability of your firm and the needs and means of the prospect, you want to raise the objection before the prospect does. As I’ve written in this space previously, the dynamics of objections are such that if the prospect raises them, it is incumbent on you to deal with them, but the opposite is equally true. You will demonstrate an expert’s selectivity if you raise the concern first.
I've read this guy's entire blog, and it has drastically changed my views on agency business and sales.
Add your 2016 favorites in the comments!
Let's make 2017 more interesting and delightful for each other – share some of your favorite things with us.