Paul Arden communicated much better graphically than verbally.
Because he thought visually.
He won just about everything as an art director.
Then he won just about everything as a film director.
One day he was talking to me about motivating the staff at his company.
He said, “Look, I know what I want to say to them, but I’m not sure how to say it. So I’ve done this. What do you think?”
And he showed me an A4 size booklet.
Pages of pictures and headlines, photographs and graphics, stapled together.
And very few words.
I said, “Paul this is brilliant, can I have a copy of it? I want to show it to the staff at the agency. If you made this into a book I’d buy a copy for everyone.”
Well eventually, Paul did make it into a book.
But it took him ages to get it published because it’s not a conventional book.
There’s not much to read in it.
It’s mainly photographs, drawings, and simple graphics.
Paul wasn’t a writer, so he didn’t write a book.
He art directed one instead.
I loved that idea, a book that wasn’t a book.
I liked it so much, I wanted to do one just like it myself.
A book that was mainly pictures.
So I put one together and I took it to show Paul.
He said, “It’s crap, it’s awful, I hate it.”
That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
So I said, “Okay, you’ve been a creative director, behave like one.
Don’t just tell me what’s wrong with it, point me in the right direction.”
After a few days he asked me to back to see him.
He had some sketches and layouts he’d done for me.
He said, “You’re not an art director, you’re a writer.
You shouldn’t have any pictures, just words.
And you should write like you speak. That’s what makes you different, that’s what makes you interesting.”
This also wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
I couldn’t sit down to write an entire book.
But you’re not always good at what you want to be good at.
And you have to listen to what the world tells you you’re good at.
So, now I had a problem.
How to write a book when I didn’t want to write a book?
Well, they say luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
And about this time, the guys at the office said we needed a blog on the agency website.
And they said I had to do it.
And it dawned on me that this could be a way to make myself do some writing every day.
And people began to read it, and quite a lot of them liked it.
And some even asked me when it was coming out as a book.
So I asked my wife to help put it together.
Cathy is an art director, and Paul Arden used to be her creative director.
Cathy idolised Paul.
She had helped him put his book together.
She kept the layouts he’d done for me beside her, while she was on the Mac.
She said it was almost like having Paul there.
And so we now have something roughly resembling a book.
It’s unconventional, because it wasn’t written the way a book is supposed to be written.
It doesn’t read like a book is supposed to read: front to back.
In fact, it isn’t really a book at all.
Which is why I think Paul would have liked it.