Our 2022 design and innovation inspiration list

Executive Director & Partner

Looking for a last-minute bout of inspiration? Smart Design has compiled a list of Smarties favorite books, podcasts, videos, and more from 2022 that will be sure to spark some inspiration. 

A continuation of our book lists from past years, our list features a range of design-related topics that will appeal to anyone.

The design process

Design is always evolving and our selections provide plenty of educational (but fun!) content that delves into the many ways design can inspire and solve everyday problems. 

Designing with Pixar: 45 Activities to Create Your Own Characters, Worlds, and Stories (Book)
Inspired by behind-the-scenes work of Pixar’s animators, this activity book encourages fans and artists to explore their own imaginations through Pixar’s favorite characters and iconic scenes. Prompts from films such as Toy Story, Cars, Brave, Inside Out, and more invite discoveries about color, shape, character design, and scene setting—and how all of these interact to tell a visual story. 

1000 Design Classics: Phaidon Editors (Book)
Originating from the highly acclaimed and groundbreaking three-volume Phaidon Design Classics, this new book presents 1,000 of the world’s greatest objects in one large-format volume. This book is the perfect reference guide for design enthusiasts, industry professionals, and all those interested in the creative process.

How to Make Sense of Any Mess (Book)
Think about everything you have to make sense of each day. Projects, products, services, processes, collections, events, drawers, rooms, lists, ideas. And the list goes on. Abby Covert  introduces you to the practice of information architecture so you can start to make sense of whatever messes come your way.

The Rehearsal (TV show)
Nathan Fielder explores the lengths one man will go to reduce the uncertainties of everyday life in this TV series. With a construction crew, a legion of actors, and seemingly unlimited resources, Fielder allows ordinary people to prepare for life’s biggest moments by “rehearsing” them in carefully crafted simulations of his own design. 

Printing Films (Video)
A collection of vintage films that showcase the technologies and processes of printing, journalism, and typography. It was established by Doug Wilson in 2012 after his work as director of Linotype: The Film.

3Blue1Brown (Video)
3Blue1Brown, by Grant Sanderson, is some combination of math and entertainment, depending on your disposition. The goal is for explanations to be driven by animations and for difficult problems to be made simple with changes in perspective.

How technology is changing the world

Technology is increasingly influencing people’s lives, in both good and bad ways. These selections explore how technology has evolved to become a part of everyday life across the world.

The Metaverse is a Contested Territory (Article)
Adapted from an essay, the info-heavy site traces the development of hardware alongside “hard” science fiction and goes into the need for a soft approach to shape our collective experience.

Hard Fork (Podcast)
Award-winning tech columnist for The New York Times, Kevin Roose, and independent journalist, Casey Newton, explore stories from the bleeding edge of tech. They talk about what’s real and what’s hype. 

why Japan’s internet is weirdly designed (Video)
In 2013, an article suggested that Japanese web design looks different from the rest of the world. In this video, Sabrina uses an AI to figure out if that is true and, if yes, why. 

Pop Music is Stuck on Repeat (Video)
Using foundational computer science theories, Colin Morris focuses on understanding trends in popular music. Borrowing from the areas of bioinformatics and compression algorithms, he shows that the lyrics of pop songs have become substantially more repetitive over the decades.

Coded Bias (Movie)
This documentary investigates the bias in algorithms after M.I.T. Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini uncovered flaws in facial recognition technology. Makes you question a lot of things around data, surveillance, equity, and civil rights.

What makes people tick

Understanding people – their needs, pain points, and motives – are a core part of the design process. Uncovering these compelling insights requires a mix of personal stories, methods, and tools.

Good Pop, Bad Pop (Book)
Clearing out his loft gives Jarvis Cocker, former Pulp frontman, a chance to look back at his formative years and the objects that shaped him. The accumulated debris of a lifetime reveals his creative process.

The Checklist Manifesto (Book)
In The Checklist Manifesto, Boston surgeon Atul Gawande contends the reason highly trained, experienced, and capable people regularly make avoidable mistakes. The book builds the case for checklists and issues a plea for adopting this backstop to human fallibility.

The Seven Dimensions of Culture (Article)
This article, by the Mind Tools Content Team outlines the ways to recognize the different mindsets and values that we all bring to the table, especially when conducting international research.

Finding Mastery (Podcast)
Host and high-performance psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais, interviews people excelling in the most hostile environments to discover the mental skills used to push the boundaries. Each episode features inspiring stories from the world’s best athletes, brilliant business minds, and the musicians and artists changing our perspective of what’s possible. 

Does Peloton’s design actually help you exercise more? (Podcast)
An entirely new user experience has been designed for people who want to exercise from home. By combining touchscreens and apps with traditional machines, a new category of exercise has created millions of new fitness buffs. But is the UX of fitness something truly creative and revolutionary? Host Khoi Vinh, and producers Pippa Johnstone and Dominic Girard dig into the brain-hacking and body-shaping UX designs that promise to help users break bad habits and break a sweat.

Visual storytelling

From data visualization to inspiring documentaries these visually stunning selections explore the many ways to see the world around us. 

W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America (Book)
Famed sociologist, writer, and Black rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois fundamentally changed the representation of Black Americans with his exhibition of data visualizations at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Beautiful in design and powerful in content, these data portraits make visible a wide spectrum of African American culture, from advances in education to the lingering effects of slavery.

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas (Book)
A book filled with 26 imaginative maps and informative essays – from music historians to ethnographers, urbanists, and environmental journalists. It explores all five boroughs of New York City and parts of nearby New Jersey. We are invited to travel through Manhattan’s playgrounds, from polyglot Queens to many-faceted Brooklyn, and from the resilient Bronx to the mystical kung fu hip-hop mecca of Staten Island.

Brian Blomerth’s Mycelium Wassonii (Book)
An account of the lives and trips of R. Gordon and Valentina Wasson, the pioneering scientist couple responsible for popularizing the use of psychedelic mushrooms. Featuring crazy fun illustrations in a comic-like style.

Iggy Peck, Architect (The Questioneers) (Book)
This beloved New York Times bestselling picture book is a fun-filled, inspiring story about the power of teamwork and the importance of celebrating individual gifts and self-expression. From Andrea Beaty and David Roberts comes the story of Iggy Peck, a creative second-grader who loves to build.

Tiny World (TV Show)
This docuseries showcases nature’s lesser-known tiny heroes. Spotlighting small creatures and the extraordinary things they do to survive, each episode is filled with surprising stories and spectacular cinematography.

Let’s design a smarter world together