Book review: Go With Your Gut but Verify When You Get There in “I Love It What Is It?”

Internationally renowned design agency Turner Duckworth presents stories and advice gathered from over 30 years of working with the world’s biggest brands.

I love it. What is it? The power of instinct in design and branding by Turner Duckworth and Gyles Lingwood. © 2024 Phaidon Press. ISBN 9781838666064

In I Love It. What Is It?, authors David Turner, Bruce Duckworth, Gyles Lingwood and others reflect on the world of design and branding through the lens of instinct. This book, narrated with a mixture of personal anecdotes and professional insights, provides a variety of perspectives on achieving success in the highly competitive branding industry. The authors of each chapter share glossy narratives of their triumphs with behemoths like Coca-Cola, Amazon, and heavy metal band Metallica, while also giving a nod to their lesser-known struggles.

One of the book’s core messages is the balance between trusting one’s instincts and the importance of external confirmation through both industry recognition and commercial success. Despite a mood of general skepticism towards market research, Minott Wessinger, CEO for beverage marketing firm McKenzie River Corporation, acknowledges the empirical “experiment and document” roots of an instinctual approach, candidly discussing instances where gut feelings led to failure. This transparency provides a groundwork for readers, offering a glimpse into the realistic challenges and triumphs of brand building.

I Love It. What Is It? echoes the sentiment found in works like Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, emphasising creativity, leadership, and the instinctive nature of brand development. Contributions from over a dozen creative professionals, including insights from founders David Turner and Bruce Duckworth, offer many points of entry into the discussion of the role of instinct in design.

However, the book’s claim, as highlighted by Lingwood, that “we all know what instinct is, how it manifests itself, and when best to use it,” is met with skepticism. The evidence provided often circles back to the idea of seeking external validation through awards, a notion critiqued and nuanced by former designer Anthony Biles. Biles’s reflection that success bolstered confidence in their creativity, yet was not the ultimate goal, encapsulates the book’s exploration of the fine line between recognition and the intrinsic role of distinctive brand creation in building relationships, articulating values, and contributing culturally to our shared built environment, all while striving for ethical engagement and long-term sustainability.

While the book offers several “nuggets” of wisdom and quotable moments, it primarily serves as a source of inspiration rather than a deep dive into the mechanics of design and branding. It suggests that the journey of creative thinking is messy and unpredictable yet can lead to remarkable outcomes with persistence.

In essence, I Love It. What Is It? may not revolutionize the understanding of design and branding for seasoned professionals but stands as a testament to the power of instinct in the creative industry. It makes for a thoughtful gift, providing a blend of inspiration and light reading.

Bulent Akman is a creative language consultant and freelance design journalist based in Warsaw, Poland.

Soft Power, essay by Moira Cullen, Former Design Director, Coca-Cola North America. Picture credit: © 2024 Turner Duckworth (pages 16-17)
A Smile from A to Z, essay by Joanne Chan, Chief Executive Officer, Turner Duckworth, with Designer Anthony Biles. Picture credit: © 1999, Inc. (pages 38-39)
Courageous Creativity, essay Linda Lee, Chief Marketing Officer, Campbell Meals & Beverages. Picture credit: ©2021 Campbell Soup Company. Art credit: Fakery, Ltd. (page 75)