Book Review - Creative Confidence

Creative Confidence by Tom Kelly & David Kelly

Score: 6.5/10

  • Amount of Content 5/10
  • Value of Content (Usefulness) 7/10
  • Originality of Content 7/10
  • Relevance of Content (To a Product Designer) 8/10
  • Entertainment Level 6/10
  • Length of Read 6/10
  • Inspiration 7/10


I’m sitting at gate F10 at the Saint Paul Minneapolis International airport en route to the Los Angeles International Airport. I just finished reading Creative Confidence, by David and Tom Kelly while on my last flight and figured, I should write a book review. The industrial designers out there are likely familiar with David and Tom Kelly, who are known for starting the near-legendary design firm IDEO as well as the Stanford D.School. David and Tom Kelly are brothers as well as respected authorities and advocates of design and innovation.

Creative Confidence is all about exposing the creative potential within all of us. It leaves behind conventional ideas like ‘only artists are creative’ and ‘creativity isn’t for corporate settings’. This book first establishes why and how we all have creativity within and then explains what can happen when that creativity is harnessed and utilized. The authors then explain how to tap into our creativity and share exercises to train our creative muscles.

This book is not written for or to designers, rather to anyone who is employed and wishes to solve meaningful problems with break-through discoveries as a result of creative confidence.


Amount of Content 

At 256 pages, this book is neither short nor long. It’s a standard paperback book (roughly 8.5” tall and 5.5” wide). The book is broken into 8 chapters, each of which dives into either a different aspect of creative confidence or a different setting or implementation of creative confidence. There are a few illustrations and some artwork on new chapter pages, but the book is primarily all written copy. I scored it 5/10 because as mentioned before, it didn’t seem terribly full of information, but it certainly wasn’t sparse. 


Value of Content

It’s hard to judge a book’s value without actually trying to implement all of the authors’ suggestions and measuring the outcomes. I will say that I perceive the value of this book to be pretty high. This is why I scored it a 7/10. This books is more about big ideas and concepts and the large impacts these ideas have on those who implement them. For example, there are many instances when talented but unfulfilled people found tremendous success and purpose after making drastic career changes thanks to their experiences with finding their creative confidence. There is evidence to support that when a creative and innovative, collaborative approach to problem-solving is set into motion, great things happen in businesses both large and small. David and Tom give plenty of examples in which this happened.

I believe the value to be there but it’s entirely based upon the situation of the individual and how he or she chooses to implement the ideas throughout this book. For those who are familiar with many concepts in this book, the anecdotes and examples are great reminders of what happens when we (designers) practice what we preach.


Originality of Content

Creative Confidence earns a 7/10 for originality. I haven’t read many books that highlight the importance of creative confidence. Furthermore, the success stories highlighted throughout are pretty monumental. To read about real-world results of what IDEO founders believe and teach is a unique piece of insight many designers hunger for. And to those not labeled as a creative professional, I think the ideas in Creative Confidence are big, yet simple enough to grasp to be impactful. 


Relevance of Content

This book scores an 8/10 for relevance, specifically to a product designer. There were plenty of principals I was previously familiar with thanks to my formal industrial design education. Since I was fortunate enough to attend a very successful art and design college, I’d learned about the methods highlighted by David and Tom’s book. Since I’ve worked as a professional for the past 4 years since then, I’ve noticed how easy it is to shrug off the habits and skills learned in school while on the job. This book serves as a good reminder and brought me back to thinking about innovation and creativity on a rudimentary level. 



Unfortunately, this is where Creative Confidence scored the lowest for me. A 6/10 isn’t bad. It’s not a ‘D’ like a 60% is in school. In this case, it means I felt neutral about it. I wasn’t terribly entertained, but I wasn’t bored with it either. The strongest part of the book was the introduction when David’s experience with cancer brought a sobering sense of clarity to the Kelly brothers’ mission and purpose, which in part, fueled the writing of this book.


Length of Read

Creative Confidence gets a 6/10 for length. The longer it takes me to read a book, the higher it scores in this category. This book is a pretty quick read. I did however put it down for a couple of weeks. I blame the break on it not being as entertaining as it could have been. However, when I did pick it back up, I read large chunks of it quite quickly. I estimate my total time reading this book to be around 6 or 7 hours maximum.  



7/10 for inspiration. This is due to the concrete and simple stories supplied by the authors that prove the power of unleashing and harnessing creative confidence. It’s not an abstract phenomena that needs to be ‘willed into existence’, but a tool that’s both fun and challenging to use. I felt inspired to examine and write about numerous ideas as they struck me during my reading of Creative Confidence.


Final Thoughts

Creative Confidence isn’t for designers, but everyone who wants to learn to think differently and gain an edge over their old way of problem solving or their competition if they’re in a business setting. The authors are no-nonsense creatives who understand the psychology of collaboration and groups in a professional environment and make the benefits of having creative confidence clear. A student in any design discipline or young professional will likely feel inspired to challenge the status quo and workplace conventions after reading this book. Anyone in a managerial role will likely find a nugget or two of useful approaches to the challenges they regularly face. 


The Verdict

Buy and read it.