Design critic Michael Bierut wasn’t wrong when he said that “the more things you’re interested in, the better your work will be.”  We’re believers in asking questions that don’t always fall into the scope of our jobs as marketers. Why is everything we know about global inequality all wrong? Why is a longform blog illustrated with stick figures one of the best things to happen to online content in a while? Why should you care?

The speakers at Transition, the must-attend marketing event of the year, are changing the way we think about everything from globalization to urban planning – and they’re writing about it too. If you’re attending, consider adding some (or all) of these titles to your reading list before the conference — they’ll help you engage with the exciting talks and workshops we have lined up, and give you something to talk about in case you run into Tim Urban in the hallway. If you aren’t, read them anyway: the best marketers are those who think outside of their discipline.

Street Fight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, Janette Sadik-Khan   

Former New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan writes about her experience transforming the streets of one of the world’s most intimidating cities. Her methodology of rewriting the “source code” of the street, from introducing protected bike paths to improved crosswalk space, has found its way to other cities like Mexico City and Buenos Aires. The book’s subject matter will resonate with anyone who has tried to overhaul an old system, implement organizational change or roll out a new strategy. And if this NYMag article is anything to go by, Sadik-Khan’s been known to tell Wall Street crowds that “Biking is the new golf.” As avid Citibikers, we’re a fan. Make sure to catch Sadik-Khan talk about cities in transition this September.


Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization, Branko Milanovic

In this sweeping and well-researched study of global inequality, Milanovic explains the “waves” of income inequality within and among nations over time. His surprising finding is that although income inequality is rising in most countries, global income inequality has been falling since 2000. The Financial Times describes Milanovic’s book as “informative, wide-ranging, scholarly, imaginative and commend­ably brief.” That’s basically everything we’re looking for in summer reading that’ll instantly make us smarter.  Milanovic, who is Lead Economist in the World Bank research group and a visiting professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, will join us at Transition to talk about the economy in transition and the forces behind it.

1491 and 1493, Charles C. Mann    

 Prepare to relearn everything you were taught in high school history. Mann blends scientific analysis with historical narrative to retell the history of the pre-Columbian Americas. He takes us through the untold innovation stories of the pre-Columbian Indians, turning everything we thought we knew on its head. And if you’re up for the sequel, check out Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Here, Mann suggests that what historian Alfred W. Crosby called “the Columbian Exchange” — the transfer of plants, animals, germs and people across continents over the last 500 years — has shaped the modern world. The New York Times calls it “500 lively pages” that explains “why our world is the way it is”. Come to Transition to hear from this versatile writer and historian

The Container Guide, Tim Hwang

Described by Hwang as “the old Audobon guide to shipping containers”, The Container Guide is just what its title suggests — a guide to shipping containers and the massive, somewhat anonymous corporations that own them. The shipping container has come to dictate how 95% of consumer goods get to market, and has found its way into a wider conversation on standards and how they’re so crucial to any system working as it should.

And because content formats are ever changing, we couldn’t help but add the honorary podcast and blog to this list.

Design Matters, hosted by Debbie Millman

On the world’s first podcast about design, host and designer Debbie Millman has wide-ranging, culturally relevant conversations with leaders of the creative and intellectual community. Guests have included writer Malcolm Gladwell, blogger Maria Popova, and Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton. Our cofounder Noah Brier makes an appearance further back in the archives, too. Debbie will join our Big Ideas track at Transition to talk about design and technology, so if you’re a podcast junkie, a design enthusiast, or just curious, make sure you’re there.

Wait But Why, Tim Urban

This publication occupies the niche position at the intersection of the longform blog and stick figure illustration. Few others get longform blogging as well as Tim Urban, creator and blogger of Wait But Why. You might know Tim from his informative, intensive, and entertaining interviews with Tesla’s Elon Musk, the “raddest man in the world”. But he’s got a wide range of expertise, with titles including “How And Why SpaceX Will Colonize Mars” to “Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping”. All complemented with appropriate stick figures, of course. Tim will join us on stage at Transition to talk about technology in transition.

Want to hear more from Janette Sadik-Khan, Charles C. Mann, and the rest of these prolific writers and thinkers? Come to this year’s Transition conference, the can’t-miss marketing event of the year.