A Is For API: The ABCs Of Modern Creativity, Illustrated

Two creatives from the ad world and 26 contemporary artists team up to create an illustrated alphabet of the terms that define the modern creative condition.

What are the 26 most important words that sum up the state of modern creativity, and once you know them, how can you remember what they are? It turns out, the answers to both these questions are as easy as ABC.


As in A is for API, B is for Beta, and C is for Craft.

The ABCs of Contemporary Creatives is an illustrated alphabet of terms that endeavor to sum up the state of creativity at the intersection of advertising, art, and the world of digital innovation. It’s the brainchild of Tim Nolan, head of BBH Labs and Interactive Group Creative Director for BBH New York and Jen Lu, who goes by the title “creative mutant” at Droga 5. According to Nolan, each letter of this creative alphabet makes reference to “a way of thinking or an insight into the modern creative process.” Many of the entries deal with technology or tech-derived concepts that have influenced the nature of creative work and ideas (A is for API, J is for JQuery), but some just pertain to bigger creative and cultural concepts ( N is for narrative and Z is for zeitgeist).

Each term is strikingly illustrated by contemporary artists including Tristan Eaton, Gary Baseman, ILoveDust, Harriet Russell, and Gavin Potenza–the book is a collaboration between Nolan, Lu, and management agency Bernstein & Andriulli–and comes with a pithy explanation.

The book also has five inspirational forwards written by creatives from various disciplines. As one sums up:

“Having an idea is often the easy bit . . . It has never been more challenging to be a creative. It is no longer enough to be curious and be inspired by your surroundings–the contemporary creative now needs to become a part of those surroundings. Not an observer but a participant. Not just a writer or art director but a blogger, publisher, writer of code, a designer, and salesperson of your own products. To be creative today you have to be versatile.”

The book is currently available online and in hard copy.

About the author

Jennifer Miller is the author of The Year of the Gadfly (Harcourt, 2012) and Inheriting The Holy Land (Ballantine, 2005). She's a regular contributor to Co.Create.