debbie millman

Friday, September 15, 2006

Signs of Hope


please
Originally uploaded by debbie millman.
The summer is nearing an end here in New York City. It hardly seems possible that the months have passed so fast, so much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same. I can’t help but think back to the moments before the summer began. I think that I love the moments before things begin the most—when there is still a wonderful, anticipatory optimism—when everything is in front of you and anything is possible. There are signs of hope in all those early moments, before things really begin—signs of buoyancy and a dreamy kind of idealism and innocence that everything, everything will be perfect, this time life will be exactly, utterly as you hope and dream and wish for.

And then time takes over and you are smack! right in the thick of things: in the midst of your own life, and the lives of those you love, and the lives of those that you like, and the lives of those that annoy you or perplex you or frighten you. I was frightened a lot this summer. I was frightened of a war that won’t end. I was frightened waiting for a five-year anniversary that still makes me cry. I was frightened by a writing class that I felt unqualified to participate in; I was frightened by a dark haired ghost that resurrected some bad behavior. But in all that fear, I came to a realization about the nature of fear. In my quest to combat some of these demons, I realized that fear is a little like courage masquerading as faith. The desire to overcome fear becomes evidence of a certain kind of hope for things to be different.

I think that hope is one of the most wonderful words in the English language. Hope is a word that conjures up faith and confidence and magic and, again, that which is most optimistic. I think that hope is a particular state of grace, and this summer I looked for signs of hope in all the fear that was surrounding me.

I tend to see signs in inanimate objects and random events and scenarios around me. I eavesdrop as people walk and talk around me and wonder if there are messages inherent in what I hear. I watch as people live their lives around me and try to understand who they are by the way they move and speak and gesture and dress. And I have to admit that I worry sometimes that the inanimate objects around us really have souls and we humans just don’t have the power or the ability or the desire to see or feel or heed them. And I imagine what they would say to us if they did.

I think they would say this: Please be careful. Please be careful to notice the people and the pets and the friends and the enemies around you. Please notice that we have more than we need. Please share. Please be grateful to those that love you. Please be thankful that we still have long hot summers and Septembers that are cool, and winters that are cold. Please consider that you might not be right all the time and that other people might have answers you are avoiding. Please realize that you are lucky if someone loves you. Please remember that if we pay attention to the signs around us, some will move us to make a difference.

This past summer, a group of like-minded individuals came together to offer up signs hope and inspiration. Three organizations: The Times Square Alliance, World Studio Foundation and the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts joined hands and started the Urban Forest Project. This initiative brought 185 of some the world’s most celebrated designers, artists, photographers and illustrators to New York City’s Times Square. Each artist created a street banner utilizing the form of a tree, or a metaphor for a tree, to make a visual statement. For the first time ever, these banners have created a forest of thought-provoking images in one of the world’s most emphatically urban intersections. Some of the banners embody visceral responses to environmental, political and social issues. Others use the evocative power of nature to develop patterns and abstract forms that delight or entertain or enrage or share. But the common denominator is this: they all contain passion, thought, and energy—qualities that only emerge when a group of people commit together to something that they truly believe in. It is an awesome and daunting exhibit and one that is beautiful and meaningful and sincere.

I am ending my summer now, today, feeling a bit lucky. I think there will always be a part of me that will be somewhat fearful, but today, I’d rather try to be hopeful. I’d rather witness the signs of these times as opportunities for inspiration and change and believe that in every first moment there is the wondrous, magical chance for love and healing and beauty. It is in these moments we can find what is grand in both each other and ourselves; together we can face forward, fearlessly and greedily, and together we can heed all that we wish to be possible.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Joe Trelin said...

Inspiring:
Please be careful. Please be careful to notice the people and the pets and the friends and the enemies around you. Please notice that we have more than we need. Please share. Please be grateful to those that love you. Please be thankful that we still have long hot summers and Septembers that are cool, and winters that are cold. Please consider that you might not be right all the time and that other people might have answers you are avoiding. Please realize that you are lucky if someone loves you. Please remember that if we pay attention to the signs around us, some will move us to make a difference.

9/16/2006 09:50:00 AM  

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Debbie Millman has worked in the design business for over 25 years. She is President of the design division at Sterling Brands. She has been there for nearly 15 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of global brands for Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s, Colgate, Nestle and Hasbro. Prior to Sterling, she was a Senior Vice President at Interbrand and a Marketing Director at Frankfurt Balkind. Debbie is President of the AIGA, the largest professional association for design. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine, a design writer at FastCompany.com and Brand New and Chair of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting the first weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet. The show is titled “Design Matters with Debbie Millman” and it is now featured on DesignObserver.com. In addition to “Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,” (HOW Books, 2009, she is the author of "How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer" (Allworth Press, 2007) and “The Essential Principles of Graphic Design” (Rotovision, 2008).

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