debbie millman

Monday, July 31, 2006

A present to share with you from my dear friend Bill

The queen at 21: Barbra Streisand singing Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thank You


podcast info
Originally uploaded by debbie millman.
I am writing to share a very special milestone with you. Thursday we found out that Design Matters debuted on the iTunes "Top 100 Business Podcasts." Right now it is Number 56.

This could not have happened without the contributions of all of you--my incredible, smart, funny, witty friends, family, readers, listeners and supporters. I want to thank you all for joining me on this journey, for contributing your time and energy to sending me ideas and thoughts about the show, and for all of your encouragement, help, and love. I am indebted to you and more appreciative than I could ever possibly articulate.

With gratitude--
-debbie

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Welcome to Ruminations 2.0

It started as a lark, really. And as a solo blogger, I started rather late. But in my extraordinary experience on my beloved Speak Up, I realized that I also wanted a separate place, "a room of my own" of sorts to play around a bit, to exercise some ill-used writing skils, even something as simple as compiling an archive of my Design Matters monologues. A bit over a year later, there are 80 posts, over 2400 links (according to Technorati), many wonderful new friends, and as of today, not only an archive of all of my Design Matters monologues, but also a link to my personal favorite episodes of all three seasons of the show.

Sometimes you try and try and try to make things happen, and no matter how hard you try, it never "feels" right, or clicks in the way that you expected, or, more tragically, it never fulfills the promise of what you hoped and dreamed and imagined. This experience has been the opposite. I started this blog as an informal and illogical experiment and it has turned into a true labor of love. So today, July 26th 2006, please let me introduce you to Ruminations 2.0, my redesigned, reorganized and reimagined little blog.

I want to thank three people who worked tirelessly and enthusiastically throughout the process of moving type around, endless kerning, and putting up with my constantly saying, "I don't know, what you do you think?" -- the brilliant and lovely Sam Zimmerman of Mojo Jelly Media, the gorgeous and ever-so-patient Gregory O'Connor and the stealth but powerful Yoshi Sodeoka. I also want to thank Armin Vit for the design of my original home page, which I have gratefully kept as is. One can't really mess with the master. Thank you all so much for being so wonderful. And I mean all of you.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Poetry Tuesday: Gabriel

Gabriel, by Adrienne Rich
From the book The Voice That Is Great Within Us, by Hayden Carruth
Bantam Book, 1970

There are no angels yet
here comes an angel one
shut-off the dark
side of the moon turning to me
and saying: I am the plumbed
serpent the beast
with fangs of fire and a gentle
heart

But he doesn't say that His message
drenches his body
he'd want to kill me
for using words to name him

I sit in the bare apartment
reading
words stream past me poetry
twentieth-century rivers
disturbed surfaces reflecting clouds
reflecting wrinkled neon
but clogged and mostly
nothing alive left
in their depths

The angel is barely
speaking to me
Once in a horn of light
he stood or someone like him
salutations in gold-leaf
ribboning from his lips
Today again the hair streams
to his shoulders
the eyes reflect something
like a lost country or so I think
but the ribbon has reeled itself
up

He isn't giving
or taking any shit
We glance miserably
across the room at each other

It's true there are moments
closer and closer together
when words stick in my throat
'the art of love'
'the art of words'

I get your message Gabriel
just will you stay looking
straight at me
awhile longer

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fiction: Nasty Monkey

So like Eric and Charlie are hanging out on St. Marks, trying to sell some books. Their business isn’t going so well right now, a lot of the niggers are getting into their merchandise. They knew the bucks wouldn't last. Too easy. They’d go into Barnes and Noble and when no one was looking they’d stuff a few of those big overfucking priced coffee table rags under their jackets and then, scoot scoot scoot, out the door. Half hour later they’d have $30 bucks, just enough money for a bag. Then they were happy again.

You’re probably thinking what’s two good-looking brothers like Eric and Charlie doing in a place like this, playing the smack thing. Well, they just enjoy it, see? They are not hooked or anything, they can stop anytime they want...anytime. But it’s fun, more fun than just about anything else they can think of. And that’s what life is about, man. Fun fun fun.

They went to Cornell, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. That’s where they met the bitch. Her name is Genevieve. They refer to her as their married babe. She’s hitched to some big time magazine editor who won’t give her the nasty. She comes around sniffing for Eric's dick, but he’s not giving her any.

He says he’s got morals.

She’s a nine to fiver. Executrix-type woman. Doesn’t know how desperate she is. And let me tell you, there's nothing like a desperate chick for a good blowjob. They'll do just about anything for a fuck, even give you their ass if you want it. But my man Eric stands by his convictions, and keeps saying no. That don't keep her away, it just makes her ploys for him ever so slightly more complex. Like they don’t see what she’s doing. This shit might make them stupid, but it don't make them blind.

The brothers gave me the 411 the first time they brought her here. She was all flustered cause she was into some new nigger, a bastard who worked in her office. Some parlez-vous francais guy named Timothy. She was feeling all courageous about leaving her old man now that she got some new dick to swallow, but there was one hitch, man. The dude had a live-in lady friend. So she asked Charlie and Eric to figure out some way to help her get the bitch out of the picture.

She wanted to party with the boys that night, and decided it was about time they introduced her to the pipe. Eric’s all for it, man, but Charlie’s a little skeptical. What's a nice bitch like her doing with a nasty monkey like that? But there's no persuading her otherwise. The lady’s got a will of steel. She ups the ante by asking Eric how much money they will need. He tells her they could do pretty nicely on $120—that’s a bag for each of them. But then, since they don't want to crash land, they’ll need a buffer to ease the blues. She looks at the boys and gives them one of those "you pathetic, poor little pieces of shit" looks and says, real condescending like, “Well, I can get $500 out of my cash machine. Think that will be enough?” By this time the niggers are coming in their pants; the only thing sexier than an executrix with tits is an executrix with some cash. So they head over to the bank on 14th and First and Gen goes in all exaggerated and prim and withdraws the booty. Then they come over here and score the blow; then they go back to Charlie’s place. At this point, Eric is like practically running.

Just when they get settled into Charlie's pad, Gen informs the brothers that she now wants to go to Club USA, cause Timothy is going to be there with his old lady. She wants to check out her competition, see what this bitch looks like, start planning and shit. Charlie starts getting nervous, cause the only thing scarier than an executrix with tits and executrix with some cash is an executrix on the warpath. But Eric thinks its funny, so Charlie figures what the hell, he’ll go along for the ride.

They introduce Gen to the pipe, and then stoned out of their minds, they take a cab to USA. Gen is flying. When they get inside the club she’s on the prowl. She's trying to look all casual-like, but with her eyes shining from the junk and the strobe lights and her constant scanning of the crowd for her Frenchie boy, she looks pretty freaking obvious. She grabs Eric’s hand, and pulls him onto the dance floor. “Dance with me,” she pleads, “He needs to see me first.” So they dance. Charlie admitted she looked kind of foxy, with her tits all perky and shit, he even considered banging her for a minute. And he doesn’t sleep with just anyone. But she was on a mission. When Eric got tired, she grabbed Charlie and when Charlie got tired, she dragged Eric back again. They kept taking turns going into the john to blow some more pipe, and then they kept dancing. By 2:00, it started to look like this guy wasn't going to show, but Gen wasn’t giving up. The pipe had caught her and she was going to dance until the supply was drained. By 3:30 the club had thinned out, and she figured that the brother wasn’t showing. Then Eric convinced her to go back to Charlie’s pad, so they could finish what they started.

When they got there, Charlie started bugging out. He gets that way sometimes. He has these big windows overlooking 14th street, and all of a sudden he had this feeling that somebody was going to see what was going on inside. He started saying shit like, “Fuck, somebody's going to see, somebody’s going see.” Man, he was wigging. Eric started worrying that Gen was going to freak out too, being all bitter that she got stood up, but she was cool. She started to comfort Charlie, saying she promised that no one could see them, and then she got Eric to help her drag the sheets off the bed to cover up the windows. That touched Charlie, that really did, and suddenly he started calming down.

The three of them did some more blow and they talked. Gen got all mushy on Charlie, all philosophical like and she told him that she got him, man, that like the two of them were like the same person, that they were both these really sad people that didn't know how to deal with life. For a second Charlie believed her, and suddenly he thought she was this beautiful person. He leaned over and kissed her and he thought she tasted sweet. He thought she was, like, alright.

Eric started to come down after that so he started fixing some H and he’s showing Gen how to sniff it and Charlie’s coming down hard and needed to shoot and he ties up his arm and fishes for a vein and Gen is watching him. Her eyes are bugging and for a second Eric thinks she’s going to throw up.

Charlie finally gets his vein. He sticks the needle all the way in and pushes. He shoots the drug high and quick and his eyes roll back in his head. He needed it so bad, he didn’t even bother to take the needle out. He just left it dangling in and waited for his brain to clear.

Gen came up to him then and put her head in his lap and he could feel her tears through his pants, and even with all the drugs he managed to get a hard on. She closed her eyes. She knew he was hard and she sighed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Overheard: 7/22/06

Overheard on the 7 train en route to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play the Houston Astros.

Scene: Two little beautiful Hispanic boys are sitting on their parents laps, they are about 2 and 3, respectively.
One little boy has a Mohawk haircut ala Maddox Jolie-Pitt. He is sitting on his mother's lap.

Little Mohawk boy: Will there be food there?
Mom: Yes, of course.

Pause.

Little Mohawk boy: Will there be cake?

Mom looks beseechingly at Dad.

Dad answers: No, but there will be french fries.

Pause.

Little Mohawk boy: (big sigh)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Poem: Ode to Kobi

Yesterday I pretended I was you,
Black hair flashing lithe body long.
I pretended I knew it all and I
would give nothing away
but my cock.

I liked the outfit I wore as you.
The ease of your supple shirt
as it fell smooth against my narrow chest
and held me in.

I have been told that I should know who I am by now.
But it felt fun to put you on, to pull you over,
to hold what was big a little while.

But as the day wore on
I got tired of the mood,
got bored of the laziness
required to stay aloof,
to hold the distance,
to be on top.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Poetry Tuesday: raise the shade

raise the shade
by e.e. cummings


raise the shade
will youse dearie?
rain
wouldn't that

get yer goat but
we don't care do
we dearie we should
worry about the rain

huh
dearie?
yknow
i'm

sorry for awl the
poor girls that
gets up god
knows when every

day of their
lives
aint you,

oo-oo.

dearie

not so
hard dear

you're killing me

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Commentary: The Meaning of Mean

Last week I spent several days in Supreme Court Jury Duty in New York City. I had never served before, and I really didn’t know what to expect other than what my friends and family told me: bring a lot of books and magazines; you’ll be bored.

It was boring at times, but it was also fascinating. The “people watching” was enough to keep me occupied, and observing the range of folks that were with me in the jury room kept me busy for hours. There was the crusty man in the fishing hat that could barely hear, a middle aged woman with a ratty bag of newspapers (no, that wasn’t me), a college sophomore in a low cut, clingy dress, Manolo Blahnick stiletto’s and a spray on tan, an elderly woman with diabetes, a big bag of snacks and a walker; and mind you, these were just the folks sitting nearest to me.

64 people were called for jury selection in my group, in two groups of 32, and I was Juror Number 32 in the second group. Which essentially meant that I had to pay attention to all the potential jurors preceding me as they answered the various questions we were all asked, including the following:

--Are you absolutely positive that you can be neutral given the topic of this case (medical malpractice)?
--Is there any reason why you would not be able to be impartial?
--Is there anything that has happened to you that would prevent you from being fair in coming to a verdict?

Prior to hearing all of the jurors answer these questions, I was convinced that I could be a fair and impartial juror. I actually looked forward to the possibility of sitting on the case, and determining the just from the unjust. I had vague visions of sequestered jury arguments, dissecting the details of the case and skillfully and ingeniously uncovering and determining what was true and fair. But as potential juror after juror was questioned, and as they all responded with thoughtful and valid questions about impartiality and neutrality, I began to waver. In fact, by the time they got to me, I was in a complete and total philosophical conundrum: how could we ever be impartial to anything? How could we not expect that our own personal viewpoints and experiences and how we define “fair” would not get in the way of determining a just outcome? I was so overwhelmed by my utter inability to make the “right” decisions in my own life that I became completely convinced that I had no right to make any monumental decisions for anyone else. By the time the lawyer for the prosecution got to me, Juror Number 32, I had had a total philosophical breakdown. When he asked me if I could be neutral, I simply shook my head no. When he asked me why, I responded that I didn’t think that I could be neutral about anything, and furthermore, I didn’t think I could handle the responsibility of participating in, or determining the future of, another human being. He looked at me in disbelief and dramatically crossed my name off of his list. Needless to say, I was not called for another jury selection.

This experience has led me to re-evaluate a number of things that have happened in the last couple of weeks—both publicly and personally. In assessing what is happening in the Middle East, in assessing what is happening on the blog Design Observer, and in a number of personal interactions. How can we, as feeble human beings, ever know what is truly the right thing to do? How can we know if our opinions are fair? How do we know if our convictions, in the grand scheme of things, are valid? For me, both as Juror Number 32, and as a 44-year-old woman living in 2006, it is very, very hard to say.

In the past few weeks, I have been particularly outspoken about my opinions. Prior to my philosophical breakdown in Supreme Court, I was feeling confidently entitled to my opinions, so much so, that I have been rather vocal about some of these opinions online. As a result, I have received some email correspondence with those that I have been critical of. Understandably, these emails have questioned my opinions; some have been angry assaults on my convictions, others were disappointed diatribes that took me to task for being so public with what they considered to be wrong or petty or unnecessarily mean viewpoints. My responses to these emails were varied, but the common denominator was one of depersonalizing the message from the messenger and essentially, the “right” everyone has to their personal opinions.

Right. Looking back on this now, I think I was full of shit. I say this primarily because once you open yourself up to feeling entitled to voice your criticisms and opinions, you also open yourself up to hearing opinions and criticisms about yourself. Which, in my case, doesn’t always feel good.

While I might think it is certainly within anyone’s “freedom of speech” rights to be critical (whether constructive or not) I also think that hurting someone in the process is not “right.” Whether we mean to or not, if someone else believes that we are being unfair or mean, we need to consider that. Until I am capable of not taking the criticism I hear about my own work or point of view personally, I don’t think it is right for me to do that to anyone else.

Every gesture we make now is cinematic: it gets swept up in to a swift sequence of gestures that precede and follow it. Think of it as the ultimate domino effect. If we can’t handle something that is done to us, then perhaps we shouldn’t do it to others. I know this sounds rather simplistic, but if we all could live like this, think of the possibilities.

A couple of months ago, a design magazine came out with a cover that friends of mine designed. Before I knew they designed it, I determined that I didn’t like it. After I found out that my friends designed it, I wavered. Given that I knew them and respected them as well as I did, I began to backtrack and reconsider the myriad of meanings that the cover could have and what I might not have considered in their approach to designing it. But I felt feeble and embarrassed in doing this. How weak to not be staunch in my belief in something just because I liked who created it! Several days later, I confessed my behavior to Steve Heller, and asked him if it was morally okay to reconsider your opinion of something when you found out who was responsible for creating that “something.” He laughed and replied that while he didn’t know if it was right or wrong, it was human nature, and often inevitable.

In the criticisms I have received this week, my immediate response was to want to reply with statements such as, “How could you think that? Don’t you know me well enough to know that I did this because of this or that? Don’t you know how hard I worked? Don’t you know what I really meant?” But I didn’t and I won’t. I can’t. It really wouldn’t be fair.

We are now living in a world where nations, countries and tribes all see the world in different ways. It is nearly impossible to determine what is fair and impartial. In considering all of our individual behavior, and all of the possible responses to moral, religious, political and personal stances, I can only consider what it means to be responsible. With all of the anger and hatred and violence we are currently surrounded by, I am now only absolutely, positively sure of one thing. I believe that we all owe it to each other to give those around us the benefit of a doubt, to consider what things might be like for those that might think differently, and at the risk of sounding incredibly naïve and simplistic, to do unto others as we would want others to do unto us.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Poetry Tuesday: Jet

JET
By Tony Hoagland from "Donkey Gospel"
Published by Graywolf Press, 1998

Sometimes I wish I were still out
on the back porch, drinking jet fuel
with the boys, getting louder and louder
as the empty cans drop out of our paws
like booster rockets falling back to Earth

and we soar up into the summer stars.
Summer. The big sky river rushes overhead,
bearing asteroids and mist, blind fish
and old space suits with skeletons inside.
On Earth, men celebrate their hairiness,

and it is good, a way of letting life
out of the box, uncapping the bottle
to let the effervescence gush
through the narrow, usually constricted neck.

And now the crickets plug in their appliances
in unison, and then the fireflies flash
dots and dashes in the grass, like punctuation
for the labyrinthine, untrue tales of sex
someone is telling in the dark, though

no one really hears. We gaze into the night
as if remembering the bright unbroken planet
we once came from,
to which we will never
be permitted to return.
We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Buy This Song: Richard Walter


richard walters fan site
Originally uploaded by debbie millman.
It is a rare and exceptionally wonderful thing to stumble across a musician that truly rocks your world. Such was the case, for me, when I discovered RIchard Walters. Trolling through the internet two weeks ago, I came across a link that took me to a link, and voila, there he was.

He is a tenderling--only 23 years old--but he is earnest and engaging and poignant and heartbreaking. His EP, which I ordered from the UK, came a few days ago, and it is all I can listen to. There are five songs on the CD, four are magnificent and brilliant; the first tune (which is a cover) is just marginal, but it really doesn't count, as he didn't write it.

My two favorites are "Crawl Up To My Room" and "All At Sea," which are all I can listen to right now--at the moment my other music feels shabby in comparison.

Try and find it and hope it arrives soon, as sadly, Walters is not available on iTunes.

For a sample of "All At Sea," click on the link above.

Don't you just *love* obsessing to music?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Commentary: Fixing The Code


Later When I Came Down
Originally uploaded by debbie millman.
For most of my adult life I have followed a safe path. This was a conscious choice; I remember the actual moment I began the journey in vivid detail. It was in August of 1983, the summer I graduated from college; it was a hot and hazy evening. As I stood on the corner of 7th avenue and Bleecker Street in New York City, wearing pastel blue trousers and a hot pink Miami Vice-like tee shirt, as I peered deep into my future and contemplated the choice between knowing and not knowing, between the secure and the uncertain, between the creative and the logical, I chose the road I now refer to as the path of responsible resistance.

I grew up in an atmosphere that I would now describe as one of oblique and utter disarray, and my primary response as a young woman was a goal of self-sufficiency. I was bound and determined to make a success of myself, and inasmuch as I knew what I wanted deep in my heart, I was also compelled to consider what I thought was reasonable. For though I wanted what a good friend considers “the whole wide world,” I thought it might be more prudent to shoot for what was conventionally considered more responsible--or to be more specific: success that was realistically attainable.

As a result, I have lived within a fairly fixed code. I am not unhappy with what has transpired in the 20-odd years since I first had this goal, rather, on my best days, I am more curious as to the initial motivations of making this choice, the subsequent ramifications of that choice and most importantly, now, what can be built from the foundation of what I have chosen.

I think that the codes we build for ourselves are rather impressive. Though we might believe that our personal codifications are fixed and determined, because we have actually built them for ourselves and voluntarily live in the framework, they are not. Yet this does not deter us from dutifully believing in and heeding them. As a result, while we might believe that the world’s restrictions or expectations are too daunting or out of reach, what we are really doing is providing ourselves with an easy way out, and a way to save face when we look in the mirror at what we’ve created.

Then (often when we least expect it) we encounter someone more courageous, someone who chose to strive for that which might seem unrealistically unattainable. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often we are in awe. I think we look at these people as the lucky ones, when in fact; luck has nothing to do with it. It is really all about our constitution, our belief in ourselves, and ultimately what we believe we are capable of. It is about how we have constructed our inner code. And though we might yearn to change that inner code, it will never change just because we desire it to. In order to make any meaningful change, we need to understand what it is we want to be different. And then comes the hard part: determining how the code can be fixed or changed.

According to Thomas Lewis in his book, “A General Theory of Love,” “The scientist and artist both speak to the turmoil that comes from having a (human) brain. A person cannot direct his emotional life the way he bids his motor systems to reach for a cup. He cannot will himself to want the right thing or to love the right person or to be happy after a disappointment or even to be happy in happy times. People lack this capacity not through a deficiency of discipline but because the jurisdiction of will is limited to the latest brain and to those functions within its purview. Emotional life can be influenced, but it cannot be commanded. Our society’s love affair with mechanical devices that respond at a button-touch ill prepares us to deal with the truly unruly organic mind that dwells within. Anything that does not comply must be broken or poorly designed, people now suppose, including their hearts.”

One of my favorite quotes from John Maeda’s book, "Design By Numbers," is this: “The computer will do anything within its abilities, but it will also do absolutely nothing unless commanded to do so.” I think we humans are like that too—we will continue to obey our own codes and our personal codifications until we crash, reconfigure or upgrade. So, twenty-three years after writing my own code, I am attempting to rewrite it. But for now, I can only view it as a work in progress, as the new code I am considering is not fully known to this author. Thus far, it is not something that I can articulate; it is not something I can describe scientifically or artistically. It is still just a code in progress.

In the grand scheme of a life, maybe (just maybe) it is not about knowing or not knowing, choosing or not choosing. Perhaps what is truly known can’t be described or articulated by either creativity or logic, science or art—but perhaps with the most authentic and meaningful combination of the two: poetry. As Robert Frost once wrote, “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a love sickness. It is never a thought to begin with.”
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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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