debbie millman

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Design Matters Live Goes Live

Last year, as part of Adobe’s ongoing commitment to design and the AIGA San Francisco design community, I hosted a series of live Design Matters interviews with some extraordinary designers. Adobe taped them, and here are three little films created by the fabulous Rachel Talbot from Magnet Media.

Design Matters Live with Marian Bantjes


Design Matters Live with Alan Dye


Design Matters Live with Elliott Earls

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fields of Dreams

Every couple of years I go through a period of intense insomnia, and wrangle up all sorts of ways to coax myself to sleep. My most successful method to date is imagining that I am soaring backward thirteen billions years in time to the singularity we now call the Big Bang. Along the way, I pass unfamiliar galaxies and attempt to understand how they got there and what, if anything, inhabits the odd surfaces. I marvel in front of a black hole and infinitely float towards the event horizon, unable to move into or out of its gravitational pull. Time has stopped in front of this gorging vortex, and I am rendered paralyzed and mute by its power. By the time I finally fall asleep, I fantasize finding success in the discovery of one grand unifying theory of the universe, brashly bringing together Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the science of quantum physics. This, of course, is rendered with no real education in science or math or physics, and by the time I rise the next morning, I have all but forgotten the nonsensical equations memorized on my mystical journey.

Though severely obtuse in regard to all things scientific, it would be an understatement to say that I am fascinated by the theories of our origins. However successful as a tactic for eradicating sleeplessness, I can only wish I had even one shallow answer to the perplexing questions we face as a species.

I also love science fiction and the more speculative genres. I find television shows such as Star Trek and The X-Files and movies like Star Wars endlessly captivating. Not surprisingly, last weekend I went to see the highly anticipated J.J. Abrahms film “Cloverfield,” a Blair-Witch inspired flick about a Godzilla-like alien that lands in lower Manhattan and proceeds to destroy everything in its path. As the film unfolded, I found myself in a bizarrely bewildered state, unable to believe that I had paid money to watch a film about unsuspecting civilians running through narrow city streets while being chased by the thundering, engulfing plumes of smoke and debris from crumpled buildings. I leaned into my friend Emily and asked if she thought the movie could be a metaphor. She glumly shook her head no. “I think it’s supposed to be about a real monster.”

On my walk home, I passed billboards for the Will Smith movie, “I am Legend” and a new television show premiering on the History Channel titled “After People.” The campaigns for both the film and the series contain images of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, and like Cloverfield, they feature familiar landscapes rendered wholly immobile by our demise. As I viewed the thorny, overgrown locations, I realized that somehow, in the six-plus years since 9/11, enough time had passed to now see these realistically horrific images as entertainment.

Philosophers and scientists alike agree that if humans can imagine something, there is the distinct possibility that it can be manifested. As I observed the trifecta of imagery around me, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had either forgotten the horror of the past or if this horror had become so much a part of our reality that we now simply factor this into our forecast of the future. It is hard to tell.

Why do we remember what we remember? Why do we forget what we forget? In the Harold Pinter play “Betrayal,” two ex-lovers recall a shared experience differently, and argue about who has the more accurate recollection. Pinter makes it clear that though each character’s memory is deeply engrained and staunchly believed, the validity of each memory is highly subjective. This is both a saving grace and a hindering happenstance in our humanity.

Our memories, as frail or fierce or fabulous as they are, help us construct our realities, our identities, and our manifestation of the world around us. When they fail, our world fundamentally changes, and we cease to be what we remember or recognize. Our current reality is simply a collection of overlapping memories, some shared, some not. Each memory we have is cinematic as it gets swept up in the sequence of memories that precede and follow it. Sort of like the ultimate domino effect. The condition of our collective memory has now become the condition of our consciousness and our culture.

Last Sunday night, I once again found myself suffering from insomnia. I lay in bed, tossing and turning, reliving the experience of Cloverfield, witnessing the falling buildings in slow motion, over and over again in my head, rewriting the ending, reconfiguring the storyline, re-dressing the wounds of the recollection. And then I stopped. Why was I doing this? Why was I putting myself through this? I had no idea. And I reconsidered. Rather than relive our destruction, why not embark on my ritual into the far reaches of the universe? For though I may not have even one answer to the questions that face both our civilization and our purpose here, I decided I would much rather obsess over our mysterious origins than be debilitated by our demise.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Design Matters Today with Nobel Prize Winning Scientist Eric Kandel

Eric Kandel

It is Friday again! That means that Design Matters is live at 3 PM ET. My guest today is the brilliant scientist, Eric Kandel.

Eric Kandel is a psychiatrist, a neuroscientist and professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. His other honors include the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize, the Gairdner International Award, the Charles A. Dana Award and the Lasker Award. Kandel has been at Columbia University since 1974, and lives in New York City. Eric Kandel is the author of In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (WW Norton), which chronicles his life and research. The book was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.

Design Matters airs live weekly on the Voice America Business Network, now the industry leader in Internet talk radio. The show was voted a "favorite podcast" on PSFK's Marketing Podcast survey and was recently voted 9th out of over 300 entries for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s People’s Choice Award. The show is also available as Podcasts on iTunes, where over 50,000 people download the show every month.

Design Matters is from 3-4PM EST and you can view the VoiceAmerica Business site and listen to the show from a myriad of locations:

You can go here, through the Sterling link: http://www.sterlingbrands.com/ListenLive.html

Or you can go here, through the Voice America link: http://www.modavox.com/VoiceAmericaBusiness/

Or you can go here, through the Designers Who Blog link: http://www.designers-who-blog.com

Lots of choices.

Please note that you will need Windows Media Player or the equivalent program to listen in, but you can download the technology for free here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/download/default.asp

Or finally, you can listen to this show, or any of our previous shows, as a Podcast on iTunes, for free. To listen to the Podcasts, you can do either of the following:

Subscribe manually, by going to the iTunes advanced menu, then select "Subscribe to Podcast," then enter the following: http://www.sterlingbrands.com/DesignMatters/rss.xml as the feed.

Or simply do a search on the iTunes music store Podcast directory for “Design Matters.”

Everyone is welcome to call in live and toll free--the number is 1.866.472.5790.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rest In Peace

Rest In Peace

Perspective in all of the Chaos: The Eames' Power of Ten



This classic film, created over forty years ago by Charles and Ray Eames, deals with the relative sizes in the universe and the effect of adding another zero in spatial distances. The Eames' made this film for their client, IBM. Must have been a really interesting brief.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pick One

I dropped my portfolio off at Condé Nast the moment after I graduated college, and somehow, miraculously, I got a call back to come in for an interview. To me, this was the equivalent of winning the lottery and I spent every waking hour prior to the interview agonizing over the contents of my “career wardrobe,” posing in outfit after outfit in an effort to ensure I would make the best possible impression. The outfits primarily consisted of the clothes my mother lovingly handmade as a graduation gift, and the morning of the interview I chose the royal blue bolero jacket, matching A-line knee length skirt, a beige faux-silk blouse with blue pin dots and a big, floppy bow in the front, sheer black stockings, and flat black patent leather loafers. I anxiously gazed at myself in the mirror before leaving my mother’s Queens apartment and took a deep breath. I knew that what happened next could change my life forever. As I sat on the cramped, balmy Express Bus into Manhattan, I fantasized befriending the Human Resources Director, being invited up to meet the design director of Vogue or Vanity Fair or Glamour, getting hired as his or her crackerjack assistant, working late nights and weekends, cavorting with the glamorous editors and art directors and designers and, of course, spending my entire career being fabulously successful at what I considered to be the best magazine company in the whole wide world.

I exited the bus on 42nd Street and Madison Avenue and skipped towards the Condé Nast building, faux-silk bow billowing in the breeze, faux-leather portfolio banging against my legs when the unthinkable happened. I tripped. I toppled so hard and so fast that three passersby came to help me. As they asked me if I was okay, I felt my stinging knee and burning face and knew without looking: I had an ugly bruise on my leg and a vicious tear up my stockings.

I didn’t have time to change my hose, but realized that both my skirt and the tactical placement of my portfolio could mask the bruise. I lumbered on and made it to my appointment on time. When I met the Human Resources Director, I was mesmerized. She was unlike any other woman I had ever encountered. She was cool and elegant and alluring in her pale yellow sleeveless shift. She had the thinnest arms I had ever seen and the biggest office I had ever been in. She invited me to sit down and I complied; and as I tumbled back into the overstuffed orange chair I felt the hole in my stockings widen and prayed that she didn’t hear the ripping sound. She quickly looked through my portfolio without uttering a syllable and when she was finished she shut it with a thud. She looked me up and down, and we had the following conversation:

She:
So. What kind of design do you want to do?

Me:
Excuse me?

She:
What kind of design do you want to do?

Me:
Kind of design?

She:
(Said with a furrowed brow)
Yes.

Me:
Er...um...I think I would like to do any kind of design...

She:
You can’t do any kind of design. You have to pick.

Me:
Pick?

She:
(Said with a very furrowed brow)
Yes. You have to pick. You have to pick editorial design or promotional design or advertising or custom publishing. You must choose one.

I sat there for a moment and thought to myself:
...well I really want to say editorial but maybe I am not good enough and though I don’t know what custom publishing or promotional design are I will say “promotional” but really I would happily sweep the floors if they want me to...

Finally, I cleared my throat and said:
Promotional?

And then I couldn’t help myself. I continued talking.

Me:
But I would do anything. Anything. Anything you need.

And then there was silence.

And She responded:
Well. Yes, then. I see.

And with that, she sighed and made one sweeping gesture for me to take my portfolio back. I looked at her and picked it up. Though she said she would be in touch, I knew that I was not going to hear from her, and I never, ever did. I made some small talk as I was escorted out; I remember asking how long she had been at Condé Nast and I remember her replying “12 years” with the slightest clip in her voice.

Several months later, in a moment of aberrant fearlessness, I got up my nerve and called her, but the person who answered the phone told me she no longer worked there. By then I had gotten my first job as a traffic girl at a fledgling cable magazine and worked late night and weekends and cavorted with the editors and art directors and designers and, of course, I didn’t spend the rest of my career there. But when I worked there, I joyfully learned about editorial design and promotional design and advertising and even custom publishing. I realized how much I did know and how much I didn’t know and embarked upon what has become a lifelong journey in learning about the abundant and bewitching specialties in the marvelous discipline that is considered graphic design.

Twenty-five years after that decisive day, I’ve come to the realization that my ill-fated interview did indeed impact the rest of my life, just not in the way I intended it to. But this is likely the most interesting thing about possibilities: there is always something new to dream of and always something different to choose. And you don’t have to pick just one.

Pick One is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Essential Principles of Graphic Design, Rotovision, July 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Alissa Walker covers Compostmodern 08

Compost Modern 08

Alissa Walker, the Hildy Johnson of the design community, has posted one of her most impressive and heartfelt columns on Unbeige. She covered the entire Compostmodern 08 conference this past weekend in San Francisco, and includes important coverage on The Designers Accord, presentations by Nike and Marc Alt, and awesome poetry by spoken word artist Dawn Maxey.

A must read for anyone interested in living responsibly on our planet.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How To Think Goes Into Second Printing

How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer
photograph by Michael Surtees

How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer is going into a second printing! Thank you thank you thank you!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Today's the day Design Matters with Chip Kidd

chip kidd

Can you believe it? Design Matters is begins its Season Five Today at 3 PM ET with the most fabulous Chip Kidd.

Chip Kidd is a writer and graphic designer in New York City. His book jacket design has spawn a revolution in the art of American book packaging and in 1998 he was made a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationalle. His first book as author and designer, Batman Collected, was given the Design Distinction award from ID magazine, and his second, Batman Animated, garnered two of the Comics Industry’s Eisner Awards, as did his 2002 book Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz. As an editor of books of comics for Pantheon, Chip has worked extensively with some of the most brilliant talents practicing today, including Chris Ware and Art Spiegelman. A comprehensive monograph of Kidd’s work, CHIP KIDD: BOOK ONE was published in 2005. The first edition sold out a week before publication and it has since gone into three consecutive re-printings. Kidd was awarded the 2007 National Design Award for Communications, and In the fall of 2006 his work was included in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s third National Design Triennial. The Cheese Monkeys, Chip’s first novel, was published by Scribner in 2001 and was a national bestseller, as well as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. It has recently been released in a new edition, restoring a previously cut scene and featuring a preview of his second novel, The Learners, to be published in just a few short weeks.

Design Matters airs live weekly on the Voice America Business Network, now the industry leader in Internet talk radio. The show was voted a "favorite podcast" on PSFK's Marketing Podcast survey and was recently voted 9th out of over 300 entries for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s People’s Choice Award. The show is also available as Podcasts on iTunes, where over 50,000 people download the show every month.

Design Matters is from 3-4PM EST and you can view the VoiceAmerica Business site and listen to the show from a myriad of locations:

You can go here, through the Sterling link: http://www.sterlingbrands.com/ListenLive.html

Or you can go here, through the Voice America link: http://www.modavox.com/VoiceAmericaBusiness/

Or you can go here, through the Designers Who Blog link: http://www.designers-who-blog.com

Lots of choices.

Please note that you will need Windows Media Player or the equivalent program to listen in, but you can download the technology for free here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/download/default.asp

Or finally, you can listen to this show, or any of our previous shows, as a Podcast on iTunes, for free. To listen to the Podcasts, you can do either of the following:

Subscribe manually, by going to the iTunes advanced menu, then select "Subscribe to Podcast," then enter the following: http://www.sterlingbrands.com/DesignMatters/rss.xml as the feed.

Or simply do a search on the iTunes music store Podcast directory for “Design Matters.”

Everyone is welcome to call in live and toll free--the number is 1.866.472.5790.

MANY THANKS TO ADOBE FOR THEIR SUPPORT OF DESIGN MATTERS and to all of our wonderful listeners.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Where will you be on Friday at 3?

January 18th at 3 PM


Please join me for the Season Five Premiere of Design Matters on the Voice America Business Network with the fabulous Chip Kidd!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Perhaps the Greatest Book Cover in the History of Civilization

Precisely What The Author Had In Mind

Precisely what the author had in mind, via the always wonderful Jonathan Hoefler at Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why I Love Jenny Holzer

Some Days

Consider this evidence of why I love Kottke.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Philip Glass on Sesame Street



Geometry of Circlesis a series of unnumbered animation pieces that was created for Sesame Street in 1979 with music by Philip Glass. The shorts consist of the movement of six circles (each with a different color of the rainbow) that are formed by and split up into various geometric patterns. Glass's music underscores the animation in a style that closely resembles the "Dance" numbers and the North Star vignettes written during the same time period as his Einstein on the Beach opera. Totally, totally cool.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tonight in Cleveland

what would you do?

Tonight I will be presenting my new lecture for the AIGA Cleveland chapter. The presentation is titled Why We Brand, Why We Buy, and will provide a historical look at how we brand ourselves and the world around us, and how this influences the products we buy and why we live the way we do.

Thursday, January 10, 2008 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Cocktails and light food from 6-7, lecture starts at 7 p.m.

Windows on the River
2000 Sycamore
Cleveland, OH 44113

See you there!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Design Matters Season Five Launches on January 18th!

The first half of Season Five of my internet radio show, Design Matters with Debbie Millman, launches on Friday, January 18th at 3PM on the Voice America Business Network with my esteemed guest: designer, writer and musician Chip Kidd. This first half of Season Five will run from January 18th until April 25th and the second half of Season Five will begin in September. The Fall guest line-up will be announced in August.

Design Matters airs live weekly on the Voice America Business Network, now the industry leader in Internet talk radio. The show was voted a "favorite podcast" on PSFK's Marketing Podcast survey and was recently voted 9th out of over 300 entries for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s People’s Choice Award. The show is also available as Podcasts on iTunes, where over 50,000 people download the show every month.

Season Five will feature acclaimed graphic designers, writers, illustrators, authors, scientists, editors, and even a Nobel Prize winner. The line-up includes:

chip kidd
January 18: Chip Kidd
Award-winning graphic designer, musician and author of the books The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters; Chip Kidd: Book One; and the forthcoming The Learners: A Novel

eric kandel
January 25: Eric Kandel
Psychiatrist, neuroscientist and professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize for his research on the physiological basis of memory. He is the author of In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind

kurt andersen
February 1: Kurt Andersen
Award-winning journalist, host of the Peabody-winning public radio program Studio 360, and author of several best-selling books, including Turn of the Century and Heyday: A Novel

vaughan oliver
February 8: Vaughan Oliver
Award-winning, legendary graphic designer, artist and author of several books, including Exhibition/Exposition and This Rimy River

jonah lehrer
February 15: Jonah Lehrer
Editor-at-large for Seed Magazine, a contributor to NPR’s Radio Lab and the author of the acclaimed book Proust was a Neuroscientist

petrula vrontikis
February 22: Petrula Vrontikis
Graphic designer, educator at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and author of the book inspiration=ideas, a creativity sourcebook for graphic designers

stefan bucher
February 29: Stefan G. Bucher
Graphic designer, illustrator and author of several books including All Access—The Making of Thirty Extraordinary Graphic Designers and the forthcoming 100 Days of Monsters

laurie rosenwald
March 7: Laurie Rosenwald
Graphic designer, artist, illustrator, writer, television actress and author of several books including New York Notebook; And to Name but Just a Few: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and All The Wrong People Have Self-Esteem

mr. zeldman
March 14: Jeffrey Zeldman
Web Entrepreneur, writer, innovator, one of the first web designers and bloggers, publisher of A List Apart, and founder of the firm Happy Cog. He is the author of several books including Designing With Web Standards and the co-founder of An Event Apart, a traveling conference on design and code

abbott miller
March 28: Abbott Miller
Partner at Pentagram Design, award-winning graphic designer, writer, editor and art director of 2wice magazine, contributing editor of Eye magazine and the co-author of several books including The ABC's of Bauhaus: The Bauhaus and Design Theory; Design/Writing/Research: Writing on Graphic Design and the forthcoming Open Book

robynne raye
April 11: Robynne Raye
Graphic Designer and co-founder of the acclaimed firm Modern Dog, educator at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and co-author of Modern Dog: 20 Years of Poster Art

April 18: Spoken Word Show
In honor of National Poetry Month, we will be presenting an all poetry and prose show. A Design Matters first!
mick hodson
April 25: All Music Show with DJ and Designer Michael Hodgson
Graphic Designer and co-founder of the award-winning firm Ph.D., educator, and internationally acclaimed disc jockey.

Thanks for listening and remember: We can talk about making a difference or we can make a difference or we can do both.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars

David Bryne

A fascinating, must-read article from Wired Magazine written by David Byrne on the past, present and future of the music business.

Via Design Notes.
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Location: new york city, United States

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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