Introduction by Paula Scher
As children, most graphic designers start out not knowing they want to be designers. They start out by making things. They are uninhibited and uncritical. They draw from the heart. They draw the things they love: horses, toy soldiers, or they conjure up comic book characters, or create paper dolls with complete wardrobes. They doodle in their school notebooks. They make up stories, and some of them are intensely personal. Later, when they are in high school, they become known for being “good at art”. They draw portraits of their classmates, or caricatures of their teachers. They usually make posters for the school proms or the student-council elections or the football rallies. They have found their position in life. They go to college and become graphic designers and still retain the passion for making things and still cherish the notion that they are “good at art.” But then they graduate, go to work as designers and begin to find themselves far away from the doodles and craft of their childhood. They become strategists, branding experts. They attend meetings. They become planners. They “execute” design. They stop making things, and they never totally understand how that happened.
Debbie Millman is principal of Sterling Brands. She is a consummate branding expert and has worked on some of America’s biggest and most iconic brands. She is a planner, a strategist and designer. She spends a lot her life in meetings and on airplanes to and from meetings. She is also a popular design commentator with her own radio podcast, “Design Matters”. She is a dedicated educator at the School of Visual Arts where she run the Masters in Branding program. If that isn’t enough she has authored “Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits” “Brand Bible” and “How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer.”
But Debbie never lost her passion for making things. All through that busy branding career she made paintings and drawings with the same intensity you see in children who want to “be good at art.” Her design life had a huge influence on her language-based drawings and paintings. She had fallen in love with art of the word.
In 2009, her book “Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design” she published her literary doodles for the first time. She combined insights about design and everyday life with obsessive hand-drawn typography to create a new form of visual poetry. She invented a 21st century illuminated manuscript. Set against her eccentric type, these essays are a brave, highly personal form of communication.
Debbie goes a step farther in this collection. Here, the writing and illumination are even more personal and eccentric. The lettering compliments the message in a way that enforces the feeling, that is, each piece of lettering seems to have been created to express the exact emotional subject matter at hand. A designer knows how to do this ; to manipulate the visual components in order to evoke the appropriate feeling. It is a planned act. But a fine artist does it for herself, spontaneously, without the client collaborator or a brief. Debbie’s elaborate doodles have more in common with Ed Fella’s work than with editorial design. While they are illustrative, they are not illustrations but are wholly their own. They exist to demonstrate and illuminate, but their complication does not make them easier to read. It makes them significantly more emotionally resonant. These drawings are communication from the heart. And they are the bravest, rawest and most honest form of communication there can be.