Speaking of Creativity: ‘Design Matters’ with SVA’s Debbie Millman

January 8, 2014

Chip Kidd, the estimable book designer, has referred to MPS Branding Chair Debbie Millman as “the extremely brilliant and ultra-beautiful host of the Design Matters podcast.” In the pantheon of branding experts, Millman is among the most revered. So when she speaks, people listen. But just as importantly, Millman listens when people speak.

millman425Since 2005, she has interviewed some 200 top-drawer creative thought leaders for her award-winning podcast series, Design Matters. Her guests have run the gamut from Kidd, to SVA Acting Chairman Milton Glaser and MFA Design faculty member Stefan Sagmeister, to John Hockenberry, Malcolm Gladwell and They Might Be Giants.

Wait. They Might Be Giants? “Over the years, we’ve expanded our definition of what we do with Design Matters to include anything that makes the world beautiful,” explains Millman.

Case in point: her recent interview with Terry Teachout—influential music and theater critic, Wall Street Journal arts columnist, playwright, opera librettist, musician, blogger and acclaimed biographer of H.L. Menkin, Louis Armstrong, and most recently, Duke Ellington. None of which has a thing to do with design.

But in Millman’s world, creativity is a form of anthropology. Her guest’s dual roles as observer of and participant in today’s American cultural scene meant there was much to discuss about how art gets made.

Teachout shared the podcast on social media as soon as it went live. “Debbie Millman is the best interviewer imaginable,” posted the veteran journalist. “When it was over, I felt as though I’d just run a race—and won it.

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That’s the way you ought to feel after an interview.”

Their conversation, along with every Design Matters podcast since October 2009, is archived at Observer Media. The most recent season kicked off with legendary typographer Oded Ezer, followed by Bobby Martin and Jennifer Kinon, partners at the branding consulting firm Original Champions of Design. Next up was Dawn Hancock, founder of the branding consultancy Firebelly Design and Firebelly University. Vitamin Water brand founder Alex Center, Metropolis magazine editor-in-chief Susan Szenasy, master designer Matteo Bologna, Pentagram pioneer Bob Gill, and Teachout rounded out the current season.

Millman also helmed a special five-part mini-series, Design Matters: On Books, featuring authors of new books in the design fields. And coming up: a live conversation with book design superstar Irma Boom, for a Design Matters special in collaboration with AIGA NY and Designers & Books (January 29, 2014).

Design Matters is produced in its own custom designed sound studio, right inside MPS Branding at 136 West 21st Street. Students are usually seen assiduously taking notes at the tapings. After all, it’s Debbie Millman. They’re listening.

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