Why Design Matters: Conversations with the World's Most Creative People

by: Debbie Millman (0)

Foreword by Roxane Gay

“Debbie Millman brings her Design Matters podcast, ‘about how the most creative people in the world create their lives,’ to the page with this excellent interview anthology. Sharpened by Millman’s penetrating commentary, the candid musings teem with insight and empathy. This sparkling collection is one to be savored slowly.”—Publisher’s Weekly

The author, educator, brand consultant, and host of the widely successful and award-winning podcast Design Matters showcases dozens of her most exciting interviews, bringing together insights and reflections from today’s leading creative minds from across diverse fields.

“Debbie Millman has become a singular voice in the world of intimate, enlightening conversations. She has demonstrated time, and again, why design matters.”—Roxane Gay, from the foreword

Over the course of her popular podcast’s fifteen-year reign, Debbie Millman has interviewed more than 400 creative minds. In those conversations, she has not only explored what it means to design a creative life, but has, as Millman’s wife, Roxane Gay, assesses in her foreword, “created a gloriously interesting and ongoing conversation about what it means to live well, overcome trauma, face rejection, learn to love and be loved, and thrive both personally and professional.”

In this illustrated, curated anthology, Millman includes approximately 80 of her best interviews with visionaries from across diverse fields. Grouped by category—Legends, Truth Tellers, Culture Makers, Trendsetters, and Visionaries—these eye-opening, entertaining, and enlightening conversations—offer insights into new ways of being and living. 

Accompanying each entry is a brief biography, a portrait photographed by Millman, and a pull quote written in Millman’s artistic hand. Why Design Matters features 100 images and includes interviews with:

Marina Abramovic, Cey Adams, Elizabeth Alexander, Laurie Anderson, Lynda Barry, Allison Bechdel, Michael Bierut, Brené Brown, Alain de Botton, Eve Ensler, Shepard Fairey, Tim Ferriss, Louise Fili, Kenny Fries, Anand Girhidardas, Cindy Gallop, Malcolm Gladwell, Milton Glaser, Ira Glass, Seth Godin, Thelma Golden, Gabrielle Hamilton, Steven Heller, Jessica Hische, Michael R. Jackson, Oliver Jeffers, Saeed Jones, Thomas Kail, Maira Kalman, Chip Kidd, Anne Lamott, Elle Luna, Carmen Maria Machado, Thomas Page McBee, Erin McKeown, Chanel Miller, Mike Mills, Marilyn Minter, Isaac Mizrahi, Nico Muhly, Eileen Myles, Emily Oberman, Amanda Palmer, Priya Parker, Esther Perel, Maria Popova, Edel Rodriguez, Paula Scher, Amy Sherald, Simon Sinek, Pete Souza, Aminatou Sow, Brandon Stanton, Cheryl Strayed, Amber Tamblyn, Christina Tosi, Tea Uglow, Chris Ware, and Albert Watson.

The Reviews

The content is what you’d expect if you’ve ever listened to the podcasts but for a design book, I find it disappointing.There are certainly principles of book and magazine typography that could have been used to make it a more comfortable experience. The interviews are 4 column walls of tightly spaced text per spread with no space between paragraphs. My eyes never got used to the peripheral text, making it uncomfortable to focus on the text I was reading.After 50 pages I started using a blank white card stock sheets to block out peripheral columns. I improves the experience but it’s disappointing that it’s necessary. Granted, I’m 52 years old so my eyes aren’t what they used to be but this is the only book I’ve ever found uncomfortable to read.I’ll give it a few more sessions but think I might be happier trading my hardcover in for a Kindle version.A few other things:Content-wise, I’m curious to know whether these are abridged interviews. They seem to be because often times, after an interesting answer, usually just one paragraph, a new question comes in the isn’t a natural followup to what was just said.Another thing I had to get used to were pull quote pages at the end of each interview that were neither from the preceding interview nor the following one. A visual break to be sure but confusing to me as the reader trying to figure out why the quote is there beyond just adding more content.Lastly, the type on a path treatment for quotes on the inside covers isn’t worth the difficulty reading to keep reading them all. Strange for a book that should prioritize legible content over design flourishes to prove that design matters.

Millman brings her delightful and insightful 'Design Matters' podcast interviews to this beautifully crafted anthology. Any fan of the podcast will appreciate this intimate curation of powerful conversations from the world's most creative people. It's been a real pleasure to sift through the pages and savour the words to enjoy and relive each moment from the collection. Thank you!!

I've been a long time listener and fan of Debbie Millman's podcast Design Matters and was so excited to have my copy delivered last week! IT IS GORGEOUS!!! I could not be happier with this gigantic book filled with wisdom from some of the greatest creatives on the planet. The design is perfection and the photography is stunning! I put all my other coffee table books on the shelf for this baby. Totally worth the money. Thank you Debbie Millman for always delivering such incredible work.

Debbie conducts the kind of interviews that are only possible when someone has interviewed hundreds of people over decades. Debbie's interviews bring out both the deeply human parts of her subjects as well as their genius and as a collection points at how when you dive into it, genius comes from the most human parts of humans. That it's not a spectrum but a circle? This book is also like a taxonomy of the many forms of brilliance. Plus, it's a gorgeous physical object!

Debbie's interviews are with such amazing and unique people. A must read!

In Song of Myself, Walt Whitman declares"Do I contradict myself?Very well then I contradict myself,(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"The same can be said of Steve Jobs and of Debbie Millman as well as most (if not all) of "the world's most creative people," many of whom she has interviewed for her "Design Matters" podcasts since 2005. However different these people may be in most other respects, all of them agree that form and function are not only important but in fact [begin italics] interdependent [end italics]. In most cases (if not all), the personal lives and professional careers of those interviewed also seem interdependent. That is especially true of Millman.In the film Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) channels Marcus Aurelius when asking F.B.I. agent Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster), "What does Buffalo Bill do?" Pause. "He cuts!" I was again reminded of that scene as I worked my way through the 66 mini-interviews for the first time. Millman has a unique talent for collaborating with those interviewed to get to the essence of the given subject or issue. One significant difference: Lector is talking about someone else, a serial killer. Those interviewed are talking about themselves and their own experiences amidst their complexities and, yes,  contradictions.In or near the central business district of most large cities, there is a farmer's market at which --at least until COVID19 --several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that same spirit, I now offer two brief excerpts from the book.* * *First: "It doesn't take very long to design something, and the way I make my paintings, they're very laborious and they take a very long time. And design is done quickly, running around with other assistants and help and it's highly social, whereas I am painting by myself in a room. So they're very opposite things."Designers have a hard time with this. They'll say, 'My work is art,' meaning 'My work is fine art.' And they use it as a value judgment. I don't see it that way. I think that the difference between fine art and design is financial. If you're a fine artist, you go wherever you go and you make whatever you make, you determine what you're going to make, and if you're lucky you stick it in a gallery someplace or you just look at it by yourself. If you're a designer, you more or less engage with a client and there's criteria for the work. There's a size for it. There's a materiality that's an expectation. There's a series of set parameters. Design and fine art are not the same act and they're not approached the same way, but they don't require different value judgments."Paula Scher is one of the most influential graphic designers in the world. Described as the “master conjurer of the instantly familiar,” Scher straddles the line between pop culture and fine art in her work. Iconic, smart, and accessible, her images have entered into the American vernacular.Scher has been a partner in the New York office of Pentagram since 1991. She began her career as an art director in the 1970s and early 80s, when her eclectic approach to typography became highly influential. In the mid-1990s her landmark identity for The Public Theater fused high and low into a wholly new symbology for cultural institutions, and her recent architectural collaborations have re-imagined the urban landscape as a dynamic environment of dimensional graphic design. Her graphic identities for Citibank and Tiffany & Co. have become case studies for the contemporary regeneration of American brands.* * *Next, Milton Glaser: "I've always had principles and I've always tried to do no harm. I don't think it becomes easier as you get older or more successful. Quite the contrary, I'm a great believer in simply observing what is, and if you don't want to change your behavior, at least you know what your behavior is. From that point, I think it's necessary for designers to be aware of what they do when they are participating in misrepresentation or causing someone's death. They should simply know that's what they're doing and not pretend that they have no role...The real question is, 'What are you going to do if you are in the business, and you're participating in a capitalist enterprise which serves to maximize profits above all else?' What is your role in that?...I think designers can do only what good citizens do, which is to react, to respond, to publish, to complain, to get out on the streets, to publish manifestos, and to be visible. They can't do more than citizens can do except they have one great advantage: they know something about communication."The legendary designer Glaser passed away on his 91st birthday on June 26, 2020. As the world mourns the loss of this visionary—who is best known for the “I ❤️ NY” logo—there is comfort in knowing that his influence will continue to live on in the creative world.In addition to designing the inimitable phrase about the Big Apple, Glaser helped found the influential Push Pin Studios with Seymour Chwast, Edward Sorel, and Reynold Ruffins in 1954. During the 1960s, Glaser also produced a now-iconic psychedelic Bob Dylan poster (which he'd later revisit in ads for the TV show Mad Men) and co-founded New York Magazine in 1968.* * *Scher and Glaser are representative of those who, in Millman's words, "create their lives."  As she explains, "This book represents a body of work, a love letter to creativity, a testament to the power of curiosity. In these pages, you will find conversations with the world's most renowned designers, artists, writers, and public thinkers. You will read about their most enviable successes, the devastating failures that almost derailed their careers, the joys and sorrows of their personal lives, and how they've given themselves over to the act of creation."I now re-read one or more portions of Why Design Matters every day, usually just before sunrise, my favorite time of the day. It has become an essential, invaluable new component of -- a source of nutrition for -- what has been my personal "design for living" for decades. Thank you, Debbie Millman, for what you and your friends so generously share. It is a precious gift. I feel blessed.

Filled with detailed personal introspection / everything Art / Life / from many interviews/ excerpts from her podcast “design matters” gives pathways for all of us to strive to emulate. Sophisticated, & nuanced great read, & follow up with the podcasts. Great work- thank you!

I loved reading this book and the style of how every interview is different. AND I just loved being inspired by all of these amazing people. I rarely write reviews but I LOVED this book!

The media could not be loaded.  This 3 pk of motion sensor lights are great for closets or dark spots around the house. I put one in my bathroom for night trips so you don't have to worry about turning the light on and off. I placed another under my kitchen cupboard to light up the counter where the overhead light doesn't get to. They work in 3 modes, permanently on.. Motion activated during all light situations or motion activated at night only. They are magnetically mounted and come with a magnetic strip that is sticky on one side so you can mount it anywhere, or you can mount it on something magnetic like your fridge without the strip. The best thing is the fact that they are rechargeable... no more batteries.

The media could not be loaded.  Super easy to install and it works as expected. There are 3 lights in this set. I only use 1 and the other 2 are for backup and replace the current one when it charges. There isn't any adapter included but you can use any usb adapter to charge this thing. It is super useful for my situation because i don't use this closet enough to actually drill holes and run the electrical cable through the wall. This will work for me for a long time. Great kit!

I love these. I find a little tough to get the settings right - but once you do they work great. The small 3pack is great. I have them in my closet and under counter in the kitchen.The magnets are good - and recharging is easy - seem to last for a long time.

For $10 each, I expected them to last longer. Out of the box, they're great. Nice and bright, and the motion detection worked very well. The interface is a little confusing -- why not just have a switch that says "light or dark mode," instead of making the user press the same button and decipher the colored LEDs? I think the switch would cost less than the red and blue LEDs!But they don't last. I bought an additional pack right away, but now all but two of them have stopped working. Eventually, the motion detection circuit failed on almost all of them. They would charge just fine, and the white LEDs would light up when I turned them on, but they would either stay on continuously, quickly draining the battery, or never detect motion.

Very good light for smaller places. Come right on when you walk up to it. Makes it a lot better than not having a light there.

I love motion sensor lights for dark areas around the house but in the past I've had to get battery operated ones and would spend a fortune replacing batteries. I tried these out and LOVE them! I love that you can plug it in and recharge it within a couple hours and then its good again for several weeks.You can also mount in multiple ways. 1. It has a magnet so if the area is metal you can just stick it on 2. The back of the magnet strip is adhesive so you can just stick it where you want it and then when you need to recharge it, pull it off the magnet strip.I have 2 strips inside our bar cabinet so when you open the doors the inside of the bar is illuminate, I have 1 in our hallway so when we have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, you dont have to turn on the hallway light. I also have 1 in the garage right above the door from the house so that when I just need to pop out and grab something and forget to turn on the light I dont stumble down the stairs.The light is bright but don't expect it to light up an entire room. It lights up enough for the immediate space. You can set it to multiple situations like motion on during daytime, motion on at night only, or continuously on. I like that they have a sticker on it telling you what the light settings are in case you can't remember.There are so many uses for these. I'll be buying more.

The media could not be loaded.  These lights are rechargable, and have a magnet so you can stick to metal. These work great for my storage spaces. I have closets that could have used a light but they weren't built that way. These lights worked better than I expected.PROS:You don't need screws or other tools, you just slap it onto metal or you can use the magnetic adhesive strip it comes with.It's rechargable, no batteries to replace love that it's eco friendly in a way.Iluminates my small storage areas pretty well, and you can modify the setting.They don't look bulky nor out of place, it's the right size and not heavy,it's packing with light.Does not make a sound, i've noticed some light items make a slight buzzing noise, not this one.Motion detector works nicely, I think from about 2 feet it detected me, dims then turns off if you are out of range, nice battery saving feature.CONS:Light setting setup is a little confusing but after re-reading the instructions you get.No different light colors, this is a bright white, not an issue for me but just pointing it out.These work great for my closets, exactly what i needed. If you have those oddly built closets with no lights, this would work great for you too. Hope this helps!

Do NOT believe all the fake revivews. These are awful and cannot be changed from "on alway". Returned them. I did not realize that they had an F rating on FakeSpot .com.

I've been a long time listener and fan of Debbie Millman's podcast Design Matters and was so excited to have my copy delivered last week! IT IS GORGEOUS!!! I could not be happier with this gigantic book filled with wisdom from some of the greatest creatives on the planet. The design is perfection and the photography is stunning! I put all my other coffee table books on the shelf for this baby. Totally worth the money. Thank you Debbie Millman for always delivering such incredible work.

The content is what you’d expect if you’ve ever listened to the podcasts but for a design book, I find it disappointing.There are certainly principles of book and magazine typography that could have been used to make it a more comfortable experience. The interviews are 4 column walls of tightly spaced text per spread with no space between paragraphs. My eyes never got used to the peripheral text, making it uncomfortable to focus on the text I was reading.After 50 pages I started using a blank white card stock sheets to block out peripheral columns. I improves the experience but it’s disappointing that it’s necessary. Granted, I’m 52 years old so my eyes aren’t what they used to be but this is the only book I’ve ever found uncomfortable to read.I’ll give it a few more sessions but think I might be happier trading my hardcover in for a Kindle version.A few other things:Content-wise, I’m curious to know whether these are abridged interviews. They seem to be because often times, after an interesting answer, usually just one paragraph, a new question comes in the isn’t a natural followup to what was just said.Another thing I had to get used to were pull quote pages at the end of each interview that were neither from the preceding interview nor the following one. A visual break to be sure but confusing to me as the reader trying to figure out why the quote is there beyond just adding more content.Lastly, the type on a path treatment for quotes on the inside covers isn’t worth the difficulty reading to keep reading them all. Strange for a book that should prioritize legible content over design flourishes to prove that design matters.

Very durable

Tim had Debbie on his podcast, so I was interested in her book. I went to read the sections featuring Seth Godin, Tim, Malcolm Gladwell, Amanda Palmer, and Isaac Mizrahi first.

Why Design Matters: Conversations with the World's Most Creative People
⭐ 4.5 💛 65
kindle: $29.99
hardcover: $36.48
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