It’s been a great year for Debbie Millman. The AIGA president emeritus recently celebrated the publication of her fourth book, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits (Allworth Press), and a few days later picked up the 2011 People’s Design Award for her pioneering podcast, Design Matters on Design Observer. Born in 2005 as a weekly radio program, the show has become a kind of Charlie Rose of the creative world, tackling topics ranging from graphic design and branding to cultural anthropology and art with guests such as Milton Glaser, Barbara Kruger, and Nobel laureate Eric Kandel. Here Millman dishes on Design Matters outtakes, recounts a fateful encounter that involved a Sausage McMuffin, and shares her graphic design pet peeve.
1. Congrats on winning the 2011 People’s Design Award for Design Matters on Design Observer. How did you celebrate?
The week after the award ceremony I turned 50, and I also hosted the launch party for Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. Between all three events, I did a lot of celebrating. Aside from feeling old, I am still walking on air.
2. What led you to create Design Matters? Did you have a particular audience in mind at the time?
I often say that Design Matters began in February 2005 with an idea and a telephone line. After an offer from the Voice America Business Network to create an online radio show in exchange for a fee (yes, I had to pay them) I decided that interviewing designers who I revered would be an inventive way to ask my heroes everything I wanted to know about them. I started broadcasting Design Matters live from a telephone modem in my office at Sterling Brands in New York City. After the first dozen episodes, I began to distribute the episodes free on iTunes, making it the first ever design podcast to be distributed in this manner.
I realized the opportunity to share the brilliance of my guests with an audience I never expected was the gift of a lifetime, but as the show grew in popularity, I recognized that I needed to upgrade both the sound quality and the distribution. After 100 episodes on Voice America, I was invited to publish Design Matters on Design Observer by co-founder Bill Drenttel. Design Matters is now the anchor show on Design Observer’s media channel, and the show is produced at the specially built podcast studio located at my Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.