Why Design Matters | Debbie Millman

Summary of: Why Design Matters: Conversations with the World’s Most Creative People
By: Debbie Millman


Embark on a journey through the hearts and minds of some of the world’s most creative individuals in the book ‘Why Design Matters: Conversations with the World’s Most Creative People.’ In this summary, we dive into conversations with iconic graphic designers like Milton Glaser and Steven Heller, who reflect on why design matters and its social purpose. You’ll also gain insights into the lives of legends like Seth Godin, Anne Lamott, and Albert Watson, who share their stories of overcoming fear and finding their unique creative voices. We then move on to explore conversations with ‘Truth Tellers’ and ‘Culture Makers,’ who reveal how their work helps shape and reflect the world around them.

The Significance of Design: Milton Glaser’s Perspective

Milton Glaser is not only a legendary figure in graphic design, but he’s also a reflective practitioner who has spent a lot of time thinking about why design matters. In his influential article titled “12 Steps on the Designer’s Road to Hell,” Glaser categorizes the tough decisions designers have to consider during the course of their careers into steps toward or out of hell because they affect the way the public perceives a product or idea. Designers have the knowledge and power to communicate persuasively, but they also have a moral obligation to make a positive impact on society by using their skills to create designs that serve a social purpose.

Journeys of Creative Legends

The book explores the unique journeys of creative legends, including Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, Alison Bechdel, Eileen Myles, Anne Lamott, Seth Godin, and Albert Watson. These journeys involve chaotic upbringings, fear, taking big risky chances, and a bit of luck. The Legends emphasize the importance of generous persistence, separating ideas from oneself, and dancing with fear. Photographer Albert Watson highlights the significance of time in mastering one’s craft and continuing to learn.

Illustrators and Novelists with a Social Purpose

The “Truth Tellers,” including illustrators, novelists, and journalists, share a passion for using their work to serve a social purpose. Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban illustrator, came to America as a child and uses his art to speak on issues he feels passionately about, such as Donald Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration. Similarly, Chris Ware, a graphic novelist, puts empathy at the center of his work. In his book Building Stories, even the apartment building becomes a character that readers feel sympathy for. Like other Truth Tellers, these artists want their work to help people understand how to be good and make the world a better place.

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