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Meet the Extraordinary Mind Behind HOW Design Live’s New Creative Leadership Track
If you’re a graphic designer, Debbie Millman is probably a household — or at least an office — name. The award-winning brand strategist, author and educator seems to have a hand in everything design-related, from her presidency of the design group at Sterling Brands to her 250-episode and running Design Matters podcast to her role as co-founder and chair of the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts. She’s also an author of six books, creator of graphic films and visual essays, and, oh yeah — a talented designer.
Two of Millman’s most recent endeavors include creating the Vision & Leadership track for HOW Design Live (Atlanta, May 19-23) and taking on the position of editorial and creative director of Print magazine. (Seriously, how does she do it all?) We were fortunate enough to steal some time to pick her brain about these two new roles and learn how readers and attendees can benefit from Millman’s latest partnerships with Print and HOW.
HOW Design Live: Three years ago you became a program partner for HOW Design Live. What prompted you to create the Vision & Leadership track for the event?
Millman: I love working on events and bringing people together for inspiration and education. I also love the HOW Conference — I couldn’t imagine not going every year — HOWies are family! My working to create the Vision & Leadership track for the conference is a perfect intersection of my affection for the conference and my desire to add meaningful discourse to an already awesome annual event.
How do the speakers and topics for that track differ from the others, or from HOW Design Live’s past programming?
The HOW Vision & Leadership track is a very special set of presentations featuring some of the most remarkable and innovative thinkers of our time. Speakers have been chosen from a diverse cross-section of disciplines to create an environment for participants that are one part learning, one part observation, one part renewal and one part elevation. The common denominator that the HOW Leadership speakers share is brilliance. Our speakers are simply some of the best minds in design and branding today. It’s like having a dream team of amazingness all in one place.
You’ve likely tapped your vast network of smart, talented, kind designer friends for the track. Who are some the speakers and topics you’re most excited about?
Ah, that is a hard question! I am excited about ALL of the speakers — the keynotes I had a hand in inviting, including Amy Webb, Tiffany Shlain, Jonathan Fields, Oliver Jeffers, Elle Luna, Julie Anixter and my dear, dear friend Chip Kidd, as well as the speakers in my track: Tina and Ryan Essmaker of The Great Discontent; Lynda Weinman, founder of Lynda.com; the amazing writer Molly O’Neill; Ken Carbone, partner at Carbone Smolan; Su Mathews Hale, partner at Lippincott; writer, designer, educator and AIGA President Emeritus Sean Adams; Brian Singer of Pinterest; Josh Higgins of Facebook; Doug Powell of IBM; Emily Oberman of Pentagram and MORE! It is simply an outstanding list of speakers.
What types of takeaways do you hope attendees leave with after watching these sessions?
The HOW Vision & Leadership track will offer something that no other design or branding conference provides: Every speaker will be at the peak of their power; every speaker will be sharing remarkable, real-life stories to inspire, educate and challenge the audience. With each session, I hope to leave the audience motivated and moved.
Last year, you took on the role of editorial and creative director of Print magazine. How has the magazine evolved under your leadership?
YES! I recently became the editorial and creative director at Print magazine, which is a dream come true. I am working with editor-in-chief Zachary Petit to rethink the magazine. It is an amazing opportunity that really puts all of my skills to use, and we are working together to keep the inherent integrity of the magazine intact but increase the depth of dialogue, raise the level of design, photography and inspiration (with the wonderful art director Adam Ladd), and allow our long-time columnists Steve Heller, Rick Poynor, Paul Shaw, Seymour Chwast and so many other writers to really shine.
Why do you believe in Print magazine and HOW Design Live’s mission to serve designers?
Designers need to be polymaths now; in addition to being able to design, they need to be able to write, draw, code, and market, position, brand and sell themselves. It is so much more competitive than ever, and employers and clients want to work with designers who can do way more than design. In many ways, I think being a good designer is now table stakes for any career as a designer, and both Print and HOW Design Live are imparting the skills, knowledge and creative acumen to educate and inspire all designers, everywhere.