December 20, 2013
Interviews: Thinker in Residence: Debbie Millman on Business & Books
Great thinkers are often influenced by other great thinkers, twisting their knowledge about to make new and thoughtful iterations. Here are Debbie Millman's influences.
Q. What is the one unanswered question about business you are most interested in answering?
DM: I am utterly fascinated by culture, choices, behavior, symbolism, semiotics, products, innovation and so forth. I have an infinite number of unanswered questions about business, and they include the following: Why does a person choose Coke over Pepsi over Dr. Pepper over America’s Choice? If a package or brand identity is considered “good design” it will make people happier or the planet a better place to live on? If people wear Nike sneakers or drink Gatorade, will they have less insecurities? Cheat less? Lie less? Smile more? Feel “alive with pleasure”? Or is it the advertising that gets us to believe it? Would Nike’s swoosh be considered a good logo if there wasn’t $100 million dollars of advertising support spent every year against it?
I guess this all comes down to this: Why do we buy and why do we brand? I expect it will take a lifetime of learning to be able to really comprehend the psychological, anthropological, biological and economic tenets that might enable me answer this question with certainty and clarity.
Q. What business book has influenced you the most?
DM: Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
3. What is the business book you wish you had written and why?
DM: Brand You 50 by Tom Peters or The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Both books have had more influence on the decade in which they were written than any other book I can think of and they have fundamentally helped define the cultural conditions of their times.
Q: What business book are you reading right now?
DM: I am reading The Power of Glamour by Virginia Postrel. It is remarkable.
Debbie Millman is President of the design division at Sterling Brands. She has been there for 18 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of over 200 global brands, including projects with P&G, Colgate, Nestle, Kraft and Pepsi. She is President Emeritus of AIGA, the largest professional association for design in the world. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine and Co-Founder and Chair of the world's first Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting, "Design Matters," the first podcast about design on the Internet. In 2011, the show was awarded a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award.
My whole life has been one thing leading to another, leading to another, and then another. It has been completely circuitous and mostly unplanned and that includes every art and design project I’ve ever worked on.
Debbie is the author of six books on design and branding, including Look Both Ways, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, and now, Self-Portrait As Your Traitor
Read more about Self-Portrait As Your Traitor in yesterday's Thinker in Residence post.
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.