Nate Voss Host Design Matters with Special Guest Joe DuffyFebruary 12th, 2009 |
Friday is a very big day for me. I am excited.
I first met Debbie Millman years ago in Cincinnati. Superb Owl guest-host Tom Nemitz and I were in town for an AIGA retreat and on the first night, along with two other people whom I have no memory of, Debbie was presenting her work to a local event. We were invited to sit in. I was awestruck, watching as she presented the Burger King logo — which, by the way, everyone failed at but her team — followed by the Hershey’s wrapper, and a few other products of note. What struck me more than anything was how young she seemed for the depth of knowledge she possessed and the power she wielded over brands that shaped American consumer culture. Following her presentation I joined the crowd dogging her every move with questions and blurted out something along of the lines of “how have you gotten so far, so fast?”
I have no idea how she answered and believe it was somewhere along the lines of “work hard and become an intelligent person.”
I was also struck by how personable and down to earth she was. My blueprint at the time for a successful woman in graphic design’s upper echelon was Paula Scher, a hard-hitting New Yorker from head to toe (an appearance drawn for me from her tales of battling the glass ceiling in Make It Bigger), so Debbie’s warmth and openness came as quite a surprise.
A year or so later at yet another AIGA retreat I had the brief chance to see Debbie a second time in St. Louis. She was hosting a breakout session on the AIGA mentorship program, and showed a great many slides and told tales of her own mentoring experience as a plea to get other chapters to start programs of their own. I was interested in the program but my chapter of AIGA was struggling through tough times and I knew it wouldn’t get off the ground. That didn’t stop me from pretending it would just so I could say “hello.”
At this point I more or less considered Debbie to be one of my favorite designers and studied her work the way young designers often study the work of Sagmeister, Glaser, or whomever. I loved when the opportunity would arise in the checkout aisle to tell my family “I’ve met the woman who did that” when picking up a Hershey’s bar, or driving through a BK and doing the same as I passed drinks to my friends in the backseat. It was more a novelty than anything.
Then we started the Be A Design Cast. This was a few weeks after iTunes integrated podcasts to their music store and Design Matters was still a weekly live broadcast, but not yet available for downloading. We started our show to fill that specific void, and in fact during test recording we tried to mimic the Design Matters format and came off sounding like a bunch of children attempting to sound like adults. We settled, after a few shows, on sounding like children trying to sound like children. We did topic shows until we stumbled upon a few great interviews (including Joe Duffy), and by the time we reached San Francisco the following summer we were lined up to spend an afternoon chatting with the three partners of Pentagram.
So the third time I met Debbie Millman, during that San Francisco trip, I actually had something to talk with her about. We each had shows that covered the same industry (though they compare only in the way that 60 Minutes compares to The Daily Show), and found a common link. After that, she became much less Debbie Millman, superstar designer and host of the most amazing talkshow on design, and much more “Debbie” a friend of mine who just happens to live half a country away. We talked occasionally and would run into each other at design events, one here, another there. She graced the Be A Design Cast with two appearances, for which we are still very grateful.
It was some time ago that Debbie asked me if I would be interested in hosting an episode of Design Matters. I was originally shocked by the question, standing outside in the cold Denver air while the AIGA Next conference roared from inside, but my mouth went ahead and said “yes” quick enough that my brain could not argue. And it was some time ago that I wondered for the first time (but not for the last) how on Earth I could possibly fill her shoes, even for an hour. The simple answer is, I cannot.
There’s a part of me, however, that has been enjoying the idea that there must be some people scratching their heads on this one.
“Debbie Millman brought in who to guest host?”
That thought always puts a smile, or at least a smirk, on my face. The rest is just working hard, and trying to make myself into an intelligent person.
I hope you listen in Design Matters this Friday. It will be an adventure, one way or another.