How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer
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How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  471 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Take a peek inside the heads of some of the world’s greatest living graphic designers. How do they think, how do they connect to others, what special skills do they have? In honest and revealing interviews, nineteen designers, including Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Beirut, David Carson, and Milton Glaser, share their approaches, processes, opinions, and thoughts about their...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Allworth Press
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Bruce Green
This book contains a collection of interviews of graphic designers conducted by fellow designer Debbie Millman.
As a designer doing a lot of web developing recently, reading this book is a perfect anodyne for those times when I hit a wall coding. I've met several of the subjects Debbie interviews but my brief intro's and questions only provided a glimpse of who they are. What's nice is that she infuses such shared experience and knowledge into each question that it brings out those responses I wa...more
As other reviewers have pointed out, a more appropriate, if maybe not as sales-worthy title for this book would be, "Thoughts of the Great Graphic Designers". It contains a series of interviews with the some of the most recognizable names in graphic design - this is not a how-to book! Still, if you take the contents of the interviews to heart, I think there's a lot of inspiration anyone can take away.

My review would be more positive except for the few interviews that wound up being conducted by...more
This was not only a great read as a graphic designer (finding insight into some fantastically talented creative minds), but also a thoughtful journey into what vocation we are called to some tasks and find pleasure in them. This book made me think a lot about what I love and what I want to do and learn more about and pursue. It was creatively inspiring without being a myopic designer's book--I felt less torn about wanting to do a million things and being interested in everything. I a...more
Skyler Vander Molen
While a book of interviews wasn't what I expected when I originally bought it, this book was ok. There are some real gems in here. The funny thing is in almost every single case, whether or not I a particular interview had nothing to do with the person being interviewed or what they said, but how the interview was conducted. Almost every interview conducted via email felt flat and lifeless. The ones done in person came to life and engaged me. I realize it's not always possible to conduct in pers...more
Jaycruz Cruz
As a brand new Graphic Design student specializing in Interactive Design, this book has been a great introduction to who's who in the industry. With the exception of maybe Massimo Vignelli and some of the other people that appeared on the film Helvetica, I had no idea who most of these people were. As a matter of fact, my first assignment for my Graphic Design Essentials class was to pick a designer from a list. I picked Stefan Sagmeister without really knowing that much about him, except that h...more
Dec 04, 2009 Todd rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: design, art
While frequently an exercise in navel gazing, which at least Chip Kidd denigrates in his interview, the book provides some validation for a series of creative bromides. Namely:

* hard work is the only path to success, but no guarantee
* many times the only way to know if something is good is to know its finished
* many times the only way to know if something is finished is when you run out of time (about 1/2 the interviewees felt this way)
* being principled about the clients and project you take on...more
Brian Behm
While it was reassuring reading that so many great designers exhibit tendencies and neuroses that are familiar to me it was also a little distressing hearing meticulously detailed philosophies on some designers work and how it should be done and then comparing it to my own methodology which is much more instinctual and less able to be articulated. I suppose it's a reminder that I need to be able to better articulate my philosophies.

The interviews kind of blended together after
a while. As much a...more
I recently saw a great exhibit called the HAPPY SHOW at the Chicago Cultural Center. The exhibit was the work of graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister depicting recent research about the nature of happiness. A couple of the primary lessons I took from it was that besides from the death of a child and having a relative with alzheimers happiness is not related substantially to external circumstances. Also after about $80,000 dollars per year the basic contentment and happiness of an individual does n...more
Don't judge this book by it's cover and assume this little gem is going to tell you how to become some great graphic designer. Millman's collection of interviews with some of the greatest graphic designers alive today gives us an inside little peek into what they believe in, how they process design, their first creative moments and their biggest influences in design. All while revealing a bit of their personalities (along with some of their greatest strategies). If you're a designer like myself...more
Jul 01, 2010 Aura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: design
Even though "How Great Graphic Designers Think" would be a more apt title, Debbie Millman succeeds at making these design heroes accessible by digging deep into their compulsions/neuroses, first creative memories, and design processes. Some of the designers' shared insights include:

- Unlike fine art, design is collaborative, audience-related, and is about re-purposing rather than inventing something brand new.
- Excuses about a client or time constraints don't matter once the
work is out there.
- W...more
Erin Blaisdell
One of the best reads I've read in a long time. So inspirational to a designer to hear from the greats. This book makes you realize all designers have their own way of doing things and that in the end, what you do best is your own way of doing things. Every designer must read this.
Niki Bivona
I really enjoyed this book.

Educational, insightful and humorous interviews with some of our generation's top graphic designers. This book just made me hunger to learn more about each designer and their influences. Abbot Miller, Stephen Doyle and Massimo Vignelli were my favorite interviews, but James Victore had my favorite quote:

“I’m always curious about things. Even walking across the street, there is so much to learn by what you see. In the puddles, in the sky, in the flowers, in the trash.
There's some really fantastic advice in here for any creative. Bring a highlighter with you when you read it. My Kindle app shows that I've made over 120 notes and marks in this book.

For the most part, the interviews are with people who are paid to put a special focus on identifying problems that can only be solved through the application of intuition. And the remarks on intuition are varied and fascinating.

The author spends a lot of time threading her personal experience through the book, which...more
Trisha Cornelius
This book is a collection of interviews conducted by Debbie Millman with a number of graphic designers. With some of the interviews she manages to extract wisdom and philosophy from her subjects, but with others the answers to the questions appear to be very forced.

It's definitely worth a read if you are interested in design.
I'd rather watch or listen to these interviews than read them. There were so many instances I found myself wondering exactly how they said that, or what the look on their face was, what their energy and mannerisms were like.
The Milton Glaser interview was most interesting to me. It's the only one I copied quotes from. The rest start to blend together and just serve as a reminder that yes, everyone thinks differently, there's no one right way to do it, and the paths to so-called greatness are ma...more
Kent Winward
I enjoyed this exercise in going to an area which I really have no affinity other than enjoying and being fascinated by book covers. I was surprised at the similarities between the writing and graphic design world. There also seemed to be a lot of cross over and I was intrigued by how the different artists approached their work and dealt with the inherent paradox of art versus commercial. The presence of the audience is front and center in graphic design, maybe it should be in every art form.
Admittedly, I haven't really connected to the live radio show interviews of design glitterati the author conducts, but these print interviews (whether culled from the radio show or not) are indispensable for young and seasoned designers alike. Peter Saville's insightful, cerebral, and ultimately cynical comments are worth the price of the book alone, even if they might leave the most optimistic of designers thinking much less of their craft.
This book was an impulse buy after receiving some less than hopefully feedback at design school. The interviews with top graphic designers reveal the varied personalities and strategies behind great design. Some interesting themes that came up include pessimism with design's place in relation to advertising, lack of confidence in evaluating one's own work, and the question of weather graphic design is art or not.
Nov 19, 2013 Bek rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Interesting, but fairly self indulgent for designers to read. Some interviews are better than others but the format became stale after a 6 or 7 interviews. Made the design world seem super tiny + impossible to be successful in unless you know this core group of people ... Or maybe she only interviewed her friends. I have a general dislike for Stefan Sagmeister, so I did really ready his interview.
Very honest, open interviews with the world's top graphic designers. Not really about graphic design, but the challenges in remaining creative, using business to inspire, and elevating the practice. And shows a fair amount of crazy through the interview, which is pretty interesting stuff. Even the very first interview - with Michael Beirut - is worth the book.
Margaret Fleming
Sep 02, 2009 Margaret Fleming rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: any creative
This book, as Malcolm Gladwell writes in his cover blog, is not really about design. Except it is, insofar as juggling creativity with business and how a star draws a line that allows him to continue the business without lowering the bar. It inspires me, and it let me learn about the credo of greats like Massimo Vignelli.
A very entertaining quick read. It’ll grab you.

Design Matters, the radio show in which Debbie Millman interviews designers and design-related figures, is always inspiring. In print, the interviews are more structured, losing a bit of the show’s spontaneity, but still as fascinating.

Also, Michael Beirut is the man.
Kelly Ashworth
Great insights, but this book borderlines on the cliché with all but one designer droning on about the "horrible" state of the industry. The title is a bit misleading - you're not going to learn about process per se. But altogether very cool to get inside the heads of some of todays most prolific designers.
Title is misleading, I wish it were named "Interviews with Influential Graphic Designers." With that mentality, I wouldn't have expected to learn how to think like a great graphic designer. It was interesting to read and learn about graphic designers, but that wasn't the reason why I picked up the book.
Worth a once through for sure. Interesting interviews, but let's face it. Designers can be a bit pretentious, and some of these people take themselves wayyy too seriously. It also starts to get repetitive as she asks largely the same questions to each person.
Interesting insight into the habits, opinions and ways of working of successful graphic designers. Helped me realise that one doesn't need to be a certain sort of person with certain habits and ways of thinking in order to be a great designer.
Tim Lapetino
Great and inspiring set of interviews of excellent designers. Debbie Millman focuses on the "soft" aspects of being a successful designer, but this is a great shot on the arm when looking for the "why do I do this?" inspiration.
Jul 11, 2009 Gage rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: design
This is a great read for people in the design industry because it gives insight into the minds of successful designers and makes the reader realize that they are not alone in their eccentricities.
I am loving this book. It's not your typical eye candy design book. It's philosophical, spiritual, psychological... Def recommend to anyone, esp those interested in design.
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Debbie Millman is an American writer, educator, artist, and designer who is perhaps best known as the host of the Design Observer podcast 'Design Matters'. She is 'President of Design' at Sterling Brands, based in New York City, working with brands such as Pepsi, Gillette, Colgate, Kimberly-Clark, Nestlé, and Campbells. She chairs the 'Masters in Branding' program at the School of Visual Arts, is...more
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