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How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,045 ratings  ·  67 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
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Bruce Green
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nelson Zagalo
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Debbie Millman was able to build an highly enjoyable journey through the minds of celebrated designers. We get to understand how they think, what motivates them, what makes them anger, fear, content and happy.
If you want to be a designer, this book is obligatory. If you want to know how a mind of a designer works, read this book. If you want a glimpse on the creative thought, its challenges, concerns, disruptions, deficiencies as its marvels, read this book.

More in my blog (PT) - http://virtual
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
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
Mat Boyle
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Do yourself a favor and ignore the title! As is said in the introduction, it’s not a ‘how to manual’ or some kind ‘process’, it’s actually some great interviews with graphic designers like Stefan Sagmeister, Peter Saville & Paula Scher (to name but three), who give beautifully honest interviews that will make you realize that even the best are insecure / sometimes deliver work they’re unhappy with; which was a huge relief to read!

For those who’ve ever had self doubt about themselves or their des
Merlin Zuni
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Great interviews & diverse perspectives on Design
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: design, non-fiction
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
Igor Putina
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Samuel Oktavianus
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I first listened to Debbie's podcast around 1 year ago, and I just discovered this book like one week ago! She has deep expertise in this area. I like the idea of bringing lots of great designers and artists and asking tough, mindblowing questions.

This book is a compilation, a culmination, a cornucopia of interviews of Debbie along with her great guests in her podcast. While it seems superficial, the guests are some of the most talented artists, such as Massimo Vignelli, Milton Glaser, Paula Sch
Ross Nelson
Nov 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Definitely mis-titled. This is really a series of interviews with some of the iconic designers of our time, but it's not in any way a "how to" book. You will learn some of the though processes of the designers, but very little about design itself. That said, it's an excellent intro to who's who and going through the books interviewees and following up on Google will give you some great examples.

Also, as others have noted, the email interviews follow a sort of generic template and don't have the
Kandachamy Vijayakumaran
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-oth
A remarkable collection of interviews with some of the brilliant graphic designers of the world revealing the unknown facets of their life, career, and craft. Debbie Millman had done a commendable job of bringing the booty of an extraordinary treasure hunt to readers to enjoy. The budding and practicing design professionals would find this wonderful volume enlightening and inspiring.
Anni Millar
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: better-designer
Was an enjoyable read and insight to some amazing designers, although there was more I wanted to know. There was a few that I wasn't very familiar with but I'm now totally digging like Chip Kidd. Yup, good read but just missing out on 'Pure Dead Brilliant' status. ...more
Marius Černuševičius
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Alright, this one has decent value Debbie asks interesting questions but I just prefer podcasts as its raw and it feels more honest then reading a dialog.
A collective wisdom of the best-known designers.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. Easy to read since it's a series of short interview. ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was a good insight in to the, well known, minds of graphic designers. You will have to put yourself into the graphic designer's shoes to really enjoy this book. Good read. ...more
Sean Lopez
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Introspection, honesty, and advice from some of the greatest design minds (interviewed by Debbie Millman).
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
Jay Cruz
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Brian Behm
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: single, art, school
See full review here

I was required to read this for a class of mine, but it surprised me. The book features, simply, interviews with a number of well-known designers (or if you don’t know of them, and you are a designer - get to know them!) I expected to hear much of the same throughout the interviews but every designer in this book offers such unique perspectives, styles, and introspective into this field and how to manage it financially, ethically, and personally. Design is an art, and these a
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: art-and-design
My star rating for this book is for the medium, and not the content. I enjoy and find the "Design Matters" podcast with Debbie's own and the interviewee's own voice much more interesting, entertaining, lively, and engaging.
I myself don't find interview books to be a competitive fit in the presence of recordings and video. It's somewhat disappointing in fact. I would expect that Debbie, with all the interviews she conducted about design, should be very aware of the importance of the right communi
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design, nonfiction
Loved this book even though it took me forever to read it all. I'm not a non-fiction person, but the bite-sized interviews were fantastic to sit down and read one or two at a time. I purchased the book after reading about half of it and I think I'll want to go back and re-read and, although I usually don't write in books, underline, make notes, really digest it. Things take a few reads to really get in your bones and there are so many gems of affirming thoughts in here that make me feel like I d ...more
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Kent Winward
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
This is one of those books that spins you into more research, more reading, more digging.

I liked reading the interviews for the designers I already knew about. I was intrigued to learn about the ones I wasn't familiar with.

The quality of the interviews seems to vary a great deal. It's obvious when some of them a clearly written correspondence and others are more natural language and the conversation flows into unintended areas—the unintended were more interesting.

I've always enjoyed Debbie Millm
Dec 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
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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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“Design is one of the few disciplines that is a science as well as an art. Effective, meaningful design requires intellectual, rational rigor along with the ability to elicit emotions and beliefs. Thus, designers must balance both the logic and lyricism of humanity every time they design something, a task that requires a singularly mysterious skill.” 9 likes
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