[Emily Potts] I’m starting off this week’s chain with an amazing woman who inspires me with her passion, enthusiasm and endurance.
Not only does she lead the design group of multidisciplinary branding agency Sterling Group and teach the Masters in Branding course at School of Visual Arts, she hosts a weekly radio show called Design Matters, is the author of five books, and most recently had a gallery exhibition at the Chicago Design Museum of her illustrated essays called Look Both Ways. Quite frankly, I don’t know how Debbie does it all, but she does with enthusiasm and 100% diligence. And she’s one of the nicest people I know.
This essay was featured in Look Both Ways at the Chicago Design Museum, June 1–30. It’s the story of a young, insecure Debbie (hard to imagine now), working her first job out of design school. She longed to be like Penelope, a tall, pretty woman, who seemed to have her design career figured out. The tale is beautifully illustrated, taking readers on an emotional journey of a young woman’s fears and jealousy.
OK, so I selfishly chose this project because I was Debbie’s editor, but the book is amazeballs! This spread shows the brand transformation of Band-Aid over the years. Debbie’s students in the SVA Masters in Branding course researched and wrote about brands that have literally shaped not only the design landscape, but pop culture in general. While her students were writing and researching, Debbie was amassing an incredible collection of brand ephemera to feature in the book, from images of the original Morton Salt packaging to Ivory Soap and Coca-Cola, among many, many others. This comprehensive branding resource is loaded with history as well as present day branding strategies from the people who create them. Hats off, Debbie!
In her own words, Debbie Millman is inspired by …
Emily inspires me because she is one of the most beautiful people on the planet. Emily is not just physically beautiful; her heart is gorgeous as well. I first heard of Emily in the late 1980s when she was working for Tibor Kalman at M&Co. Whenever I saw her work I was envious of her talent and ingenuity and assumed that, because she was so accomplished, she was a lot older than me. When I finally met her (about 15 years later) and we became friends, I found out she was actually younger and my admiration increased two-fold. Emily has accomplished more in her career thus far than some people do in a lifetime.
Emily has also been incredibly generous to me throughout our friendship. If it weren’t for Emily, I wouldn’t have been invited to join the board of the New York Chapter of AIGA, which changed my life. Emily inspires me everyday through her incredible talent, her tireless work ethic, her outrageously brilliant family and her ability to continually reinvent her life and career.
Then I discovered she also designed all of the type for the extraordinarily beautiful, award-winning Talking Heads music video, “(Nothing But) Flowers.” Talk about a one-two punch!
AIGA New York 30th Anniversary Poster
Emily continues to do some of the brightest, wittiest, most engaging design and typography nearly 30 years after she made her first impressions in the design world. This poster for the celebration of AIGA NY’s 30th anniversary is a great example of her sparkling talent and wit.
In her own words, Emily Oberman is inspired by …
Scott Stowell has been inspiring me for so long, I kind of take it for granted. He has been one of my best friends practically since the day he became an intern at M&Co., oh so many years ago. He inspires me with his wit and wisdom and his no bullshit way of thinking and living and working. He is one of the smartest, funniest, most talented people I have ever known. When we talk — we talk about everything all at once — there is no line between work and play: Just the way I like it.
Colors, AIDS issue
The first time I actually realized he inspired me (Scott and I recognize inspiration by the level of “I wish I had done that!” — but said with more cursing — it fosters in us) was when I saw the AIDS issue of Colors he had done while living in Rome as art director of the magazine. I picked up the issue, sat down to glance through it, and instead I read it cover to cover without pausing. By the end I was crying. The whole issue unfolded and evolved over the course of the pages so beautifully and with such honesty (and even wit) that I was captivated. And frankly it was 1994 and no one had yet covered AIDS in that way.
And then 12 years later, he proved that his work on Colors was no fluke by being design director of GOOD magazine for the first few years. His thinking designing, writing and more thinking helped make those 15 issues smart, wry, knowing, interesting and good. I didn’t cry when I read that first issue, but I did wish I had frakking done it!
And since Debbie threw in a video piece for me, I’d like to throw in one for Scott. This spot for Google Chrome is everything Scott is to me: smart, funny, simple, pointed, quirky … and it reminds me of why we became friends and design buddies way back when.
Tune in next Wednesday to see who inspires Scott Stowell.
Take a look at the complete chain any time.
Emily Potts is acquisitions editor for Rockport Publishers.