My interest in design extends well beyond merely making an object, home or piece of ready to wear beautiful. I find all aspects of design fascinating. Great graphic design can tempt us to buy or incite great emotion. Industrial design must marry form and function and take into consideration ergonomics, environment and workflow processes. Clothing design can be functional or fanciful or a bit of both and often reflects the economic and political climate at the time of its creation. The design of many things in our lives have been carefully thought out and debated, from the cup holder in our vehicles to the height of our couches to the sleek shape of our tech tools.
I became interested in design relatively late in life and I want to learn as much as I can so I was happy to stumble upon the Design Matters podcast from The Design Observer. Design Matters is hosted by Debbie Millman, the President of the design division at Sterling Brands. The podcast is comprised of interviews with a mix of graphic designers, art curators, authors, bloggers, architects and many more. It is apparent that Ms. Millman clearly does her research prior to each interview which takes the discussions well beyond the typical resume and what’s new plug. She often pulls us back into her subject’s early influences and career path as well as discussing their interpretation of current design trends. Each interview is ~40 to 45 minutes long and always leaves me wanting more. Each of her podcasts have prompted me to explore further on my own on a wide variety of topics including design history.
Some of my favorite Design Matters interviews have been with:
- Maria Popova, the founder and writer of Brain Pickings, which is a lovely mish mash of intelligently written posts about a variety of topics including art, ecology, sociology and design, to name a few. I found Maria’s discussion of her typical day and how she organizes and sifts through a vast amount of content each day particularly interesting.
- Steve Frykholm who is the head of the Herman Miller creative department and has worked for the midcentury modern design company for the last four decades. I enjoyed the discussion on how the annual posters he originally created for the company’s picnic from 1970 to 1989 got their start. These posters became iconic and seven eventually earned their place in MOMA’s permanent collection (per Herman Miller’s blog).
- Chris Ware is a cartoonist and graphic novel author who explores topics like depression and isolation in his work. I’ve just received my own copy of Building Stories, which is a box of fourteen printed items that can be read in any order or combined to learn the intersecting stories of a Chicago brownstone and its residents. I was an avid comic book reader and collector as a child and I credit Design Matters for reigniting that interest by introducing me to several graphic novel creators with compelling but very human stories to tell.
- Grace Bonney, the creator of the popular design blog, Design*Sponge and former contributor to the Domino Magazine discusses how she started her blog when very few were blogging and her passion for learning and absorbing (like a sponge) anything and everything design.
You can listen online and see a complete list of the Design Matters podcasts here including a brief summary of each guest and topics covered. Design Matters is also available on iTunes. Design Matters has an extensive archive to choose from and they have just returned from their mid year hiatus with a new interview each Friday.