AIGA (the professional association of design) former president, and Sterling Brands' President of Design, Debbie Millman’s visited Knoxville recently and lectured on brands. Our design team was fortunate to hear her speak and several folks provided remarks on the evening. . . .

Justin Hudson | Graphic Designer
What I took away from the lecture most is the role strategy plays in branding, and the strength it provides to our design. When we have a reason for the branding to exist, with clearly defined goals, our design will be much more successful and less subjective. It defines our role in the process and gives credibility to what we are creating. Another interesting topic from the Millman lecture is the triune brain and how that relates to our reception of brands. It makes for an interesting explanation as to why we, as humans, act and react the way we do.

Alison Ashe | Senior Graphic Designer
I loved that she said the only good designers who don’t wake up every morning thinking, ‘What if I can’t be great today; what if I’ve lost it?’ are people like Milton Glaser, and that’s just because they’re 80. It reminds me of one of my favorite books, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which says that only a true professional who is devoted to his/her craft will constantly be plagued by the fear of being a hack.

Matt Montgomery | Graphic Designer
Debbie Millman, as president of design for industry heavyweight Sterling Brands, has helped brand products such as Pepsi, Gilette, Nestle and Star Wars. So, it’s not surprising that few people speak more eloquently or intuitively about the role of branding in today’s economic and social landscape. One idea I found particularly insightful was that companies should not focus on a brand “refresh” or “redesign,” but rather focus on what the current cultural meaning is behind the symbols in their brand. With this knowledge, they can properly assess whether that cultural meaning resonates with their desired audience or not—-a great insight to help customers ascertain if a redesign is warranted in order to better connect with customers.

I strongly recommend her latest book, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, as it is filled with interviews with industry notables and more. Millman weaves these together to paint a fascinating picture of the state of branding today.