Debbie Millman

Academic; Writer; Lecturer; Executive; Designer / Graphic Design; Brand Design / United States / Sterling Brands, School of Visual Artists, Host, Design Matters

Debbie Millman’s Notable Books of 2011

In reviewing my recommendations for Notable Books of 2011, I was struck by an unexpected common denominator: the subtext of each contends with a journey. Some are more overt and easy to identify—the visual navigation of a corporation’s identity, for example, or the evolution of a career. Several are more abstract and expressive and recount a struggle to change one’s path in life or leave a partner in crime. Others steadfastly describe the trajectory and influence of patterns and trends, symbols and semiotics.

Whether these chosen books reveal the heartbreaking struggle of self-realization or celebrate the courage of a dramatic leap, one thing is clear: 2011 was a year of transition and change. While not quite a full-on metamorphosis, it has certainly made for some remarkable reading.

10 books

The firm of Chermayeff & Geismar has created some of the most memorable logos in the history of graphic design, including the NBC Peacock, Chase Bank’s Blue Octagon, and (literally) hundreds of others. This book reveals the history and process of creating many of the world’s most iconic marks.

Howard Schultz
With Joanne Gordon

Eight years after resigning as CEO of Starbucks, the organization had lost it way, its margin and its reason for being. Onward tells the story of Schultz’s triumphant return with humility, insight, and creative inspiration.

Thomas J. DeLong

Harvard Business School Professor Tom DeLong has written an insightful motivational primer based on extensive research and consulting work with high corporate achievers. He analyzes the forces that escalate anxiety in “need-for-achievement” personalities and presents new models for professionals who want to live a life based on courage as opposed to fear.

Grace Bonney

Popular blogger Grace Bonney has created a magnum opus of home design. Featuring a plethora of home tours, DIY projects and “before & after’s,” Design*Sponge at Home presents the charming style-maker with aplomb and ebullience.

Daniel Handler
Maira Kalman Illustrator

“I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.” So starts the heartbreaking new novel by Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler and illustrator/national treasure Maira Kalman. A story of romance gone wrong from a teenage perspective, this book is a charming, bittersweet look at lost love.

Malcolm Gladwell
Brian Rea Illustrator

This three-volume collection of Malcolm Gladwell’s most celebrated books (Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers) features breathtakingly beautiful illustrations by the remarkably talented Brian Rea along with an appropriately understated, dignified design by the Office of Paul Sahre.

Steven Bateman

Pentagram partner Angus Hyland co-wrote and aggregated this encyclopedia-esque bible of symbols—over 1,300 of them. Organized by graphic genre, the book deconstructs many of the world’s greatest logos by symbol: shape, form—even hearts. Not only is Symbol overloaded with images, it is written with a warm, wonderful wit.

Charley Harper

Fashion designer Todd Oldham discovered the work of Charley Harper in 2001 and collaborated with him until his death in 2007. Together, they navigated through Harper’s extensive archive to create an exuberant, joyful monograph. This 2011 edition is a miniature, more affordable version of the original book; while smaller, its spirit and eloquence are in no way diminished.

Margaret Roach

This remarkably talented editor turned gardener/blogger shares her heartfelt journey from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia mogul to maven of all things horticultural in this honest and humorous memoir.

Bob Gill’s revolutionary work first burst on the scene in the 1960s and his remarkable career has known no bounds. Gill’s monograph is one part reference, one part memoir and one part catalogue of astonishing design.

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