Pentagram’s Abbott Miller: “Branding Has Become Oppressive”
“I hate logos,” Abbott Miller confesses in Design and Content, a new monograph on his graphic design work, which includes plenty of logos. “…[E]veryone gets obsessed with the logo when they should really be more concerned with how it’s used.”
It’s a gentle bit of contrarianism from the Pentagram partner who has built a career eschewing dated design conventions. As Miller sees it, design is about creating narratives, not just beautiful shiny objects. He describes the luxurious, lovingly crafted books he has made for the likes of artists Matthew Barney and William Kentridge, photographer Ansel Adams, and Swiss design company Vitra as “movie[s] you hold in your hands.” He conceives of an exhibition as “a room with a plot,” as storytelling occupying real time and space, a notion he’s applied to shows on everything from Freud’s Vienna to John Lennon’s life and work to Valentina’s fashion design.
On the occasion of Design and Content's release, Co.Design caught up with Miller about the oppressiveness of branding, how graphic design used to be a “dark art,” and how he designs books to seduce you.