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New! Feels Like Brand Spirit: Millman on Miller's Iconic Mac

It's an honor and a thrill to have design legend—and future 20x200 artist!—Debbie Millman introduce our very last edition of 2015. It's fitting as well, since it was Debbie herself who introduced me to Andrew Miller's ​Brand Spirit​ series back in 2012. (The very same year I had the great good fortune to be a guest on her amazing award-winning podcast, Design Matters.) Today's release, Macintosh, is our third from Miller's series of ingenuously enrobed objects whose iconic contours cannot be whitewashed away. Read on for Debbie's take on the series.  — Jen Bekman

Macintosh by Andrew Miller
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 24"x30" ($1,200)

Design invests raw matter with what Bruce Mau calls "performativity"—it endows an inert object with a capacity for action. With his Brand Spirit series, Andrew Miller strips away the facade of the familiar by painting everyday objects pure white. This singular motion is multi-functional: it instantly pinpoints the object's place in culture and also reduces the "it" to its structural form. What remains is telegraphic and unmistakably recognizable but also haunting, humble and inherently honest. This "white-washing" creates an opportunity to see a "thing" for what it intrinsically is: a cultural sculpture that transcends consumption and becomes part of the very fabric of our consciousness.

Brands are cultural transitional objects. Ketchup, cameras, sneakers, Macintosh computers and almost everything else you can consume these days—these products are currency in the dynamic exchange between the world we’ve absorbed and the larger cultural universe. The things a designer produces and a consumer buys create a process of simultaneously merging with and differentiating ourselves from the world of others. Brands are now expected to create intimate worlds inhabitants can understand. When there, the consumer can be somebody and feel as if they belong. Brands create tribes.

But to see the world in brand tribes does more than allow consumers to participate in a theory of the world. It provides a theory of all the activity in it, perhaps an entire science, an ethology that can tell us everything we want to know about human behavior. And what would we find out if we were to analyze that style in regards to our culture and to human behavior today? I contend we would discover that the condition of brands reflects the condition of our culture.

Andrew Miller reflected both in an initiative he conducted during his tenure in the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts. During our annual "100 Day Project," all of the Masters students are tasked to select a creative operation they are capable of repeating everyday for 100 days. Each iteration must be documented for a final presentation to the creator of the project, Michael Bierut, famed partner at Pentagram. Andrew's Brand Spirit was one of our most successful projects, both creatively and in its reach. He painted 100 objects white--from a Darth Vader helmet to a Rubix cube to Converse sneakers and Scrabble pieces. All revealed the same instantly telegraphic, iconic status. The pieces in his 20x200 collection—now including Macintosh—are some of the very best of Andrew's efforts and also some of my favorites.

With art for everyone,
Debbie Millman