Debbie Millman on the power of words and images

Ahead of her upcoming exhibition at the SVA in New York, Debbie Millman talks to CR about the “visceral” sensation that words and images create together, and how their collective power resonates in these times

It sometimes feels like the world is falling out of love with words. As newspaper articles get funnelled into video content, hardbacks and long-reads trade places with audiobooks and podcasts, and Twitter users continue to up sticks for Instagram, text seems to be falling by the wayside.

Yet, even as the world becomes a more visually-orientated place, words still have a valuable role. When combined meaningfully, language and image can pave the way for an evocative response that is hard to emulate in either discipline on its own.

However, “both expressions need to be of equal merit,” Debbie Millman makes clear. “The words need to be as good as the art, the art needs to be as good as the words. If one is out of balance with the other, it sort of ruins the whole piece.”

Debbie Millman wears many hats: author, designer, artist, curator, educator, and host of her Design Matters podcast, which she founded in 2005. Communication is clearly in her nature. It’s unsurprising, then, that the Brooklyn-based multihyphenate is interested in the relationship between words and image as a powerful communicative tool.