Andy J. Miller, Graphic Artist
Andy J. Miller Interview
Andy J. Miller is an Illustrator living in Columbus, IN. Andy’s work is influenced by modern principles of restriction and abstract narratives. He is the creator of the Indie Rock Coloring Book and the daily NOD drawing project, as well as a collaborator of the Color Me _______ Exhibition with Andrew Neyer. Andy’s clients include: Sony, Google, Smart Car, Urban Outfitters, Real Simple, Wired Magazine, Starburst Candy, Brisk Iced Tea, The Economist, Bloomberg, Converse, Yo Gabba Gabba, NYLON Magazine, Little White Lies, Shaun White, Poketo, just to name a few.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Good question. It changed a lot. When I was really little I wanted to be ninja turtle but my older brother told me I couldn’t so I decided I would just be a regular ninja. Then I wanted to be an inventor, mainly just so I could make flying shoes that I could use myself. Then I wanted to be on SNL.
My routine is this thing that I try to beat into submission but it just never happens. I have two kids now, so that doesn’t help! I try to get up as early as I can. Sometimes 6am, sometimes 10am if I was up late (like 2, 3 or 4am) working on a deadline and I can afford it (which seems like never). The truth is my routine depends on my motivation. I’m constantly managing it, if I feel motivated I work intensely, if I don’t I try whatever I can to get motivated, go to the coffee shop, drink a diet coke, take a bath, go to lunch with my dad- haha, they all work at different times.
As for making writing or creativity happen, that feeds back into maintaining motivation. When I am motivated, I’m creative. I take notes on my iphone, outline writing, draw scribbles, mess on photoshop with my tablet, it’s pretty organic because I don’t do well with mundane or monotony so I try to just go with the flow.
Everything. Not really, but it feels like it. Hmm. One of the biggest is knowing what I know and what I don’t. You need to be humble about what you don’t know and be confident about what you do know. The trick is figuring out what you know. It’s a lot less than I would originally presume, but really understanding this helps a lot. Over the years I have made a stupid call here or there because I’d be so sure about something, just over confident, and then end up being totally wrong. Now I try to approach things differently. A really good example is college- I was so sure I knew more than most of my lecturers…I was way wrong!
Best advice you could give to someone who wants to be a professional designer?
Stay humble. Realize right away there is so much to learn. I bet you can get to the end of your career and only scratch the surface. For the ones that lean more towards the artsy creative side: there is a place for you in this field. Don’t be overwhelmed by what you need to learn, don’t get discouraged about how much detail management there is and how some aspects are technical. You will get there slowly as you have fun creating the work. Even if there are parts of design that seem unlike your creative self, don’t be afraid, the details and rules are liberating…eventually.
I’ll go back to my previous answer. In my mind there are two main schools of design, the artsy ones and the more technical ones. You will meet artists and designers that are basically engineers. It bugs me that we don’t embrace this more in America (I think Europe does a better job at this). I feel like it’s way harder to make it in design as the traditional commercial artist, the “artsy designer,” these days (like Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser). The education and powers that be seem to be controlled more by the engineer types, who I love and love what they do, but they make it really hard for the artsy types. I think we lose a lot of creativity because of this.
What is one thing most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I would say that I have done some social work. I worked at a juvenile detention center for about eight months when I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing by pursuing design. I mainly worked in the teen shelter, but did some work in the detention too. It was an amazing experience and really difficult for me. I’m not really the typical picture of masculinity (not really into sports, don’t grunt a lot or anything) and that is a tool that most of the male staff use to their advantage. It was tough, to be honest I went home and I cried a lot for those kids in the shelter. So many of them had been dealt the worst cards and it just sucked. While I worked there my heart was so soft and it was super liberating and meaningful but it definitely just felt like a season, not a calling.
What personality trait do you think is most important to success?
It’s definitely becoming a buzzword, but it’s for sure grit. I never thought of myself as someone with tons of resolve but I have gone through a lot and put up with a lot to pursue a creative career. I am super glad I have because it’s paid off in a lot of ways and there were a lot of times I wanted to quit. I think the ones that make it seem to be people that just find a way, and it’s not handed to you, you have to find a way, you have to figure out how to make it work.
I actually created one, it’s ⌘+Q. I changed it to select>expand. Love to expand a good selection.
Who are some designers that you admire?
The designers I admire most are the ones with the more consistent work and amazing craft. Since everyone always answers with either obscure or old school designers, I’ll switch it up. I really admire people like Steven Harrington, Mario Hugo and Olimpia Zagnoli.
How do you think we can make the world a better place?
Love everyone without discrimination, and I’m serious about that! I think people are like television series: you have to give them a chance, and a few episodes to really care about them or get them. I think opinions are often defense mechanisms. We formulate strong opinions about things that keep certain types of people at bay, people who have hurt us usually. I had an experience in college that really opened my mind. There was this guy who really pissed me off, and singled me out in critiques and was just being a complete jerk to me. I decided to try and love the guy, without much hope. Long story short, we became close friends, ended up being roommates my last year of college. If we really tried to love everything, everything would be different. We all matter, even people who use comic sans.