Humans have been making letterforms for almost as long as they’ve been a species. This weekend, the latest exhibit at Museum of Design Atlanta takes a look at the modern ways we use and design words, typography and images to communicate.
Curated by out design professional Debbie Millman, “Text Me: How We Live in Language” features dozens of works by artists and designers from around the country, representing a diverse breadth of voices.
“I’m really interested in examining the world we live in through messaging and how all of the visual forms of text impact our world,” Millman said. “We have social media, we have tattoos, we have packaging for fast-moving consumer goods, we have logos. I believe that the condition of that communication reflects the condition of our culture.”
“Text Me” features works by dozens of artists, including Milton Glaser, Ken Carbone and Stephanie Brody Lederman. Millman met many of the artists by working with them on her “Design Matters” podcast over the last 12 years. She said she always had a fantasy of putting something like this together, and after meeting MODA’s Laura Flusche at a conference last year, she finally got her chance.
“[Millman] is pretty much, some would say, one of the top five leading and living graphic designer female superstars in the US today,” Maria Cramer, curator of connectivity at MODA, told Georgia Voice. “She has hand-selected everything going into this exhibition, including the artists, designers and other contributors from around our nation and the globe.”
The exhibit includes works on a variety of media, including paper sculpture and “every type of way in which words can be expressed, and on every possible surface.”
It’s also interactive — there are installations including a bathtub full of sand to “draw your bath” in, 3D printing and a word wall to create shapes with. In addition, Millman said there will be events happening the entire time the exhibit is up: a live edition of her “Design Matters” podcast, a spoken word event by performance artists and at least one pop-up display.
“We have one piece by the illustrator Lisa Congdon, who in many ways deconstructs how the rainbow has been used in legacy and contemporary packaging. That’s really interesting how that rainbow has evolved and been utilized,” Millman said.
Millman began working in design in the 1980s, starting in magazine publishing and then transitioned to entertainment design and branding.
“My work is at the intersection of art and typography, and most of my work includes a typographic element. I’m sort of endlessly fascinated with the relationship humans have with language and how it helps us to both define and express our reality,” Millman said.
She said she hopes visitors come away with the notion that the collection attempts to organize, express and translate how they live in language, and how language defines their lives.
“We create marks and symbols that designate certain letters or emotions or experiences and we all essentially come to agree on what that interpretation and reality is. There is still something inherently problematic with that because common vocabulary doesn’t always equate with common behavior,” Millman said. “That sense of interpretability, that sense of creating one’s own private world through language and perception, is a really unique human behavior.”