Our 5 Favorite Visual Stories By Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman is a writer, educator, and design guru who loves telling visual stories. She defines visual storytelling as “the art of creating a piece of work using both artistic elements and language”. This intersection of word and imagery is the core of graphic design, a practice built on problem-solving. 

In her newest Skillshare class, The Practice of Visual Storytelling: Interviews with Artists, Debbie chats with artists and designers who have unique methods for crafting visual stories. To celebrate the launch of this class, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite examples of Debbie’s work that combines handcrafted text and image. Her work reveals that not all stories involve long narratives. Sometimes it is as simple as a single sheet that combines text and image in an expressive and thoughtful composition.

1. Down With DOMA Illustration

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality a reality in 2013, LGBT rights activist Edith Windsor received a phone call from President Barack Obama delivering the historic news. Using the published transcript of their conversation, Debbie gave life to Edith’s words using hand-lettering, color, and artful abstraction.

Down with DOMA.jpg

2. ARPANET Map

For the AIGA Centennial, Debbie constructed a map of ARPANET, a network that became part of the technical foundation for the internet. Her hand-embroidered memorial makes the now defunct network feel vibrant and alive. 

ARPANET Map.jpg

3. Self Portrait As Your Traitor Print

Debbie created a collection of hand-lettered illustrated essays and poems titled “Self Portrait As Your Traitor”. This is a panel taken from the series that was created with vinyl adhesive type on transparent material. Each panel in the series was photographed over the previous panels to achieve the alluring depth effect.

Self Portrait As Your Traitor Print.jpg

4. David Foster Wallace Poster

Created for a 2014 HOW event, Debbie uses an abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s essay on leadership titled “Up, Simba: Seven Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate” to create a 3D poster using handcrafted felt letterforms.  

David Foster Wallace Poster.jpg

5. Sally Ride Tribute

For the New York Time’s annual The Lives They Lived, a series commemorating cultural icons whom recently passed, Debbie paid homage to the late astronaut Sally Ride with a visual essay that combined felt typography, fabric and digital graphics. The striking use of color and dense text conveys the impact that Sally had on the world during the short time she spent on and off earth.

Sally Ride Tribute.jpg

Join Debbie’s new Skillshare class: The Practice of Visual Storytelling: Interviews with Artists for a look into the real-life practice of visual storytelling. You’ll go behind-the-scenes with four fascinating creatives to learn about how they combine visuals and language to craft their own unique narratives.