September 30, 2013

Connect: Chicago CreativeMornings #22 with Will Miller of Firebelly Design

Photo by Nate Burgos. View More.

September 2013: This year’s ninth Chicago CreativeMornings gathering featured Will Miller, Creative Director at Firebelly Design. He spoke at the workspace of advertising firm Leo Burnett.

September’s CreativeMornings global theme was “Connect.” Miller shared his journey of seeking and learning, particularly his nurtured connection with typography.


As an important part of Miller’s trifecta of connection, “working with hands” connects with previous presenters, at Chicago CreativeMornings, who are attracted to the tactile sensation in their creative process: the intensive screen-printing techniques of Jay Ryan, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #5; the rich-typographic textures of illustrator Mike McQuade, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #9; and the furniture-making, using reclaimed materials, of Raun Meyn, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #16. Hands constitute a vital inheritance—they were made for work to achieve a tactile experience, as opposed to keeping them empty.

A prominent factor among Miller’s typographic-design projects is that he wholeheartedly and laboriously inserts himself as the body of his craft. Echoing his “work-with-hands” approach, he intensely applies this belief, whether it’s through his extra-large construction and assemblage of the letter “U” as part of campaign “You Are Beautiful”, or with his hand-cut letters for a pop-up shop announcement. In the wrestling match of getting an idea real—resulting from a magnified way of participation—Miller’s typography demands to be examined and felt. Speaking of feeling…

This is a recurring reminder that work—not just design—must never be a dry exercise. This connects with pioneering jazz saxophonist Gabe Baltazar, who shared this lesson: “I used to play like a thousand notes a minute, you know. You don’t try to get too fancy. You try to get more feeling in your music. In other words, you gotta get your soul going. That’s what music’s all about.”

Miller’s attention to feeling also connects with Henry Miller’s take on navigating by the act of writing: “I never hope to embrace the whole, but merely to give in each separate fragment, each work, the feeling of the whole as I go on, because I am digging deeper and deeper into life, digging deeper and deeper into past and future. With the endless burrowing, a certitude develops which is greater than faith or belief.”


Avoid being empty-handed by doing the work. Throw yourself into it—with feeling.

• • •

Miller’s proactive practice of finding typography reminds me of these awesome web-based destinations for the typographically inclined: ChicagoType by Shawn Hazen; LetterCult by Brian Jaramillo and Ray Frenden; Type Hunting by Jonathan Lawrence; Friends of Type by Aaron Carambula, Erik Marinovich, Dennis Payongayong, Jason Wong.

• • •

Big thanks: to The Department of Design at Leo Burnett for sponsoring and hosting Chicago CreativeMornings #22; to organizers Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7, and all of the Chicago CreativeMornings crew—Geremy Mumenthaler, Joy Burke, Chris Gallevo, Neftali Morales, Liz Cook, Isaac Steiner, Erick De La Rosa, Ben Derico—for their great work on making CreativeMornings happen in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

• • •

Typeface of quotes is Intro designed by Fontfabric.

• • •

Read more Chicago CreativeMornings coverage.

• • •

2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.