Summary: Brian Collins on Design Matters With Debbie Millman

From Design Matters’ website: “Brian Collins led the brand and innovation division of Ogilvy & Mather for almost a decade, where he built communications and design solutions for some of the world’s most iconic companies including Unilever, Kraft, Mattel, Motorola, AT&T, Coca-Cola and American Express. He founded Collins in 2007.”

I first heard of Debbie Millman from her appearance on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. From her sultry voice and insightful comments, I had to hear more of her voice and about her journey.

Her interview with Brian Collins is another episode from the most profound quotes were found toward the very end of the recording. So please enjoy this post and read to the end!

Wisdom can’t be willed… wisdom has to be experienced. – B. Collins (7:01).  

When God asked to grant one wish, King Solomon asked for wisdom. Beyond knowing right from wrong, wisdom gives us a glimpse into the secrets of life: how to attain contentment, happiness, longevity and health in this earthly life. There is an aspect of lived experiences that give textual our lives and that scuffed surface gives birth to wisdom. Some may want easy lives but I bet they are boring lives. When a life is marred by heartaches and pains and also celebrated with joy, wisdom abound!


I left envy by the side of the road… I picked up empathy instead. – B. Collins (26:57).  

Empathy has been a consistent trait possessed by successful people in all walks of life. Our common and initial reaction in conversation is to relate to what the person is saying through life experiences (good or otherwise) while think about sharing our thoughts when the person finishes. However, an exercise of empathy requires us to process the message from the speaker’s point of view, in doing so, trying to understand where their life experiences have shaped the message.


Nobody is competing with each other anymore. We are all in competition with the future. – B. Collins (49:29).

Collins preaches we “should forget looking over our shoulders” and try to mimic what others are doing. It will all be outdated. Instead, he emphasizes “orienting toward the future” by asking ourselves, “What does the future hold?” The key practices are harnessing power in Foresight, Anticipation, Technology, Empathy and Imagination.


What do people need that they don’t know about? How do you answer questions that people don’t even ask? – B. Collins (51:00).  

Innovators and trailblazers ask themselves these questions while paying attention to their surrounding, noticing sparkles that shed light into the future. The impossibilities are made possible by profound curiosity, coupled with courageous yearning to shape the future.


Designers are problem-seekers… by answering questions that people don’t know how to ask. – B. Collins (54:26)  

Collins urges the community of designers not to be problem solvers, but to be future-facing, anticipate the problems and be imaginative problem-seekers!


Thank you for reading. Please explore more inquisitive conversations with Debbie Millman by visiting her podcast website.

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