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Bonding with your creative craft

February 9, 2018 | Arts & Culture

MacEwan hosted visiting artist Abbott Miller


The Handmaid’s Tale art installation, Courtesy of Pentagram

Award-winning graphic designer, Abbott Miller, visited MacEwan February 5-7, offering workshops and the wisdom of an industry veteran to students.

Abbott is a partner in the New York office of Pentagram, an international design firm, where he runs a team designing books, magazines, exhibitions and more. At MacEwan, he led three interactive student workshops and spoke to a full house at his public presentation, GLUE: Bonding with Graphic Design.

Abbott has carved a unique artistic niche, as his pieces often demonstrate how design can interact with political or social ideas. Last year, Abbott and another Pentagram partner, Paula Scher, created a walk-through art installation in Manhattan. The exhibit offered 4,000 free copies of The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel set in a misogynistic, patriarchal society. Abbott says young artists are curious about how design can operate in culture.

“I appreciate the opportunity to interact with young designers who are hungry for information,” says Abbott. “Students are still exploring the craft. Do they love graphic design? Have they bonded with it?”

The design field is very broad, explains Abbott, so it’s important to encourage students to stay true to their specific interests, and to find a type of client and work environment that’s right for them.

“There’s enough room in this field for people to have their own independent way of thinking about design,” says Abbott. “You don’t have to mimic someone else’s experience. You don’t have to be a generalist.”

Visiting artists offer inspiring look at a career in the arts

“Visiting artists allow students to experience the vibrancy and diversity of the arts scene and helps quell fears of entering the working world after graduation,” says Dr. Allan Gilliland, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications.

Hosting working artists is part of MacEwan’s commitment to experiential learning. Students receive direct feedback and encouragement from the artists in the form of masterclasses and workshops.

Last month, MacEwan hosted award-winning producer and guitarist Russell Broom, and in 2017, welcomed a number of artists, including Jackson 2bears, a Mohawk multimedia artist and one of the world’s leading saxophonists, Bob Mintzer.

Dr. Carole Charette, an assistant professor in design studies, says Abbott’s unique perspective, and his resulting success, inspired students.

“I consider his work to be among the best at so many levels. He shows how graphic design can allow you to work with the best professionals, and produce stunning and effective pieces,” says Carole.

Spots in Abbott’s workshops filled quickly, according to Amanda Park, an arts and cultural management student helping promote the Visiting Artist series. “We had such a positive response to these events because students want to learn from a professional in their field,” says Amanda. “That’s so important, especially in the arts world.”

Ultimately, Abbott comes back to the idea of connecting students with their own graphic design dream. “When your individual interests line up with your craft, there’s magic in that relationship.”

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