Abbott Miller—designer, critic and partner at Pentagram—has risen to prominence for his multidisciplinary approach to design. Incorporating elements of photography, art, dance, fashion and architecture into his work, Miller underscores the shared concerns of design with other disciplines. In honor of his achievements, the Albin O. Kuhn Gallery of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is hosting an exhibition “Abbott Miller: Design & Content” through June 30.
The exhibition "Abbott Millers: Design & Content" at the Albin O. Kuhn Gallery, 2015.
Based on Miller’s monograph, Abott Miller: Design and Content (Princeton Architectural Press), the exhibition of the same name presents the materials featured in the book in their original publication formats. Spanning fifteen years of Miller's work at Pentagram, the collection lends credence to Miller’s view of the designer as a performer, interpreter and adaptor of culture. The show includes Miller’s designs for graphic identities, environments, books, magazines, products and digital media, all of which are given equal treatment. Client work for The Guggenheim, Harley-Davidson, Monotype, Vitra, Knoll, Formica and 2wice is also highlighted in the overview of Miller’s oeuvre.
Vertical banners and vitrines in the exhibition "Abbott Millers: Design & Content" at the Albin O. Kuhn Gallery, 2015.
The gallery space has been organized accordingly, with different projects arranged in a series of vertical banners. Miller had a hand in the presentation, using a repetitive graphic strategy to create continuity among the wide-ranging works. Miller employed the same method of organization in an exhibition of his work at Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico.
“An exhibition is a room with a plot.”
Books designed and authored by Miller in the exhibition "Abbott Millers: Design & Content" at the Albin O. Kuhn Gallery, 2015.
Conceiving of the exhibition space as "a room with a plot," Miller uses pull-quotes from his writings to help create a coherent narrative, elucidating the thought process behind his designs. Books written and designed by Miller are placed on reading tables, affording visitors the chance to do more than thumb through their contents. Since, according to Miller, "a book is movie you hold in your hands," their prominence and inclusion within the exhibition is significant.
Vitrines house publication materials, while graphic posters are framed and hang on black walls. Longer-form materials are presented in their entire sequence, including two publications for the fashion designer Geoffrey Beene.
Left: KnollTextiles wallcovering "Merge," designed by Abbott Miller. Right: Two publications by Miller for Geoffrey Beene.
More recent projects—including the Drip, Drop, Run, Filter and Merge patterns that Miller designed for KnollTextiles—are highlighted in architectural ways throughout the space, like the wallcoverings around the room's columns.
Left: KnollTextiles wallcovering "Drop," designed by Abbott Miller. Right: Examples of the graphic designs of Abbott Miller.
The designer was present for the opening of the gallery and gave an hour-long lecture that touched on Miller's experience authoring the book and pulling together the exhibition. "Part of my motivation for making this book was putting my work between two covers to find the connecting points," Miller said, "[but] it's really more the kind of thinking behind the projects that's the common thread." The exhibition makes that "kind of thinking" manifest.
For information on the gallery, please visit University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s website or call 410-455-2270. The gallery is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am to 5pm, Thursday, until 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday from noon until to 5pm. Admission is free.
Abbott Miller is a partner in the New York City office of the international design studio Pentagram. Since 2000 he has maintained a satellite studio in Baltimore, where he serves as a Visiting Artist in the MFA Graphic Design program at Maryland Institute College of Art. He is the author and editor of several books on design, including Design Writing Research: Writing on Graphic Design, co-authored with Ellen Lupton. In 2014, Miller was awarded the AIGA Medal, his profession’s highest honor. His work has won numerous awards and is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Bibliotheques National de Paris.
All photographs are courtesy of Albin O. Kuhn Gallery of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.