Committing to paper

Brand + Business x Christine Moody*


A friend of mine sent me a podcast from The Tim Ferriss Show titled How to Design a Life. In it Tim interviewed Debbie Millman, a writer, educator, artist and designer. Why my friend thought I would be interested is three-fold: 1) Debbie’s brand and business background; 2) the title ‘How to Design a Life!’; and 3) Debbie is based in New York – one of my all time favourite cities. My friend was spot on with her recommendation – this podcast didn’t disappoint.

Debbie is best known as the host of ‘Design Matters‘, a podcast by Design Observer. She previously worked at Sterling Brands—working with brands such as Pepsi, Gillette, Colgate, Kimberly-Clark, Nestlé, and Campbells—President Emeritus of AIGA and Fast Company based in New York City. She chairs the ‘Masters in Branding’ program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), is the Editorial & Creative Director of Print, and a blogger for Fast Company

What I found most intriguing about the podcast was Millman’s SVA student exercise, which turned out to be the perfect starting point for planning out the next few years of my life—work + play. Millman borrowed the exercise from another famous NY designer and her teacher, Milton Glaser—best known for the I LOVE (heart) NY graphic that adorns T-shirts all over NY and the world! The exercise is not only for design students but can be used by any person in any industry sector. It is perfect for anyone who has all the bits of the puzzle but still needs to put it all together.

Millman refers to Glaser’s New York Magazine (17 January 1972) article where he describes the exercise he gave his SVA students: “You have two minutes to write down everything you can think of, including where you live, money, career and where you see yourself in five years”.

You describe this in detail via ‘a day in the life of…’ and give detailed descriptions from the time you wake to the time you brush your teeth before getting into bed. Millman did this exercise with Glaser and continues to use it today with her students. This exercise is very powerful and in many instances can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. She said she often receives emails and notes from past students telling her how what they wrote down in her class came true.

I was a little hesitant to do the exercise as I have done this type of thing before. But this one was different as I wrote it in one sitting. I captured in the most minute detail, everything I did and saw that day, for example, what the sheets felt like when I woke up, what my bedroom looked like. The more you describe, the more real it becomes. But the idea of writing it down makes it tangible and you accountable. It also gives you a visual direction.

…Writing down a list of lifetime goals engages even the most dormant imagination and creates a tangible object…

I completed this exercise last week and what it did was create a vision for me (I used words + drawings) and made me commit myself and my future to paper. I intend to read it every 12 months to see how I am tracking!

Try it and report back to me in five years! Happy writing.

*Christine Moody is one of Australia’s leading, multi-award winning brand strategists, and the founder of brand management consultancy, Brand Audits and a diverse range of other brands including The Wrap Dress, Poppy Cakes, Designer Law School, and Travel Stitch. With more than 35 years’ professional experience, Christine has helped a diverse client base of local and international high-profile brands with challenging and diverse range of strategic projects—including Gold Coast City Council, Hilton Hotels, Terry White Chemists, International Cricket Council (UAE), Wrigleys (USA), and Become (USA)—to develop, protect and achieve brand differentiation. She is able to think strategically and beyond the obvious, to deliver outstanding insights to executives at Board, CEO, and Marketing Director level. She is also an author with her first book Designer Law School: Legal lessons for design entrepreneurs published in 2015, and is currently working on her second book, Smashing Plates. Christine has a passion for life-long learning and is currently studying law with a focus on the protection of a brand’s intellectual property.

For more information: or +61 419 888 468.

Leave a Reply