Behind new identities and brand updates for a wide range of clients from Warby Parker and KITH to Resy and Sweet Chick, Danny Miller represents a unique artistic approach to branding and design. Growing up in New York City, he was surrounded by contemporary art his entire life, which meant he eventually studied painting and art history at UCLA before moving into the design world. His late father, in particular, was a prolific artist and the subject of Danny’s own book, Nachume Miller: Behind The Painting.
While the five books Danny has chosen certainly reflect his upbringing in the Big Apple, there’s also a hint of how he instills a sense of art criticism in High Tide and the work it delivers for its clients. In his own words, he shares his final choices with Creative Boom and why each book means something to him.
My father gave me this book when I was an impressionable 13 year old and it remains one of the most influential books of my life. The book contains excerpts from Salvador Dali’s personal diary entries from the years 1952 to 1963. So unique, endearing and complex, Dali inspires and fascinates me to this day.
A journal is such a personal record, and you get these incredible insights into his private life, the way he thought, and the various methods behind his madness. He also describes in great detail the shape of his own poop in numerous journal entries, which I found quite hilarious as a teenager. I reread this book during the pandemic, and it became a major inspiration for the visual diary monograph I recently created on my late father, an abstract expressionist painter.
2. Lust for Life: The Story of Vincent Van Gogh by Irving Stone
A beautiful biographical novel about the tormented genius Van Gogh. Written in 1934 by Irving Stone, the storytelling is fairly faithful and accurate thanks to the lifelong correspondence of letters between Van Gogh and his brother Theo, which helped Stone piece together the narratives of Van Gogh’s life down to the smallest detail. It remains one of the most inspiring and humbling books because it reminds me of how much a person can accomplish with so little. He ate stale brown bread for days to be able to do what he loved and express himself through his art.
He cared more about painting than anything else and put every bit of money he made into fresh oil paints. He only sold one of his paintings during his lifetime. It is incredibly inspirational to read about someone so selflessly devoted to their art and craft, and it has completely changed the way I approach creativity. Don’t be lazy, don’t be so precious, be more like Van Gogh!
This book was written in 2003, before the therapeutic use of psychedelics became more acceptable in Western culture. Along with other books that followed (Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind is one of them), this had a huge impact on my life and greatly influenced how I approach my everyday life personally and creatively. Psychedelics are a powerful tool for exploring the depths of one’s psyche and have allowed me to live a more examined life and engage more deeply with the present moment.
The author delves into the history of the psychedelic experience in different cultures, touching on great thinkers from Antonin Artaud to Terrence Mckenna. He also explains his own experiences, all of which search for the power and deeper meaning behind the psychedelic experience. The book’s title is apt – a term borrowed from the West African Bwiti tribe, who use iboga in ceremonial practices. “Opening the head” means “to temporarily detach the soul from the body and allow the first entry into the spiritual cosmos, where it will be shown the outlines of its destiny”.
I’ve always loved album covers: from my parents’ record collection when I was a young child, to my feverish collection of CDs, cassettes and vinyls as a teenager, to working at Sony Music and Atlantic Records designing album covers. A strong record cover can add so much to the overall experience of an album. I’m still an avid record collector, and this book contains a well-curated collection of funk, soul, and jazz record covers, mostly from the ’60s and ’70s, which remain an era that never fails to intrigue me and draw me constantly inspiration from. It’s a big book – 432 pages – and I love it because you’ll discover something new every time you turn the pages.
For me, this book is required reading for anyone who wants to gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of branding and design beyond aesthetics. Author Debbie Millman interviews an eclectic mix of people – from anthropologists to branding experts – and each has their own definition of a brand and how it relates to modern society. One interpretation that stuck with me was that brands are totems that tell us stories about our place in culture – where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. It is a very informative book with countless great insights that have stayed with me to this day. Fun Fact: The first brand to create an official trademark was Bass Ale in 1876.