Interview with Josh Miles of Miles Herndon

Earlier this week, I was honored enough to be featured on the podcast, Obsessed with Design. It was a great discussion between the podcast creator, Josh Miles, but it was all about me. What about Josh? He’s a podcaster, a designer, and business owner. I felt compelled to give him a platform and a chance to talk about how he’s gotten to where he is today. Although this is written, it’s a great peek into one man’s journey through creative obsession. Have a read, and do check out MilesHerndon and listen to Obsessed with Design

How long as Miles Herndon been in existence?

I formed the company as Miles Design back in 2002. In 2015, we joined forces with another local branding company called Redwall, and relaunched as MilesHerndon. So technically, I think we’re both 14 years old, and one at the same time.

What prompted you to start the business? Was it obsession with design, or just saw a market need?

I’m probably the very unusual case of someone who has wanted to run a design firm since high school, studied design in college, worked a few jobs in design and advertising, and eventually started my own design business. I’m either completely design obsessed, or stubborn. In my last role before starting this company I was getting so many freelance project requests that I couldn’t get through them on nights and weekends, and I thought, “If I’m getting this much work without trying, maybe I should give this a try?” So far, the experiment is still going strong.

I know the feeling. Once you’re hooked, you’re in for life. What about running a design firm appealed to you? I don’t think I even know what design was in High School.

In high school, I’m pretty sure I thought “design” was a job where I could utilize my drawing skills, and probably was related to advertising. And although my parents have always supported “my art,” as a financial planner, Dad insisted that I find a way to make money with it, so the advertising industry seemed to be a natural fit. In college, I really fell in love with branding and typography, and no I can’t turn back.

The idea of a design podcast isn’t necessarily a new thing, what sparked you to start OWD? What was that tipping point for you?

The first podcast I ever tuned in to was Debbie Millman’s show, Design Matters. I’m a big fan of the podcast format, and podcasts are pretty much the only thing I listen to in the car. I believe there’s always room for other great shows. But ultimately, I started down this path because it sounded interesting. I used to teach design as an adjunct professor for a few semesters, and for the past few years, I’ve averaged 1-2 speaking gigs around the country. As this show is a mix of “celebrity” designer interviews, and education for young designers, hosting a podcast allows me to scratch the speaking and teaching itch, without ditching my family at home, or adding a ton to my plate.

To date, would you say you’re hitting your goal/vision? What’s missing right now?

I honestly had no idea what to expect in terms of numbers, but I’m really pleased with the caliber of guests, the quality of the interviews, and getting a feature on the iTunes New & Noteworthy section for both arts and business was pretty exciting!

What has been your favorite interview to date?

The Debbie Millman interview brought it all full circle for me, to begin my show where I began listening to podcasts was a huge thrill. I remember after we hung up, just sitting there in awe at how deep and personal that conversation was, and eagerly anticipating the opportunity to share it with our future audience.

If you could interview anyone alive or dead, who’d it be and why?

I’d love to have had the chance to chat with Massimo Vingnelli, Saul Bass, or Paul Rand before they passed away. If left to my own design preferences, I tend to be more of a modernist at heart. Each of their careers have made me who I am today: Massimo by sharing his philosophies, Saul Bass has been a huge influence in simplicity, and my design professor (Dennis Ichiyama) studied under Paul Rand at Yale, so I like to think I learned from him indirectly. Of course there are so many living legends I’d love to have on the show eventually.


Amazing men and amazing work, if you could ask Paul Rand one question, what would it be?

Paul is pretty famous for telling his prospective clients to, “Pay me and I will solve your problem.” I’d love to be present in not only his sales meetings, but also to see how he presented his work, and convinced the likes of IBM and Steve Jobs to accept his recommendations.

What do you think is the single-most dangerous thing in the design industry today?

I’m sure most people might say crowd sourcing, or de-valuing design. But in reality, I think the opposite is true. These resources will certainly reduce the value of commodity design work, but that’s not the service I expect most obsessed designers seek to create. As long as the next generation of designers remains obsessed—committed to the craft and process of design—we don’t have anything to worry about. Cheap, fast labor will not replace thoughtful, skilled, considerate design.

I wholeheartedly agree. There have been mutterings here and there about what our industry would look like if we had to be certified like architects. What are your thoughts on that? Good move? Bad?

I’m not pro-certification, but I’m all for training and professionalism. Many of the most successful designers in history didn’t have degrees in design, but I’m confident most designers could use more education in the ways of business—marketing, selling, buying, and running a business. The cream will always rise to the top, but I’ve seen plenty of talented creative people fail at running their own businesses.

What trends are you seeing that you wish you could just stop? Which ones are you loving?

Social media is the good news / bad news proposition for designers. It’s so easy, and such a great idea, to share your work online. There’s never been an easier, cost-effective method of self-promotion available to designers. However, it’s also so easy to be lazy, and simply emulate the great work that others are doing. I’m all for inspiration and contributing to trends, but I get frustrated when so many designers’ work starts to look the same.

What advice for up-and-coming designers do you have? 

Quite a lot, actually. In fact, much of the speaking I’ve done in the past has been for University design and advertising programs. I hope to share more with you soon, but I’m working on a book focused on the topic of helping students in creative fields to prepare for, interview, and land their dream jobs. I’m guessing it’s going to get a shout-out on the podcast too, so stay tuned to Obsessed With Design to learn more soon.

That’s awesome. You’ll have to let us know when we can pre-order. We’ll pump it up!

Great insights and information from Mr. Miles. Once again, do check out MilesHerndon and listen to Obsessed with Design. Until next time, Cheers!

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