Graphic designer-artist-independent filmmaker Mike Mills’ work defies categorization, but at least there’s a book to make sense of it all — “Mike Mills: Graphics/Films,” out now from Damiani Editore. Included is his work for Marc Jacobs, Colette and bands like Air, Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys, as well as his 2005 film “Thumbsucker” and Human, his Japan-produced line of fabrics, posters and ribbons. “I do lots of different things, but they tend to be presented in different contexts,” says the 42-year-old, who also cofounded The Directors Bureau, a commercial and music video agency, with Roman Coppola. “The idea of the book was to show how these things are integrated and are not just a mistake.”
ROCK STAR DREAMS: “I’ve always been jealous of bands,” says Mills, who briefly had his own group, Butter 08, and has done music videos for Moby, Blonde Redhead and Everything But the Girl. “I’ve really been trying to emulate that whole mode of delivery and its cultural profile.” To reach a nonart world audience, the designer launched the affordable Human collection, which is designed on a “whatever the heck’s going on with me” schedule.
MULTITASKER: “It’s hard to explain to your parents and the world at large that you want to have this varied feeling,” says the Cooper Union grad, who emulates figures like the Eames brothers and Bauhaus member (and Vogue art director) Herbert Bayer.
BIG IN JAPAN: Mills has a following in Japan, which he visits once or twice a year. “They are so high-level on graphics and visual culture. It’s just so alive. And if they are into something, they study it. So from the first time I went there people knew everything I did.”
UP NEXT: After semiretiring from making commercials for corporate giants like Nike, Gap, Apple and Volkswagen (“I tried to quit,” he says, “but I still find myself doing one or so a year, partially to make money,”) Mills is focusing on his next feature narrative film. “It’s about family stuff and relationships. It integrates more of the things I do than the other films I’ve done.”