Jason Miller

American Craft: A Conversation with Jason Miller of Roll & Hill


We recently sat down with Jason Miller, Founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Roll & Hill, to learn more about his prolific career as a designer and the inception of the contemporary lighting manufacturing company. He shared insights into his journey from an artist in Williamsburg to the founder of a successful design firm and manufacturing company. His conversation with DesignSpec Co-Founder Fiona Sanipelli offers a peek into his creative process, business acumen, and American design aesthetic.

Artistic Roots and the Shift to Design

Jason Miller began his career as an artist, creating paintings that focused on everyday household objects. Over time, his interest shifted from the representations of these objects to their actual design. This realization propelled him into the world of design, where he felt a stronger connection to his creations. He remarked, “I was making paintings of household objects mostly. At some point I realized that the objects were more interesting to me than the paintings of them.” This marked the beginning of his journey into the realm of product design.

The Beginning of Roll & Hill

As his design career progressed, Miller founded Roll & Hill out of practical necessity. His solo practice Jason Miller Studio became well known in the design world but Jason identified that it was difficult to manufacture his designs. There seemed to be a need for a manufacturing facility that could create his designs by hand in America and this led to the creation of Roll & Hill. This division allowed him to maintain a clear focus on creative design through Jason Miller Studio while scaling up production capabilities under Roll & Hill. He detailed this transition, saying, “I had designed some lights that became somewhat successful, and at some point, was running a manufacturing company just out of my studio making those lights because people were buying them. In 2009 I decided to split those two things apart which is when Roll & Hill began.”

Roll & Hill NYC Showroom

Diverse Design Interests and Expansion

Miller’s design interests are broad, encompassing interiors, furniture, and lighting. Although Roll & Hill started primarily as a lighting company, it eventually expanded into furniture, driven by both business opportunities and Miller’s personal passion for furniture design. “We weren’t just looking to expand; diversifying offered us the chance to bring our aesthetic and our business capability to a new group of products,he explained.

Focus on Design and Local Manufacturing

One of the defining aspects of Roll & Hill is its commitment to design and local manufacturing. Miller emphasized the importance of creating products tailored for the American market, a strategy that not only meets specific consumer needs but also gives his company an edge through flexibility and the ability to produce in smaller, customizable batches. He passionately spoke about the advantages of manufacturing locally: “It gives us flexibility so we can customize things which is nice. It allows us to be a little bit more hands-on and experimental so we can test new designs. You learn things when you get it out in the world.”

“You learn when you get things out in the world”

Jason Miller, Roll & Hill Founder

Collaboration and Independent Designers

Part of Roll & Hill’s business model is collaboration with independent designers. This helps to enrich the diversity of Roll & Hill products. When asked how Miller choses design partners, he explained it’s largely based on his own intuition, and what he believes will appeal to American consumers. Although there is not a set criteria for design partners, Roll & Hill collaborates with independent designers that reflect the design intention and aesthetic that reflects its own. 

Roll & Hill: New designs

Manufacturing is a Challenging Business

Miller reflected that at the end of the day, Roll & Hill is a manufacturing company. In 14 years, the company has learned a lot and needed to pivot many times. Certain materials are easier to work with than others, so those considerations are always present. However, the company is able to take more of a chance than many big brand manufacturers, so this is a great reason for those independent designers to partner with them over those companies that invest heavily in stock manufactured overseas.

Roll & Hill Creative Direction

The Roll & Hill concept has certainly evolved, however the key foundation to be completely diverse is still the overarching premise. The collection as a whole is cohesive, but each individual piece has its own profile. Miller is constantly looking at design and there are designers all over the world that are doing really interesting work. As the Creative Director for the business, he identifies contemporary pieces with an American aesthetic and choses designs that he feels will appeal to the American market. 

Advice for Aspiring Designers

For those looking to enter the design industry, Miller’s advice is straightforward and grounded in his own experiences: focus on creating great products. He believes that a strong product stands at the heart of business success, suggesting that other elements like branding and marketing will naturally align if the product meets a genuine need.

“There will always be a market for a great product so focus on creating a great product”

Jason Miller, Roll & Hill Founder

Future of Design

Looking forward, Miller acknowledged the challenges of predicting the design industry’s trajectory but expressed optimism about the role of quality and innovation in shaping its future. His commitment to avoiding the commoditization of design and instead focusing on meaningful, well-crafted products suggests a bright future for designers who prioritize substance over trends.

“People want good products; things they can be proud of and make them feel good. Not things that will end up in the garbage”

Jason Miller, Roll & Hill Founder

Jason Miller’s journey from artist to entrepreneur encapsulates a deep engagement with both the creative aspects of design and the practical demands of running a business. His insights highlight the importance of adaptability, the value of local production, and the potential of collaborations, offering valuable lessons for anyone interested in the intersection of design, entrepreneurship, and cultural relevance.

DesignSpec is proud to partner with Roll & Hill on our new DS Collection. Designers can now discover Roll & Hill products along with other bespoke makers on our platform and specify them directly into their spec writing. This new feature will launch in June. 

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