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Debbie Millman

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Debbie Millman
Debbie Millman.jpg
Born (1962-11-02) November 2, 1962 (age 57)
Alma materUniversity at Albany, SUNY
Known forHost of Design Matters

Debbie Millman is an American writer, educator, artist, curator, and designer who is best known as the host of the podcast Design Matters.[1] She has authored six books and is the President Emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and chair and co-founder of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She was previously the editorial and creative director of Print magazine.[2]

Early life and academic career

Millman studied at the University at Albany, SUNY for her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree.[3] She majored in English with a minor in Russian literature, graduating in 1983.[4] During her years there, she wrote for the student newspaper, which is where she credits discovering her interest in design.


Sterling Brands

From 1995 to 2016, Millman was the president of the Design Division,[5] and chief marketing officer at Sterling Brands based in New York City,[6] where she worked with brands including Pepsi, Gillette, Colgate, Kimberly-Clark, Nestlé, and the Campbell Soup Company.[7][8] She worked on the redesign of Burger King, merchandising for Star Wars, and the positioning and branding of the NO MORE movement.[9] Millman helped grow the company from 15 employees to 150, and along with her partners, sold the company to Omnicon in 2008.[4]

HOT 97

From 1993 to 2005, Millman was the off-staff creative director of HOT 97 in New York City, where she worked with Emmis Broadcasting general manager Judy Ellis and Promotion Director Rocco Macri to turn the dance music radio station into a hip-hop radio station. Millman created the HOT 97 logo in 1994 and then redesigned it again in 1999.[10][11]

Design Matters

In 2005, Millman founded Design Matters, a design podcast where she frequently interviews designers, educators, authors, and thinkers. Guests have included Massimo Vignelli, Steven Heller, Marian Bantjes, Tina Roth Eisenberg, and Stefan Sagmeister, Milton Glaser, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, Barbara Kruger, and Seth Godin, among others.[12] By 2017, the show had passed the five million downloads per year mark.[13] The podcast received a number of awards such as the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award,[14] The People's Design Award,[15] and in 2015 iTunes named it one of the best podcasts of the year.[16] It was recognized as a Webby Honoree in 2018.[17]

School of Visual Arts

In 2009, Millman and Steven Heller founded a graduate program in branding at the School of Visual Arts[18] in New York City.[19] She serves as chair of the program.[20] The school's inaugural class wrote and designed the Rockport book Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing and Sustaining Brands, and in 2013 the students designed and created branding for the Museum of Modern Art's retail program, Destination: New York. In 2015, their project was to reposition the Kappa Middle School in Harlem and in 2016, they rebranded Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation. The class of 2017 redesigned the identity of the Performance Space 122 in New York City.[21]


Millman is the President Emeritus of AIGA,[22] one of five women to hold the position in the organization's 100-year history. She is a former board member and treasurer of the New York Chapter.

Millman is a regular keynote speaker at a variety of global educational institutions, covering topics on design and branding. In the past she has presented keynote lectures at Rotman School of Management,[23] Princeton University, Michigan Modern, the Hong Kong Design Association, the Melbourne Writers Festival, the National Museum of Serbia, Design Thinkers in Toronto, the Festival of Art and Design in Barcelona, Webstock in New Zealand, QVED in Munich, the ING Conference in Dubai, TypoBerlin, the By Design Conference in Slovakia and more.[24][25]


Millman's artwork has been exhibited at the Boston Biennale, Chicago Design Museum, Anderson University, School of Visual Arts, Long Island University, The Wolfsonion Museum and the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art. In the past, she was an artist-in-residence at Cranbrook University, Old Dominion University and Notre Dame University, and has also conducted visual storytelling workshops at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, the University of Utah, Anderson University, Albuquerque Academy, the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan and the Type Directors Club in New York City.[26]


Millman has contributed to various media outlets including The New York Times,[27] New York Magazine, Print Magazine, Design Observer and Fast Company.[28][29] She serves as the editorial & creative director of Print.[30][31] Millman has designed campaign buttons for Hillary Clinton,[32] wrapping paper and beach towels for One Kings Lane, greeting cards for Mohawk Paper and MOO Paper, as well as playing cards for DeckStarter and various others.[33][34] In 2014, she received the Type Directors Club Certificate of Typographic Excellence for her entry in TDC61,[35] 'Austin Initiative for Graphic Awesomeness' poster.[36]

Beginning in 2003, Millman was a writer for the design blog Speak Up, created by Armin Vit in 2002. She was a regular contributor to the site until it ceased publication in 2009.


Millman was involved with the creation of the NO MORE movement[37] and worked on the team to design a new visual symbol to express universal support for ending domestic violence and sexual assault. The purpose of the symbol is to raise visibility, create awareness, encourage conversation, and help break the social stigma surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault. The NO MORE movement[38] has been spearheaded by a broad coalition of funders, advocacy and service organizations, and private sector volunteers from leading corporations and media companies including Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation, Avon, Kimberly Clark Corporation and Verizon.[39] Millman is also on the board of the Joyful Heart Foundation and created the identity for the non-profit with her students at the School of Visual Arts.[40]


Millman co-curated conferences such as HOW DESIGN LIVE, the AIGA National Conference[41] and others.[42] Since 2013 she has curated 30 Covers, 30 Days for National November Writing Month.[43] In September 2017, she curated a show for the Museum of Design in Atlanta titled Text Me: How We Live In Language,[44][45] featuring artists and designers including Ed Ruscha, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Shepard Fairey, Neil Gaiman, Deborah Kass and Lesley Dill. Arts Atlanta called the show a bold first curation.

Personal life

Millman is married to author Roxane Gay.[46][47]


Millman is the author of six books.[48] Two are collections of interviews that have extended the ethos and editorial vision of Design Matters to the printed page: How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer[49][50] and Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. She is the author of two books of illustrated essays: Look Both Ways and Self-Portrait As Your Traitor. Self-Portrait As Your Traitor has been awarded a Gold Mobius,[51] a Print Typography Award, and a medal from the Art Directors Club.

  • How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer. New York: Allworth Press. 2007. ISBN 9781581156355. OCLC 181142646.
  • The Essential Principles of Graphic Design. Cincinnati, Ohio: How Books. 2008. ISBN 9781600610479. OCLC 176923189.
  • Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design. Cincinnati, Ohio: HOW Books. 2009. ISBN 9781600613210. OCLC 299713300.
  • Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. New York: Allworth Press. 2011. ISBN 9781581158649. OCLC 696099142.
  • Self-Portrait As Your Traitor. Cincinnati, Ohio: HOW Books. 2012. ISBN 1440334617. OCLC 865535167.
  • Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing, and Sustaining Brands. Beverly, Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers. 2012. ISBN 9781610581981. OCLC 795526435.

Further reading

  • Gerda Breuer, Julia Meer (ed): Women in Graphic Design, p. 515/516, 562/563, Jovis, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86859-153-8
  • Gomez-Palacio, Bryony, and Armin Vit. Women of design: influence and inspiration from the original trailblazers to the new groundbreakers., p. 175–177, How Books, 2008, ISBN 978-1600610851


  1. ^ "Debbie Millman". Fast Company. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  2. ^ "Debbie Millman, Author at Print Magazine". Print Magazine. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  3. ^ "Debbie Millman, B.A.'83". State University of New York at Albany. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "UAlbany Magazine – University at Albany – SUNY". Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  5. ^ "Interview: Debbie Millman, Sterling Brands". New Fangled. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  6. ^ "Debbie Millman on Branding Design Matters and Personal Work". Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  7. ^ "Debbie Millman Writer, Brand Consultant & Host of Design Matters". The Legacy Project. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  8. ^ "Debbie Millman". Designers and Books. Retrieved July 11, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Introducing Guest Bollger Debbie Millman: Design Matters". Fast Company. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  10. ^ "Millman". Crains New York. April 14, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  11. ^ "Design Observer Party: Denver, October 12". Design Observer. November 10, 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  12. ^ "Design Matters with Debbie Millman". Design Observer. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  13. ^ "Debbie Millman". Clarity. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  14. ^ "Design Matters: Live with Debbie Millman featuring Abbott Miller". DC Design Week. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  15. ^ "Debbie Millman's Design Matters Wins People's Design Award". Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  16. ^ Millman, Debbie. "About the Show on". Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  17. ^ "DESIGN MATTERS WITH DEBBIE MILLMAN". Webby Awards. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  18. ^ "Masters in Brand". School of Visual Arts. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  19. ^ "How Steven Heller Redefined the Design Industry". Magenta. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  20. ^ "School of Visual Arts – MPS in Branding | Debbie Millman". Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  21. ^ "School of Visual Arts – MPS in Branding | Debbie Millman". Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  22. ^ "For the past twenty years, Debbie has been President of Sterling Brands and, in 2014, was named president and chief marketing officer of the firm,". Sappi. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  23. ^ "Events and Speaker Series". Rotman. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  24. ^ "Debbie Millman: On Rejection". Kansas City Design Week. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  25. ^ "BIO". Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  26. ^ "Visual Storytelling: A Collaborative, Interactive Workshop with Debbie Millman". The Type Directors Club. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  27. ^ "Sally Ride". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  28. ^ "Debbie Millman". Fast Company. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  29. ^ "DEBBIE MILLMAN: IF NOT NOW, WHEN?". Chase Jarvis. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  30. ^ "HELLO (AND, WELL, GOODBYE)". Print Mag. August 1, 2002.
  31. ^ "Observer: Easy Writer". Print Mag. June 1, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  32. ^ "45 TOP DESIGNERS CREATED THE BEST BUTTONS FOR HILLARY CLINTON". Visual News. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  33. ^ "Designer Holiday Cards From Moo". How Design. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  34. ^ "Design Conversations: Debbie Millman". AIGA Philadelphia. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  35. ^ "Member of the Month: Debbie Millman". The Type Directors Club. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  36. ^ "UC.Prints: Debbie Millman at AIforGA". Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  37. ^ "My Best Work: Debbie Millman Shares the NO MORE Project". How Design. June 12, 2012. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  38. ^ "Debbie Millman". Speakers Spotlight. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  39. ^ "The Best Thing I Ever Created: Designer Debbie Millman on No More's Visual Identity". Shutterstock. October 14, 2015. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  40. ^ "Board of Directors". Joyful Heart Foundation. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  41. ^ "2017 AIGA Design Conference to focus on community, connection, and career journey". AIGA. March 9, 2017. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  42. ^ "20 Designers in 20 Minutes". AIGA. October 24, 2008. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  43. ^ "30 Covers in 30 Days". How Design. November 4, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  44. ^ "MODA's Text Me: How We Live in Language Public Exhibition Opening". Explore Georgia. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  45. ^ "MODA's Text Me: How We Live in Language Public Exhibition Opening". Arts Atlanta. October 3, 2017. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  46. ^ Schaub, Michael (November 14, 2019). "Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman Get Engaged". Kirkus Reviews.
  47. ^ "Why Won't You Date Me? with Nicole Byer - Fatphobia (w/ Roxane Gay)". Headgum. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  48. ^ "Debbie Millman". Designers and Books. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  49. ^ "Ms. Debbie Millman". AIGA. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  50. ^ "Books by Debbie Millman". Good Reads. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  51. ^ "SELF PORTRAIT AS YOUR TRAITOR, 2". Color Ibus. Retrieved January 25, 2018.

External links