Debbie co-founded the world’s first graduate program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2010. Now in its 13th year, the program has achieved international acclaim. The inaugural class wrote and designed the Rockport book Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing and Sustaining Brands, in 2013 the students created the branding for the Museum of Modern Art’s retail program, Destination: New York, the class of 2015 worked to reposition a Kappa Middle School in Harlem, the class of 2016 rebranded Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation, the class of 2017 worked with Kholsa Ventures, Performance Space New York and Chobani Incubators, and the class of 2018 worked with Brian Koppelman to design a logo for the television show Billions. The class of 2021, along with selected alumni, created the design of the 2022 Sundance Institute Film Festival.
For 20 years, Debbie was the President of Sterling Brands, one of the world’s leading branding consultancies. She arrived in 1995 when the company was two years old and had 15 employees in one office. Under her leadership, Sterling grew to 150 employees in five offices, and she was instrumental in the firm’s acquisition by Omnicom in 2008. Omnicom is one of the world’s largest holding companies. While there she worked on the logo and brand identity for Burger King, Hershey’s, Haagen Dazs, Tropicana, Star Wars, Gillette, and the No More movement.
Debbie’s writing and illustrations have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Magazine, Print Magazine, Baffler and Fast Company. She is the author of two books of illustrated essays: Look Both Ways and Self-Portrait As Your Traitor; the latter of which has been awarded a Gold Mobius, a Print Typography Award, and a medal from the Art Directors Club. Her artwork is included in 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. She has been critic-in-residence at Cranbrook University, Old Dominion University and Notre Dame University, and has conducted visual storytelling workshops all over the world.
Debbie is also President Emeritus of AIGA, one of five women to hold the position in the organization’s 100-year history and was awarded a lifetime achievement award from AIGA in 2019. She is a frequent speaker on design and branding and has spoken at TED Women (her talk was one of the Top Ten most popular talks of 2020), moderated Design Yatra in India, presented keynote lectures at Rotman School of Management, Princeton University, Yale University, Michigan Modern, the Hong Kong Design Association, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Design Thinkers in Toronto, the Festival of Art and Design in Barcelona, Brand New Conference in Amsterdam, Webstock in New Zealand, QVED in Munich, Beyond Tellerand in Berlin, ING in Dubai, ND2C in Pakistan, PS One in China, Web Summit in Lisbon, Design Indaba in South Africa and many more. She has been a juror for competitions including Cannes Lions, The Clio’s, the One Club, the D&AD awards and many, many more.
Debbie is currently working with Law & Order SVU actor and activist Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation to eradicate sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and the rape-kit backlog.
In 2022, Harvard Business School introduced a case study on Debbie which is being taught to all first-year graduate students by Professor Francesca Gino and Professor Frances X. Frei.
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Credit: Catalina Kulczar-Marin
Credit: John Madere Photography
Named “one of the most creative people in business” by Fast Company, and “one of the most influential designers working today” by Graphic Design USA, Debbie Millman is also an illustrator, author, educator, curator, and host of the podcast Design Matters.
Design Matters is one of the first and longest running podcasts in the world. As host and founder, Millman has interviewed nearly 500 of the most creative people in the world over the past 18 years. Design Matters won a 2011 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, in 2015 Apple designated it one of the best overall podcasts on iTunes, and in 2021 designated it one of their “All Time Favorite Podcasts.” In addition, the show has been nominated for eight Webby Awards, and has been listed on over 100 “Best Podcasts” lists, including one of the best podcasts in the world by Business Insider and Vanity Fair.
Debbie is the author of seven books, including three 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 and Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. Both books have been published in over 10 languages. Her most recent book, Why Design Matters: Conversations with the World’s Most Creative People, was published by Harper Collins in 2022. She is also the co-owner and Editorial Director of PrintMag.com.