Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 29th, 1961 (Heller, 2019). She is still alive and is now 58 years old. According to Heller, Millman was exposed to designs when she was young, both from her mother being a seamstress and her father owning a local pharmacy (Heller, 2019). All of her life she attended public school, and for college, she attended the State University of New York at Albany where she majored in English (Heller, 2019). While in college, Millman wrote for the Albany Student Press (ASP) and she found the arts section of the newspaper to be the most interesting to write about (Olechowski, 2015). Millman has also expressed how her minor in Russian literature inspired her future career choice, both with what she learned and her experiences with her professors (Olechowski, 2015). Before starting her career in design, Millman explored working in real estate and for a cable magazine because she wanted to be financially stable (Olechowski, 2015). After her time with that, Millman accepted a marketing job with Frankfurt Balkind, which was a highly established design firm at the time (Olechowski, 2015). After a year in that position, Millman finally landed on working with Sterling Brands, which was a New-York based design firm that Millman spent the next 24 years building, expanding, and making successful (Olechowski, 2015). Olechowski states that “Millman has worked with about 200 international brands, including Burger King, 7Up, Hershey’s, Gillette, Haagen Dazs, Colgate and Campbell’s Soup” (Olechowski, 2015). In 2008, her time with Sterling Brands ended as she and her partners sold the company to  (Olechowski, 2015). In addition to all of her success working with Sterling Brands, Millman has also written 6 books and has created and hosted one of the world’s first podcasts called “Design Matters” (Heller, 2019). “Millman has interviewed nearly 500 artists, designers, and cultural commentators over the past 14 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 2018 the show was honored by the Webby Awards” (Millman, 2019). Needless to say, Millman is highly successful and those in the world of design likely respect and look up to her work.

In my opinion, what makes Millman so special is that she did not come out of college knowing exactly what she wanted to do with her life. It was inspiring to read that Millman left college with only her degrees and knowing she wanted to do something big with her life. It wasn’t until Millman was 30 that she began her work with design (Heller, 2019). She is now 58 years old and she is highly regarded, has written 6 books, and has a world-renowned podcast. I think her story should inspire others that you don’t have to have it all together right out of college. Millman’s life proves to all of us that you can start something big no matter how old you are or how much time has been lost. I am also really drawn to Millman because of her work with not only artists but musicians, designers, content creators, and other strong, powerful women such as Brené Brown. All in all, I think that Millman’s biggest impacts have been her work in graphic design, her novels, and her design podcast.



Photo – Tina Essmaker. (2013, January 22). Debbie Millman. The Great Discontent.

Information –

Carol Olechowski. (2015, June 11). Women of Influence – Debbie Millman. UAlbany Magazine.’s%20interest%20in%20design%20blossomed,I%20was%20in%20the%20content.%E2%80%9D

Debbie Millman. (2019, March 7). Bio. Debbie Millman.

Steven Heller. (2019, March 25). Debbie Millman. The Professional Association for Design.