Getting down to serious AIGA biz at leadership retreat.

Debbie Millman Always Looks Forward: AIGA Afterlife

Written by in Profiles


{Pictured Above:  Serious biz at AIGA leadership retreat, Deb Millman in black beneath scrum.}

Remember that old Final Net ad from the 70s? “Even when you can’t stand up, your hair can.” Whatever Debbie Millman’s secret, she was always standing, all dressed in black, chicly shod, blond hair, perfectly cut, sharply parted, tucked behind one ear—terrific. She was always on even when she hadn’t any rest. Doug Powell of MPLS assumes the president’s chair at AIGA National and he brings great new ideas and talents, but we doubt he’ll look as good in black linen and patent leather pumps as Deb did—but we’ll keep an open mind. We asked Debbie to reflect on her two years at the helm of AIGA National. Get ready to laugh out loud.

From my point of view, the role of AIGA president is 20% programming/strategy and 60% member relations. The other 20% is looking for WIFI in airports and motel lobbies. Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands was a ubiquitous presence around the nation, traveling exhaustively to spread the AIGA Gospel, an exhilarating journey making new friends and reconnecting with old friends. No matter how tired she was, she was always ready with a smile, a warm embrace, a patient ear and a sincere interest in your cat’s diabetes. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…you brought back some NYC chutzpah to the office, and little style, too.


Former President Jill Spaeth and Debbie at the AIGA DC Fundraiser

BFFs: Past DC President Jill Spaeth and Debbie at a DC chapter fundraiser

Query 1: List some of the proudest accomplishments as President of AIGA.

    • Our commitment to social media. @AIGAdesign now has 245,000+ Twitter followers—when I started my term, there were about 60,000
    • Visiting 55 out of 66 chapters while on the board
    • Creating the AIGA Milton Glaser scholarship with the School of Visual Arts
    • Creating a position on the National Board of Directors for student and associate member engagement
    • The AIGA/F&W Media partnership announcement at HOW ’10 Conference — no one imagined this would happen

Query 2: List a few things you will most miss most about this very demanding job.

    • Going to the annual retreats for local chapter leaders—they are inspiring
    • Being called Mr. President
    • Representing the greatest design organization in the world
    • The Secret Service detail

Debbie with Thy Doan and Kevin Perry of SLC Chapter

Debbie with Thy Doan (@thy_doan) (far left) and Kevin Perry (@kevinperry) of SLC Chapter

Query 3: List a few things you will not miss about the job.

    • Trying to make everyone happy
    • Complainers and haters
    • Conversations about the past

Query 4: List some things you have been putting off while you were busy as AIGA President.

    • Sleep
    • Working at my day job at Sterling Brands
    • Speaking out more publicly about how damaging spec work is to our profession
    • Seeing my friends and family at non-AIGA events
    • Joining the Art Directors Club (ha ha, joking)

Query 5: Tell Doug Powell the names of the best hosts you encountered on your travels.

    • Jim Nissen and Mark Dudlik in Phoenix, Arizona
    • Andrew Twigg, John DeGore and Doris Short in Pittsburgh, PA
    • Kevin Perry and Thy Doan in Salt Lake City, UT
    • Donald Savoie and Alice Bybee in San Fran, CA
    • Jill Spaeth in Washington DC

Kitty missed mommy and mommy missed her rest

Kitty Lucy missed her mommy and mommy missed her rest

Query 6: What are the names of your favorite spots for peace, quiet and a kick-butt margarita.

    • Santa Fe: 10,000 Waves
    • Austin: Armin & Bryony’s house
    • Denver: Denver Art Museum
    • Dallas: My cousin’s Mike’s house, Doug can call me for the number
    • Phoenix: Anyplace Mark Dudlik frequents with his flask
    • Weehawken: Bada Bing
    • Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport: Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint

Query 7: Tell us where you hid the key to the exclusive, Top Secret Presidential Condo in Aspen.

    • In my bra


Doug, you're next: AIGA President's Gallery

AIGA President’s Gallery:

D. Powell, you’ll be next to M. Vanderbyl under Deb.

Keep that Final Net Hairspray within reach.


  1. 08
    Emily Potts said:

    Great article on a great woman!

  2. 08
    lisa g said:

    All of that spunk, personality& energy should be re-directed for continued use by the AIGA!!! Maybe Debbie can be an ambassador-at-large… Kudos nevertheless for all of your contributions & advancements to the organization during your Presidency.

  3. 08

    […] takes a look back at her 2 years as AIGA President, and keeps her momentum going forward. >>Read More Tweet this | Tags: aiga, Debbie Milman, […]

  4. 08
    Neenah Paper said:

    Aw, come on! Someone please leave some loving comments!!!

  5. 08
    Neenah Paper said:

    more retweets than any recent post

  6. 08
    Neenah Paper said:

    please tell us who the gal in the red dress and black patent mary janes is

  7. 08
    Neenah Paper said:

    who is going to get the key back from debbie for the condo?

  8. 08
    Neenah Paper said:

    what did debbie do with her clones once she handed over the crown to doug?

  9. 08
    David Airey said:

    Everything I learned about Debbie during her two years as AIGA President made me respect her more. I’m sure she’ll be missed. All the very best to Doug Powell with his term.