Studio art, say hello to design

Mount Holyoke graduate Allie Miller reading "1000 Chairs" while sitting next to a statue of Albert Einstein. Miller is dressed in their Masters of Industrial Design graduation regalia.

Design strategist, Allie Miller ’11, reading "1000 Chairs."

During my time at Mount Holyoke, I never intended for my studio work to lead to my current career. I was pre-med with a biology minor, and I had my sights set on medical school. My studio work was simply a way to escape from the pressures of my other classes while still satisfying my parents’ need for me to get a “real job.” Humanities classes look good on a med school application, right?

In fact, I told a white lie to get into my Drawing I class, never intending for studio art to actually be my major. This little lie ended up being one of the best decisions I could have ever made. More than 10 years after that first drawing class, I am now a professional designer and strategist working in an industry I didn’t event know existed during my time at Mount Holyoke.

After graduation, I worked briefly in healthcare but was always left either questioning why things were being done they way they were, or uninspired by the lack of creativity and innovation around me. A series of events eventually led me to the field of industrial design. Suddenly, my science and art brain made sense.

Over the course of three years, I pursued a master’s in industrial design at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It was a beautiful blend of form and function: creating beautiful objects and experiences while also thinking about the real needs of the people interacting with them. My coursework as an art major was key throughout this by informing my ability to consider the materiality, visual qualities and craft of what I was designing.

Currently, I work as a design strategist with Booz Allen Hamilton, where I help government clients such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs think about the experience of their veterans and those around them. Each day, I pull on a range of design skills, from graphic design to user experience (UX) design to service design, in order to support this important population. Even today, I still draw on the visual sensibilities I began to develop at Mount Holyoke.

I may not be an artist, but my degree ended up introducing me to design, and I will forever be grateful for that.