Mount Holyoke Alumna Uses Design for Social Change
“At its core, design thinking is about building empathy with individuals,” says Allison (Allie) Miller ’11. “[It’s about] taking risks, and working with diverse people to develop solutions that address what people need and not what we think they need.”
As program manager for the Atlanta, Georgia-based, Spark Corps, Miller was responsible for leading the growth and creative direction of the nonprofit start-up. Her work included leading research, mentoring young designers, providing creative direction, and growing the business, all with an overall goal to create social impact through design.
Spark Corps partners with other nonprofit social impact leaders such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, and the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, to help them successfully communicate their missions through effective product design, graphic design, systems design, brand development, environmental design, and more.
Through both my studies and my work with Spark Corps, I focused on the role design thinking has to play in creating social impact and developing ways for problem solving for social challenges. Allie Miller ’11
Because design education is a big part of Spark Corps’ mission, they also develop materials that help kids to think creatively. In this vein, Miller guided one of the companies’ projects, Spark Your Creativity, an interactive book that teaches children critical thinking, design techniques, and principles like color theory, typefaces, and storytelling. Spark Your Creativity, initially funded by Kickstarter, has been so successful that it is now available in six different countries. Both the Industrial Designers Society of America’s International Design Excellence Awards and the Core77 Design Awards recognized the book for its initiative in young learning development.
“I have always loved both art and science,” Miller says, adding that growing up she had a difficult time reconciling the differences between the two disciplines. Mount Holyoke gave her the space to combine her interests, and art professor Joseph Smith was instrumental in her growth. “He saw this as a strength in me and really made sure that I had creative outlets.”
During her first two years at Spark Corps, Miller earned a master’s degree in industrial design from Georgia Institute of Technology. Now she’s a freelance designer. “While working at SparkCorps, I got the entrepreneurial bug,” Miller says, “and I wanted to try to go out on my own a while.”
—By Sara Rottger ’19
October 13, 2017
Inspiring to hear about your aesthetic-pragmatic approach! This kind of synergy is crucial for the global future. I used my creative writing degree to become a textbook editor, eventually focusing on science, & then a novelist & playwright. My play On Fire (not yet produced) is about Voltaire’s passionate affair with Emilie du Chatelet, which centered on their discovery of science & experimentation, & the nature of fire in particular. It was illuminating to explore that era before modern academic compartmentalization.
As a small non-profit, we rely on graphic design volunteers to communicate our work. Without this service, we would be unknown and in the dark.
Great work Allison Miller ’11