debbie millman

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Commentary: Why the AIGA gave Pamela Parisi and Gillette an award

(the following are my remarks from the AIGA Design Legends Gala on September 14th in Boston MA)


Innovation is a word that could easily be used to describe The Gillette Company throughout its one hundred and ten year history. In a day and age where the mass media is embracing design and describing a new “creative economy," Gillette has actually been doing it, and has been at the forefront of creative leadership for nearly all of its long history.

Yes, Gillette was the first company to design a safety razor and it was the first company to design a women's razor, a razor with 3 blades and a razor with battery power. But Gillette is a graphic design pioneer as well. I'll elaborate on that in a moment. First, I'd like to talk about how Gillette is a pioneer in another meaningful area, and I’d like to share some personal history with you.

When I started in the packaging and brand design industry, I was struck by the lack of women in senior positions in the business, both on the client and agency side. I was working for a company founded by Alvin Schechter several decades before and our competitors were firms like Duffy Design, Wallace Church, Gerstman+Meyers, Lipson Alport Glass, and of course, Landor. All of these companies had tremendous reputations, and all of these companies were run by men. And when I called on consumer goods companies for their business, I also found that the design directors in the most senior positions within these corporations were also men. There was hardly a woman to be found.

The only woman I could find in any senior design position in any consumer brand corporation was Pamela Parisi, who was then the Design Manager in the Personal Care Division and is now the worldwide Director of Global Design for The Gillette Company. Pamela Parisi was the first woman in the world to have been appointed in a senior design position within a publicly traded corporation, let alone a Fortune 100 company.

Pamela has worked with Gillette for over 25 years. In that time, long before it was fashionable, Pamela brought design to the C-level by focusing real attention on how to use design as a strategic tool within a corporation rather than as a decorative flourish. She brought design to the level of importance within Gillette on par with advertising. She also was the first design director, back in the mid 1980's to recognize the impact the computer would have on our industry. She spent what was then a fortune: $1.3 million dollars to create computer aided design and mechanicals. She also allowed Gillette to be a beta-tester with the Contex system. She created one of the world's first global packaging groups. Pamela is also a maverick and a pioneer as a designer. She is responsible for the graphic identity of the Gillette MACH3 Shaving Systems, and the world’s most successful woman’s shaving system: Venus.

Her influence is vast and wide and her reputation as a design advocate is legendary. She has changed the standards of packaging in the world of fast moving consumer goods and beyond. She has influenced women in two generations and has led the way with grace, dignity, passion, ingenuity and courage. She has been a role model and a trendsetter with a generous and noble spirit. And for that the American Institute of Graphic Arts bestows on Pamela Parisi and The Gillette Company it's highest honor: the Corporate Leadership Award.

4 Comments:

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Debbie Millman has worked in the design business for over 25 years. She is President of the design division at Sterling Brands. She has been there for nearly 15 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of global brands for Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s, Colgate, Nestle and Hasbro. Prior to Sterling, she was a Senior Vice President at Interbrand and a Marketing Director at Frankfurt Balkind. Debbie is President of the AIGA, the largest professional association for design. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine, a design writer at FastCompany.com and Brand New and Chair of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting the first weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet. The show is titled “Design Matters with Debbie Millman” and it is now featured on DesignObserver.com. In addition to “Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,” (HOW Books, 2009, she is the author of "How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer" (Allworth Press, 2007) and “The Essential Principles of Graphic Design” (Rotovision, 2008).

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