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Maryam Allee Sans exhibition design
Maryam Allee Connect 4 Climate logo and branding
Maryam Allee OneCyberNation
Maryam Allee ActionIQ branding
Maryam in green dress with her baby

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Maryam Allee

Sep 14 2020

Ron Callahan

During the lockdown I reached out to Maryam Allee MFAD’13 to find out what she has been up to.
I have been taking on my own clients, freelancing in graphic design full-time since graduation in 2013. I love the flexible integration of life and work, and having exposure to a variety of people and projects. Some of my clients (and their clients) I work with includes; The World Bank, UNICEF, McDonald’s, BP,  Novartis, Abbott Labs, PepsiCo, Boeing, United Airlines and many local businesses, and people. Basically, I’m good with bureaucracy and working for baked goods. 

What has work-life been like during the pandemic?
There has been a lot of fascinating, frantic shifting around COVID-19. So much work got scrapped to adapt. One core business framework graphic I was refining for a client is a literal… curve (cringe). They spent “thousands of hours” perfecting their “curve” and overnight it became the only thing we were all looking at, worldwide, in horror. That said, I recently had my first full-page New York Times ad printed for a client on their precautionary reopening plan— a goosebumps-raising moment for me. 


Which designers do you admire most nowadays?

How do I choose!? The SVA universe is ever-impressive—Collins, Collected Works, &Walsh. I’ve always admired RoAnn & Co for the beautiful balance of soft and bold. The work of some of my former classmates pushes the newness line, like with Kathleen Fitzgerald’s Two Studios 


How does being a parent help you stay inspired?

Life is non-stop in my home/studio, whether on the floor playing with my kids covered in Play-doh and finger paint, gardening, cooking, or home renovations. Having small children does have me see things anew. As a parent, I’m always having to distill the complexities of life into simple explanations, which is a very helpful design tool. 


Has it helped you attract clients or employers with similar aesthetics?

Ha! I suppose there is a draw to the ability to synthesize with a bit of levity and color, but just as much of it is about relationship and communication. 

What’s going on in the design world that you love/hate?
Coming from an undergraduate education in industrial design and psychology, I’m loving the more dimensional work, and the increasingly multi-disciplinary. The tools and resources we have now make so much possible, but can also speed up the trend-cycle with it being so easy to copycat work with the level of exposure new things get. There is so much content consumption, that audiences are more demanding of newness more quickly than ever. It’s exciting, and occasionally exhausting. Speaking of exhausting, the artificially “handmade” moment is so overdone. There’s the same “hand drawn” script font on every other wedding invite and Etsy item. 


Tell us about the impact that SVA MFA Design has had on your career?
Between referrals of classmates and the reputation of the program, almost all of my client work has cascaded from the program, in a very literal sense. My style and skills were first humbled, then broadened by the curriculum. Then there’s just the endurance you get from the workload. I’m often told that I seem calm and rested for having small children, to which I retort that nothing compares to the rigors and sleepless nights of design grad school. 


The program’s practical, business focus tooled me up to have more than design insights for my clients and my own company. 

Maryam Allee


If you could choose a thesis topic today, what would you pick?
I’d probably do something similar to Bundle, my maternity nutrition delivery kit. Though, I’d have to rename and rebrand because there’s a company with that VERY name that curiously opened only months after forum and almost the same logo. I should have listened to Frank and gotten the trademark! Listen to your instructors!  

What advice would you give incoming students?
This is it! Don’t mess it up! Don’t procrastinate; when you get a new project, walk out of the room, get started, and you’re already half way there. Trust. I’m a champion procrastinator. Get to know and love your classmates, they’re going to parallel your World-class instructors as teachers. If you do it right, you’ll keep learning from them long after you leave SVA. 

Tell us your favorite memory of the MFA Design program.
Steve Heller coming in at 5am to see us all red-eyed, jittery, and design-flowing (occasionally dancing). 

Where can we see your work?
Visit my site, maryamallee.com or find me on instagram. Much of my work is under NDA these days, but I’m hoping to keep things fresh with updates.