Duration: Four years.
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Education: BA in English from the University of Minnesota; studied art, design and illustration at the College of Visual Arts in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Career path: It was very slow! I studied English in college and focused on literary criticism—but I wrote my thesis on Bridget Jones’s Diary, so it wasn’t as hoity-toity as it sounds. After graduation, I zerved for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, where I taught English to middle- and high-school students. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. When I returned to the United States, I freelanced as a copywriter, and it was only then that I started to meet graphic designers and become aware of graphic design as a discipline. I began learning what I could on my own, and when I felt like I could go no further by myself, I enrolled in art school. I was 28—a decade older than all the other students—with no background in art of any kind. It was intimidating but also liberating.
After finishing art school in 2013, I interned at Werner Design Werks and then freelanced for about a year and a half, working for my own clients as well as for several agencies and design firms. In early 2015, I was invited to work for the studio full time, and I’ve been doing that ever since. We work mostly on identity and packaging design projects; I do freelance work on the side—mostly book covers, as of recently. When I have time, I do personal typography and illustration work. I’m at my best creatively when I have a lot of different kinds of projects going on at the same time.
Artistic influences: I find that question really difficult to answer, so here are some things I like a lot: Dolly Parton. Beyonce. Cheers. KISS—the band, not the philosophy of keeping things simple. Prehistoric art. The graphic novel artist Lynda Barry. Patti Smith. Quentin Tarantino. Weekly World News. Golden Girls. John Wayne. Jack White. Mark Twain. Art Deco anything. Truman Capote. Missy Elliott. David Bowie. Fleetwood Mac. Maria Bamford. Lucinda Williams. Lucille Ball. Sia. Don DeLillo. Days of Our Lives. Dive bars. Fancy chocolates. The obituary section of the local paper.
Favorite projects: I love the branding and packaging work I did for Mr. Mak’s at Werner Design Werks. Mr. Mak’s is a beverage startup based in Chinatown, New York City. I worked on every aspect of the brand, from the logo to the packaging to the trade show booth to the website. The clients are really amazing people, so it’s been a joy to help them launch their brand.
I’m also really proud of the book cover I designed for Elisa Gabbert’s L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems, published by Black Ocean. I’ve done several covers with Black Ocean, whose publisher Janaka Stucky is a personal friend—and also, an amazing client. L’Heure Bleue made it into the 2016 Communication Arts Typography Annual and was also selected for inclusion in the AIGA 2016 50 Book | 50 Covers contest. Both were really huge honors.
Approach: My design process is very intuitive. I’m not great at planning things out in advance or even at having a vision for what the final outcome should be. I usually have something loosely in mind—some sketches to light the way—but more often than not, I just jump into Adobe Illustrator and move shapes or type or color around until something starts to click. It’s not a very efficient way of working, but it does enable me to surprise even myself—and I love that! It keeps things interesting.
Philosophy: Fun is the best thing to have. Try to have a lot of it.