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Danelle Cheney

Designer and Photographer

Primary design concentration:

Print and Environmental Graphics

Most preferred tools for designing:

Tablet (one for work, another for travel), coffee, and focus time

How and why did you choose to become a designer?

Before entering college, I had never heard the term “graphic design.” The descriptions, listed in my course catalogue, described design as “art + computers,” and I thought, “Why not? I’m good at art, and computers are cool.” Design is much more expansive, challenging, and fascinating, than I first imagined, and I have never regretted that split-second decision.

What are some of the challenges you encounter as a designer and how do you deal with them?

One of my biggest, most constant frustrations is the feeling that there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I want. It’s necessary to strike a balance between doing work that pays the bills and work that you are invested in. Ideally, that work is one and the same, but the balance doesn’t happen overnight. It is crucial to make sure there is time to do the work you truly want to be doing, to attract more and more of that work later.

What is your definition of an “elegant solution,” that is, good design?

A result so seamless and natural you wonder why it was hard to think of in the first place.

From skills to values, what makes a designer successful?

Each person has their own way to measure success, but I believe when you are doing work that simultaneously fulfills and motivates you, you’ve got it made. High on my list of skills a designer must possess are knowing when to compromise and when to respectfully disagree, collaborating and clearly communicating, being able to pull your own desires out of the equation, and a willingness to constantly push further and make your work better.

How do you stay motivated and grow personally and professionally as a designer?

I spend a fair amount of time on Twitter, design blogs, arts-and-culture sites, and reading new literature, trying to keep my finger on the collective creative pulse. I feel fortunate to work for arts organizations whose mission is to encourage and foster creativity. Seeing the amazing work others are doing (whether it be fine art, performance art, design, writing or any combination of), and knowing it underwent the same push-and-pull process we all go through, is a constant motivator for me, both personally and professionally.

For those aspiring to become a designer, whatever the discipline, what is your advice?

Use your brain, but listen to your gut.

What is your quest in design, from a professional practice, education or evolution standpoint?

To make something meaningful.

Danelle Cheney is currently a graphic designer at the Cincinnati Art Museum. In addition to letters and traveling, she loves “hiking, taking naps and puppies.” She frequently visits Quipsologies and We Love Typography.

Image of The Art of Sound: Four Centuries of Musical Instruments exhibition, at Cincinnati Art Museum, courtesy of Danelle Cheney, who designed a custom typeface for the project.

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