Personal Statement

My love of graphic design did not strike me like a thunderbolt; rather it grew slowly and derived its nourishment from other passions. My first love is art, and in learning to draw and paint, I studied composition, blending, lights and shadows. In middle school, I discovered darkroom photography, and I learned of saturation, contrast and juxtaposition.

My first foray into digital graphic design was with MS Paint. Something about drawing loops on the screen, filling them in with different colors and entering text over the images opened up a whole new world for me. Then came more sophisticated software and my discovery of the magical world of fonts.

I’ve always possessed a respectful fascination for technology, the internet and the incredible power it possesses. Having a hearing impairment while being 100% verbal (meaning I speak and use hearing aids as opposed to signing) means I rely on technology extensively — my cochlear implant, emails and smart phones. My enormous appreciation for both design and technology derives from the fact that both have made so much of my life possible as a hearing impaired person. These are subjects near to my heart because they have granted me my independence and expanded my limits tremendously.

A few years after graduating from Vassar with an English degree, I realized that my skills as a graphic designer had the potential to be more than a passionate hobby. I was late in realizing that maybe this skill set could lead me to a creatively satisfying job. I quickly learned that graphic design for the web was the most in-demand service, so I learned HTML and CSS. Soon after, I started taking on clients, and I’ve been working professionally in the field ever since.

In 2009, I teamed up with Bridegroom & Bitney to create an ambitious social media publicity firm. We worked almost exclusively with musicians, helping them create a brand identity through design and online publicity. As Art Director, I was in charge of all of our in-house graphics and promotional materials, and I created Branding & Design packages for our clients. These packages were custom tailored to each client and included websites, cover artwork for iTunes and printed CDs, posters and designs for the relevant social media outlets.

In 2012, an extraordinary series of events fused together my personal and professional lives in a profound way and taught me the significance and power of design. In May of that year, my close friend and colleague, Shane Bitney Crone, posted a video on YouTube. The video, It Could Happen To You went viral over the course of a few days, reaching 3 million views (at this time, it has over 5 million views). The video is about the injustices Shane faced in the aftermath of the sudden and tragic accidental death of his young partner (and my close friend) Tom Bridegroom. The day that Shane chose to post the video was significant because it was the one-year anniversary of Tom’s death. What Shane couldn’t foresee is that North Carolina’s vote on same sex marriage would make the subject of marriage equality a heated topic online, helping to bring traffic to the video. Shane also couldn’t predict that President Obama would vocalize his support of marriage equality that same week. As Shane’s graphic designer and media consultant, I set up a Facebook page with the h­­­ashtag #EqualLoveEqualRights. When the hashtag started trending on Twitter, we knew we had to act fast and produce relevant content to keep the subject matter relevant. I designed the logo for #EqualLoveEqualRights, which acted as an unofficial website for the YouTube video.

The YouTube video and our social media campaign caught the attention of Linda Bloodworth Thomason, a writer and director who wanted to turn Shane’s story into a feature length documentary. The documentary, called Bridegroom, went on to show at Tribeca Film Festival where it won the audience award and was introduced by former President Bill Clinton. Bridegroom enjoyed a very successful run in the festival circuit, and Shane’s career as an activist flourished. I continue to create design work for Shane’s social media outlets and posts, and when the documentary was printed as a DVD, I designed the poster. The film showed on Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN and is available to watch on Netflix. This entire experience has reinforced for me, the power of design. It is particularly meaningful to me that my work as a designer has helped facilitate Shane’s good works as an activist.

I enrolled in the Master of Graphic Design program at North Carolina State University College of Design in 2015. The program opened my eyes to theory and research within the discipline. I also explored how design can alter how people think about the world around them. Most importantly, the program allowed me to look at the world of Inclusive Design through new lenses when I realized the design craft I was studying had the very tools to change people approach disability. I wrote my Master’s thesis on a User Interface for Cochlear Implants and I graduated in May 2017. I am continuing to pursue work that allows me to push the boundaries of what design for disability means. Currently, I am working with on the IDATA project with The University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory to use User Centered Design in the redesign of astronomy software to be accessible to Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI) users.



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