Teacher, graphic designer and blogger Jennifer Kennard gives us a tour of her home workspace.
Tell us about the kind of work you do. How long have you worked from home? And where is home? Currently, I am a collector of stories, ideas, books and typography materials and I write about each for my online design blog, Letterology. I also teach part-time for one of the most rigorous and impressive graphic design programs in the Northwest, at Seattle Central Community College. A great deal of my time is spent working at my home in Seattle, Washington—where I can carve out various spaces for my different disciplines—preparing lesson plans, writing, researching and photographing materials for class and Letterology. With the exception of 4 years working in the design industry in Los Angeles in the 80s, I have spent much of my career as a graphic designer and illustrator in Seattle. Before LA, I shared office space in downtown Seattle with fellow designers, and then returned to Seattle and have continually worked from home since 1988 which must make me about 110 years old now.
Describe your style and how it relates to the space you work in and also the work you produce. I work in so many mediums, it is hard to describe a style. My fine art, might involve printmaking, photography, colored pencil work, paper sculpture, book arts, digital or a combination of any of these. My design work may begin with research, thumbnails drawings and hours at the computer, so I tend to run all over the house. I would say the single-most important element in all of my design work is the typography. This ingredient has to fit with the era I am trying to evoke so I research extensively and fiddle with the typography until I’m satisfied, just like most designers. I have a fairly good resource library of design materials and books I’ve been collecting for years and it is nice to have them in one place where they are accessible for the most part. I wish they were all in one room, but that isn’t going to happen. At least they are under the same roof and I’m not running between office and home.
I find the most difficult thing about working from home is balancing the work part from the living part. I love what I do, but it consumes much of my life right now. I try to take breaks to either go for a daily walk or a run or meet up with friends when I can. Some of my work is self-imposed, but the teaching consumes a tremendous amount of time. When I’m not teaching there is new software to learn, and maintenance to be performed. It’s a constant task having to be your own IT person too—or MT—a misinformation technologist in my case.
With exception of an occasional logo assignment and personal work, I have essentially chosen to take a reprieve from my artwork this past year. I’m not happy about it, but I will return to it eventually. As an experiment last October I decided to try and add at least one post a day to Letterology, and with a few exceptions, I have kept to this schedule. I can’t say how long it will continue at this pace, but I have been enjoying the process and have learned a tremendous amount about the work of so many other great designers and artists. It has been a real education on many levels.
How do you keep your work space organized? I keep a small studio office in one room for performing actual artwork; my dining room has been transformed into my production room with two printers, a scanner, copier, an iMac server, bookcases and a make-shift photo studio. These days I do all of my writing on my laptop at the kitchen table as it has the best sound system and lighting in the house. Essentially, most of my house has been transformed into an office. Organization is a continual struggle because of lack of space. I keep nicely labeled binders of ephemera and an endless file system so I can retrieve information easily and I was very fortunate to acquire a ridiculous abundance of nice wooden flat files many years ago which has been a tremendous asset for storing art papers and materials. Some people have good shoe karma. I seem to have good flat file karma.
When you set up your home office what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? Since 1988, my husband and I have been living in a nice old 1913 two-and-a-half-story house overlooking a wooded ravine. It is a very rustic setting, but consequently it is dark and the electrics are not entirely upgraded yet. I can never get enough good lighting. With the exception of the living room, all the rooms are rather small, so this is why I’ve had to migrate into other parts of the house. My husband Paul, has been very gracious about my large footprint, but I am seriously considering moving my entire office into the living room now so we can reclaim the other rooms as living space again. It think it could be a fun alternative.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet right now? Two beautiful custom fir bookcases with glass doors—long and low, to fit on either side of my desk where I can put my old typewriters on top of each. A better work stool would be nice too. I have a nice old wooden one from the early 1900s which a neighbor of mine restored, but it is not that durable. Built for looks, but not for function.
What would you change about your work space? Certainly the lighting, but I am in great need of more storage as well. Because I work in so many disciplines, I have acquired a lot of tools, equipment and materials. I need most of these items accessible, but I’d like more shelving and cabinets to store them. It is my biggest organizational quandary right now.
What inspires you? Skilled craftsmanship for one. No matter what it may be—if it is well-made, well-drawn, well-printed, well-written, or well-designed from the heart—it shows. I’m inspired by so many things, but foremost, by nicely designed and printed books—old and new; well-crafted typography; mid-century pattern design; the artwork of British artists Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden; the photography of Karl Blossfeldt; snow and ice formations; decorative hand-lettering; the packaging of dimestore toys made in Japan from the 50s and 60s; so many book designers and illustrators; my students; visual information display; animation; old office supplies; the colors of moss after a fresh rain (a Northwest thing); an alpine hike; and music. I cannot imagine working without good music.