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Bram Meehan, Illustrated*

How did you end up in the design field, and what drew you to it initially?
I come from book people. My high school had a solid arts program (called Career Art — talk about branding) that really established the idea that the arts could earn you a living. I’m getting to the point soon. Despite doing well in “real” subjects, I went on to art school … where I discovered I was in over my head in illustration. But I also had an amazing typography teacher, and realized that there were people who put together these things I enjoyed reading. And that there were rules about how humans interacted with visual information, and a whole profession of communicators who did it. I had professors, too, who were on the leading edge of what we’d now call information architecture, which got me started on a longtime interest in how we absorb and process data. I earned my BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology in Graphic Design, and have been working as a designer since.

How are you implementing your design knowledge in your career right now?
What I’m doing now I generally describe as “graphic design for marketing communications.” Problem-solving, project management, developing systems, branding and visual storytelling, that’s every day. Even my teaching, I approach as a creative director — what is my audience looking for, and how can I deliver it in a way that’s surprising and engaging?

What’s your favorite project in recent history that you’ve contributed to?
Working right now rebranding a local cultural institution, fast-paced and results-oriented — a great team of professionals with a story to tell who are focused on moving toward a goal. Another is something that I can’t really discuss much as it’s still being developed and rolled out: a client training public health professionals who work with children to use data to achieve measurable results and then train others. These are people whose lives are full dealing with important issues, so it’s critical that we’re able to present information so that it connects and is easy to explain to others. It demands all my experience designing, writing, teaching.

Designers always have pet peeves when it comes to other people’s work. What’s yours?
What appeals to me most these days is designers who understand how to present data so that it connects with an audience. Creatives who are able to provide a context, develop a narrative that transcends the latest style and really gets a message across in a way that resonates. That’s the power of good design, presenting information in a way that overcomes the overwhelming input we’re confronted with in a way that leads to understanding.

If you could work with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
To be honest, that’s not something I think about much … I kind of concentrate on the world in front of me now. There are historical letterers/typographers I wish I could’ve trained under, some writers I’d like to do something for as I learn from them, designers whose creativity I admire, organizations doing wonderful work. Every project is different, a new story to tell. I like that challenge.

*Illustration: Chris Askham