An Interview with Chicago Graphic Designer Brooke Becker

I was lucky enough to sit down with the lovely and talented Brooke Becker. In this interview she gives some insight into her design-rich background, what she digs about art, and how she stays sane as a graduate student and professional.

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SARAH: Brooke, you’ve got a great sense of design. Did growing up around art influence your education?

BROOKE: My mom was an art teacher; I was exposed to art at an early age. Other than elementary and middle school art classes, my first art class was my senior year of high school. I played the viola and my mom insisted that I be in the orchestra all four years and take four years of math! So, this was the first year I had extra electives that I could take an art class. Thankfully, the teacher knew my mom and allowed me to join with the other senior classes, Illustration and Commercial Design. In college, I was a Visual Art major with a concentration in Graphic Design. This program didn’t really get established until my junior year, when they built a new Mac lab and brought in adjunct teachers who were in the industry. Currently, I am getting my Masters in Arts in New Media at DePaul University.

SARAH: What’s your favorite kind of art?

BROOKE: I have always been drawn to photography. I like the idea that the moment captured by the photographer will be forever saved and documented.

SARAH: What is your key advice to others just getting into the creative arts field?

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BROOKE: I recommend getting exposed to creative environments and industries by doing internships or summer jobs. I wish I would have been a bit more focused on the types of creative companies out there and tried to get in at the ones that excited me.

SARAH: What is your “expertise specialty”? Has this stemmed or grown from something else?

BROOKE: I consider myself an expert in design for print and web. I am much better executing print work. However, I feel I have become more of a design consultant for print and web projects. Assessing bad design and making it better. I think this has just stemmed from being exposed to both print and web design for so long, and having a strong art background helps me communicate my ideas.

SARAH: What have you found to be most valuable being in the New Media Studies Program?

BROOKE: I love the fact that the NMS program is interdisciplinary allowing each NMS student to explore their own interests. I also have enjoyed the people I have met and collaborated with on projects.

SARAH: How do you keep life balance as a “constantly connected” new media artist?

BROOKE:  I used to do a lot of improv comedy…I’m still doing a little here and there. I play volleyball. I’m also trying to take more fine art classes. I took an oil painting class last summer and it was amazing the amount of anxiety I had from starting the painting. You can always delete or create multiple versions in digital art, so I feel that pushing my creativity to be more decisive is a good thing.

SARAH: And lastly…where can we view your current portfolio?

BROOKE:  www.brookebeckerdesign.com – I use WordPress for my site which allows me to easily update work and include descriptions.

[And be sure to follow Brooke on Twitter]

DePaul University’s New Virtual Exhibit

DePaul University’s Office of Mission & Values  just rolled out a new Vincentian Collection digital online museum featuring the Virtual Exhibition of  Saint Lazare as a Women’s Prison (1794 – 1932) in Paris…and it is out of this world. The Saint Lazare structure had a long history pre-dating the Congregation of the Mission. After its confiscation by the Revolutionary government in 1792 the buildings of Saint Lazare became a prison for enemies of the revolution. In 1811, it became a prison exclusively for women. Until 1936 the main complex of Saint Lazare became the notorious “St. Lago” prison, housing mostly women convicted of prostitution. Despite efforts to close the prison, it endured until 1932.

DePaul University's new digital archive currently offers a virtual exhibition on Saint-Lazare

I attended the unveiling of this massive project at DePaul University a few weeks ago and learned that this ever-growing digital archive is on par with virtual archives that the “big boys” have. Few universities have such a grand collection. It offers intuitive navigation, maps with fantastic Zoomify capabilities, gorgeous black and white photos and illustrations archived from very old originals, short, carefully-crafted audio stories about the history of Saint Lazare and even French songs that were re-recorded by students in DePaul University’s Music Department. This digital museum serves to provide a narrative to educate on the culture and social climate of the time as well as how St. Vincent and the Congregation of the Mission played into the lives of the female criminals and prostitutes (including the infamous Mata Hari) during the revolution – and how they were treated and cared for by the sisters at Saint Lazare.

On a day when you don’t feel like paying admission to wander the halls and fight the crowds of a physical museum, take a virtual stroll through this free and magnificient new archive which will continue to grow over time as a treasured source of research and rich history.

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