Featured Award Winners

Kathleen Crosby

April 2018

A big congrats to Kathleen Crosby, one of our 30 TDK Awards’ winners for 2018. A Shillington graduate from New York, her work was chosen by Johan from Brand Brothers: “Kathleen shows interesting versatility and bravery that I want to salute! She tackles unusual subjects and her work is both controlled and relevant, with a touch of humour. I am sensitive to her storytelling skills through design and illustration and her abstraction”. We asked Kathleen to answer a few questions for next years TDK Awards’ hopefuls.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

I have so few memories of actual experiences up to around age 7 because I spent hours and hours every day cooped up in my room drawing, just me and my weird little brain. I remember learning everything from those wonderful step-by-step Ed Emberley books and that my hands were almost always dotted with Mr. Sketch scented markers. I think I finally made some friends at age 7, so then I got out of the house and started doing the normal things that kids do like dolls and flashlight tag. I always kept up with the drawing and painting, but somehow became absorbed in the world of theatre and that became my life for many years. Moving to New York sent me in a new direction though, it’s such a transformative place. I think the combination of all the bad theatre I was doing and being introduced to new ideas and possibilities propelled me out of that world of self-expression looking to explore something bigger than myself. I then spent some years at an environmental nonprofit where I became immersed in matters of local farming, nutrition, recycling, sustainability, local politics and city policy. But there was always this nagging sense to be creative again, and I had this aha moment finally arriving at design. I liked the idea of making art not in a self-expressive way that serves me somehow, but making art that serves people and ideas.

What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?

I had almost no plan post-graduation. The program was so intense the final month I didn’t have time to consider what was next. Just had to keep my head down and get through each day. I think my plan was to freelance a bit to get a sense of different design studios and agencies, but so far all of the work I’ve gotten I’ve done from home. I’m now at the point where I’m looking for a full-time job in a studio or creative agency.

Who are your top five design crushes right now globally?

Elana Schlenker

Tracy Ma


Ryu Mieno

Studio Airport


It’s important to set limits for yourself, because I’ve found that a luxurious amount of time vs. a more condensed time will lead to roughly the same end product.


Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

Making my boyfriend teach me After Effects so I can make a short animated summary of the anthropological book Guns, Germs and Steal. It’s a very important read about why Europe came to colonize the world which, duh, has nothing to do with Europeans being naturally better in any way, but everything to do with the luck of geography, climate and the availability of resources which gave Europeans huge advantages. Everyone should read it, or at least understand the ideas in it. It’s extremely dense, packed with detail, but pretty much hammers the same 5 or so points over and over again, which you could easily get across in a short animation. Ideas of geography, resources, climate, etc would lend itself well visually.

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

I haven’t incorporated a lot of illustration in my work, so I wouldn’t say I have much of an illustrative style nor in general am I wedded to a particular style. I let the ideas influence the direction of the design.

What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

  1. Don’t just look at design for inspiration. Look to art, everyday objects and experiences.

  2. If you give yourself all the time in the world for a design you will inevitably use all of that time. It’s important to set limits for yourself, because I’ve found that a luxurious amount of time vs. a more condensed time will lead to roughly the same end product.

  3. Draw out the design in all of its possibilities as much as possible before jumping onto the computer. It’s much easier and more efficient to work out the design on paper rather than in a computer program where you get bogged down by all the technical aspects.

  4. When freelancing don’t undersell yourself. It undermines you and other designers out there. Higher pay serves the client as well because it forces them to value their time and be more efficient with feedback.

  5. Seek out criticism.

What/who are your top five places or people to follow online to get inspiration?

It’s Nice That

Swiss Miss

Pentagram’s Instagram

Art Forum

Used to be Lucky Peach Magazine but it closed :(

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

I think design will become a greater force for social impact. You already see design thinking applied in the tech/start-up world, but how great would it be if all the thinking, energy and empathy that a company like Uber puts behind its company was applied to designing a platform that ensures everyone votes? I also really really hope movie posters will be better designed.

What advice would you give students starting out?

Try not to compare yourself to others. Know that you are getting better each day, it’s impossible not to.

Instagram: @thleen__


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