Chloe Scheffe, Graphic Designer
What do you do?
I'm a graphic designer at The New York Times Magazine, and a freelance illustrator.
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
No, but something will probably emerge as I continue working. My illustration practice is new, and with it I try to prioritize the traditional methods that I love and that counter my digital design work, and I also don't quite know where I'm going with it yet, so it feels like an especially fruitful space for that kind of thing. I suspect the most useful maxim for me will be some larger truth that I can speak back to myself as needed.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
I'm not sure I've been working long enough to identify these especially well, but right now they are attending Rhode Island School of Design, interning at Pentagram New York with Michael Bierut, and interning at Metahaven in Amsterdam.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
In addition to my weekly work for the Times, I'm designing two books for progressive public schools in Washington (where I'm from), and collaborating with a friend on a typeface inspired by Matisse's cutouts. I just finished an illustration for Look Back and Laugh, a small publisher based in Slovenia, and am developing projects with a couple of other independent presses.
What is your dream project?
I could never choose one! I would love to design and illustrate for an indie magazine, like Lucky Peach or Apartamento or mono.kultur or MacGuffin; to draw and install a mural; to design book covers; to speak; to produce prints for a clothing label; to have an exhibition of my drawings; to design catalogues for an art museum, like the Walker or the Stedelijk; to write; to collaborate on something speculative like the K-Hole reports; to illustrate or letter for vinyl packaging; to do editorial illustrations for The New Yorker... I could go on and on.
What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?
I'm a fraternal twin.
If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?
Laurel Schwulst, because she's been making interesting, challenging, mostly web-based work for a long time, and I feel like she's not a known entity on the lecture circuit.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
It's very possible to get too much advice.
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
I'm starting to! Much of my network comes from my days in art school, and it includes my peers and professors. One of my goals for the year is to continue to meet people, and to collaborate more generously.
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
A standout experience happened pretty recently, when I was in Amsterdam. I went to the Rijksmuseum and found myself in the very grand masterworks gallery, where they have large Rembrandts and other gorgeous figurative stuff, but I was completely engrossed by the little still life pieces. I absolute love still life; I don't find it boring at all. The detail in them really appeals to me, as does the care given to each object. There's so much life! I also love the small ways still life painters, particularly the Dutch, engaged with the principles of painting—they were showoffs—by including elaborate reflections in glass and silver, by combining produce that couldn't possibly be in season at the same time, by making objects hang over tables and ledges to break the plane of the painting and enter the viewers' space...
What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?
Chef's Table, Terrace House, Rihanna, Battles, Angel Olsen, Frog Eyes, John Berger, George Saunders, Mary Karr, Paris Review's Art of Fiction interview series, My Brother My Brother and Me, My Favorite Murder, Julien Priez, JooHee Yoon, Tauba Auerbach, Liam Cobb, William Luz...
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
I want to see graphic design supported more like the fine arts are. Graphic design is young, rife with practitioners that need fostering—separate from the demands and limitations of client work—in order to grow the field at large. I want designers to be given grants and shows and grace. We need space and dedicated time to make work. Design needs patrons and collectors. It needs small studios. (I think a robust small studio culture is essential, and in the States ours is a little thin. In Europe things are generally better because designers there often have the support of their governments.) We need collaborations in which we are equals. I want graphic design to flourish! I want frivolity for designers. I want joy. I want it to be very feasible for a designer to be independent and still live on what she earns. I've found that in the world, as opposed to in school, design often feels like it's languishing because it is enormous but sort of hollow, and, in contrast to painting or sculpture or poetry, disproportionately bound to the demands of a corporate culture with a fierce and consuming agenda. Design largely has to serve; it needs the freedoms of an arts practice too.
What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?
What places are important to you?
Lots of my most distinct memories are wrapped up in small places. There's a college campus in Tacoma near my parents' house, for example, where I always go walking with my mother, and where fog descends over the main green in a really specific way. In Providence, where I actually went to school, it's a lofted desk in a library. In Seattle, the roof of a photo processing store, shuttered since I moved away, and the window seat of a coffee shop on Capitol Hill, and the corner seat in the bookstore next door. In Amsterdam, it's the parquet floor of the living room, against the wall with the balcony, with the sliding glass door opened so the sun can get in. In Beijing, a stretch of road, lined with aspens, where everybody parks their bicycles, and where the cicadas are very loud.