SNDLOU: Meet Ohio University’s Julie Elman

Courtney Kan: What is your current position?

Julie Elman of Ohio University

Julie Elman: Associate Professor at the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University (Athens), otherwise known as VisCom. I teach classes in the Information Design sequence.

CK: Can you share a little background on your career?

JE: I earned an MFA in photography and a BFA in commercial art. Before teaching at OU, I worked for 10 years at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. I started out as a picture editor there, then switched to design (mostly, I designed the front page). Before that, I worked as a photojournalist for dailies in West Virginia and Tennessee. I’ve also picture edited for a group of weeklies in the Boston area. I’ve taught at the University of Missouri (Columbia) and Virginia Wesleyan College (Virginia Beach). I designed the New York Times best-selling photography book The Rise of Barack Obama for Pete Souza, who is now chief White House photographer. And I collaborated with Tim Harrower on the 7th edition of The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook. I am currently at work on the Fear Projectwhich is a collection of other people’s fears — their words, my illustrations.

CK: What topic will you be speaking on at SNDLOU?

JE: As a visual communicator, we know you’ve got a lot of things on your mind: “What the hell do I do with this blank canvas?” “How the hell am I going to come up with a great idea for my project?” “Why the hell is this deadline so tight?” “Who the hell are these people all around me and why are they so much better than me?” And “Where the hell do I go to get some relief?” Chill — and come on down to the non-digital, stress-free, fear-free, no-pressure playroom. This hands-on session will allow you to break away for a bit from all the stimulating and energizing SND workshop presentations and give you a chance to recharge. What could be more soothing than some glitter to sprinkle, glue sticks to twist and paint to push around?

CK: Why are you excited about speaking at SNDLOU?

JE: It’s exciting to speak to a bunch of folks whose eyes light up when you hold up a small container of “glitter” and say, “glitter!” This happened to me at last year’s workshop during my hands-on session. I heard audible “oohs” and aaahs” when I flashed that vial of sparkly stuff. I knew then, without a doubt, that I was among my people. To be a part of this annual gathering is a real treat for me and a great way to stay connected with others who are as passionate about visual storytelling as I am.

CK: What inspires you?

JE: What inspires me? I’m never really sure how to answer this question, because I find that inspiration, for me, comes from everywhere. Color-field paintings, documentary photography, wild flowers off the side of a highway, textures on fabric, letterforms and layer cakes. You name it.

CK: What is one piece of advice you have for SNDLOU attendees?

JE: Get out there and talk with people. Show them your work, ask them questions, pick their brains, share ideas. Try to get past your shyness and just DO IT. I have found that just about everyone who attends the workshop is open, curious and willing to talk.

CK: What are you personally looking forward to at SNDLOU?

JE: Seeing everyone, again, and catching up. Witnessing energetic, relevant and meaningful presentations and work. Getting immersed in everyone’s creative fumes.

To register for SND Louisville, click here. To see the full schedule, click here.

About Courtney Kan

is a designer at The Washington Post and the editor of

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