Conversation with alumna and instructor Kelley Dodd

Kelley R. Dodd teaches Publishing Software and Advanced InDesign at PSU. She is a print specialist and freelance designer, having worked in the print and publishing industries for twenty years. Kelley is the graphic designer for the bimonthly magazine The Solutions Journal: For a Sustainable and Desirable Future and is working on the second book in the Cycling Sojourner series Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-day Tours in Washington. Her experience in graphic arts includes logo design, branding, product packaging, document design, and illustration. She received a B.S. in Advertising from the University of Texas, Austin and an M.S. in Writing/Publishing from Portland State University. During her graduate studies, Kelley designed various projects for Ooligan Press, including the interior and cover for Oregon at Work: 1859–2009, the covers for Classroom Publishing: A Practical Guide for Teachers, Killing George Washington: The American West in Five Voices, and Rethinking Paper and Ink: The Sustainable Publishing Revolution (1st edition), and the Open Book logo.

Ms. Dodd, you’ve been around the Ooligan Press program for a long time now, first as a student, now as an instructor, and you’ve taken your education towards the design aspect of publishing. Can you tell us what inspired you originally to get into the publishing program at PSU?

I had been freelancing part-time, while I was working at a printing company. I decided to go freelance full-time but felt like I needed to shore up other skills related to the printing and publishing industries. My goal was to focus on writing and editing and to expand my expertise and involvement in the publishing industry.

Besides teaching all of us current students some of the best deign practices for Indesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, you’ve managed to make your way into the professional world as freelancer. Can you tell us about your limited liability company and the services you provide?

Even though I don’t exactly consider myself an illustrator, I got started creating technical drawings for an equipment manufacturer in town. From there, I began designing their manuals. My client roster expanded over time, and I built logos and branding materials, product packaging, brochures, and all sorts of print projects. Once I landed the design position for The Solutions Journal, my work has steered more toward magazine layout and book interiors.

What are your current projects at this moment? (magazine, books, and anything else)

The Solutions Journal is an ongoing (bimonthly) project, and I just sent the files for Cycling Sojourner Washington off to the printer. I also started a new series of manuals for the equipment manufacturer.

In your professional opinion, how does magazine design differ from book design?

I love magazine design, because it is filled with moments of instant gratification. It’s like putting together a puzzle. Each article in the magazine is of a piece, yet each piece is discrete. Some articles fall into place with almost no effort, while others require every skill and idea you can muster to whip it into shape. Books tend to have a longer evolution, allowing for a different rhythm of design that almost feels luxurious in comparison.

Are there a lot of best practice dos and don’ts in your work?

Don’t introduce mistakes during the design process. Always work with a hard copy of the original material, and don’t be shy about making editorial queries. Your client or editor will thankful for any mistakes you bring to attention.

Don’t work for free or on spec. Good clients, those worthy of working long hours and weekends, respect your need to make a living. Use a good system for tracking your hours and be fair about billing.

Don’t stop training. It is super easy to let the technology sneak up on you. Dedicate a certain number of hours to online tutorials, spend time sketching, or take a drawing class.

In class you have mentioned that some rules in design are meant to be broken in certain circumstances. Can you give us a good example of this?

Design rules are broken all the time, mostly in an effort to stand out and attract audience. What is important is to know the rules inside and out.

What do you think the future holds for design freelancers?

Freelance design makes sense to me in terms of marketplace demand. All companies and institutions need design work at some point, but not all companies and institutions need a full-time designer. Freelancing gives you the opportunity to work on varied projects and allows you to have a flexible schedule, something that is very important to me. But I would encourage new graduates to find a full-time design or production position. Get some experience and economic stability and build a large community before going it alone.

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