Jenn Visocky O’Grady

Chair + Professor

Cleveland State University

Jenn is a Professor, and Chair of the Art Department at Cleveland State University, where she specializes in extinguishing metaphorical fires and giving pep talks. She, along with her husband and creative partner Ken, is the author of Design Currency, The Information Design Handbook and A Designer’s Research Manual, and has had her work featured in dozens of publications. When she’s not guiding and collaborating with the next generation of professional creatives, she travels and lectures regularly, carrying the banner for the transformative value of good design. Jenn also collaborated with Ken on their daughter, who travels regularly throughout their home studio.

I Am Currently Working On:

A chalkboard wall.

Ken Visocky O’Grady

Graduate Coordinator + Associate Professor

Kent State University

Ken is an Associate Professor at the School of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University, where also serves as the Associate Director, and Graduate Coordinator. Along with his wife and creative partner Jenn, he has authored three books (Design CurrencyThe Information Design Handbook and A Designer’s Research Manual) and one daughter. Ken knows that the visual aspect of any project is worth fighting for, and he’s dedicated himself to opening eyes to that fact both in the classroom and in appearances across the U.S. and Canada. He also shares a birthday with Cee Lo Green. So there’s that.

I Am Currently Working On:

Getting through finals week.

Colleagues, Collaborators + Crushes

“At this late date in my career, it’s rare that I find a book as useful and personally informative as The Information Design Handbook… it will be going on the recommended lists on all my syllabi.”
Jandos Rothstein
Associate Professor of Graphic Design
George Mason University

Awards & Peer Recognition:

Designing a Real World Education

Communication Arts Insights
by Rebecca Huval

Test and Iterate: Grad students tackle a major global health problem that can be solved with the simplest action: hand-washing

by Bryn Mooth
PRINT Magazine, August 2014
WASH Curriculum redesign featured

METROPOLIS Magazine Next Generation Design Competition

Runner-Up for Malaria Prevention and Communication Tools

Core77 2013 Design Awards

Student Notable Honoree for Malaria Prevention and Communication Tools

9 Big Design Thinkers and Writers

by David Dick-Agnew
Azure Magazine

How to Talk Design to Business

by Nancy Kay Clark
DesignEdge Canada

The Information Design Bookshelf

by Karen Cheng
Arcade Magazine, Designing Data Issue

Cover Coverage–A Design Journey

by Erin Mays
HOW Magazine Design Blog

Personal Branding: Your Design Currency

by Kathy Scott
HOW Magazine Design Blog

What You Will Find on a Design Researcher’s Bookshelf

by Jon Freach
DesignMind/Frog Design Blog

Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady: The Reflex Blue Show #116

by Donovan Beery
The Reflex Blue Show Design Podcast

Malaria Gets a Healthy Dose of Design

by Gordon Kaye
Graphic Design USA Magazine

Case Study: Healthcare Communication Tools—Empowering the People of Kibera

by Justin Ahrens
AIGA National Website, Design For Good Case Study


 

published books:

DESIGN CURRENCY: Understand, define, and promote the value of your design

The world needs beautiful design. But aesthetics are inherently subjective. In Design Currency, authors Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady show you how to frame the value of your design work in terms that your business partners will both understand and respect. An actionable resource, Design Currency empowers you to do your job with less pushback on aesthetic decisions, encourages earlier involvement in the creation process, and makes it easier for you to justify your fees. For a designer, understanding how your work creates value is essential to growing your business and building better, more profitable relationships. Those relationships are easier to initiate, establish, and retain when you can clearly explain how your capabilities meet your client’s needs. This book shows you how to do exactly that.

Purchase from Amazon

Reviews

“The empowerment provided by the Visocky O’Grady’s also gives the reader the self-assurance to both qualify and quantify their aesthetic decisions, thus making them an expert not only in the design realm but as a business professional as well.”—Heather Sakai, GoMedia

The Information Design Handbook:

The best information design often goes unnoticed by the viewer because it conveys information so quickly and effectively. The Information Design Handbook celebrates projects that are exemplars of communication and aesthetics, and reveals the thought processes and design skills behind them. This comprehensive guide to creating information graphics is packed with essential design principles, case studies, color palettes, trouble-shooting tips, and much more.

The book features an inspirational gallery of work that illustrate how to communicate at a glance, logically, effectively, and with maximum benefit and includes milestones from the history of information design that illustrate and explain breakthroughs and trends.

Purchase from Amazon

Reviews

“If you’re curious about information design, or need to complete some, this is a good introduction to the topic. It goes over all the concepts in a concise and clear manner. It covers the science behind the methods, the methods, and the general rules of thumb that result from scientific studies performed over the last several hundred years. The book also practices what it preaches. It is extremely clear in conveying its information. The color coding is very consistent, it has a good use of infographics and visualizations, and it’s just a very well put together book. I would definitely recommend it for any student or anyone just curious about the discipline. The title describes it pretty appropriately.” —Nicholas Doering, Amazon Review

A designer’s research Manual:

Succeed in Design by Knowing Your Clients and What They Really Need

Research often the marks difference between a good design and a great design. By engaging in competitive intelligence, customer profiling, color and trend forecasting and other research methodologies, designers demonstrate commercial value for clients in a way a design artifact alone cannot.

Although scientific and analytical in nature, research is the basis of all good design work. This book provides a comprehensive manual for designers on what design research is, why it is necessary, how to do it, and how to apply it to creative work. By embracing research methodologies, designers share a common vernacular with their clients. This not only ensures a viable role for designers in business; it raises the value of the designer, promoting innovators who deliver creative solutions and understand business needs. This is the first book to address this issue with a focus on both student and professional design audiences.

Purchase from Amazon

Reviews

“In my search for structured discussion on design process and research, I was fortunate enough to find this book, A Designer’s Research Manual, at the MOMA bookstore in SoHo. I only wish this had been available and required text when I was still in school. The Authors have done a great service to the design profession, and its clients. Those of us who are more designers than “artists” would do well to integrate the principles of this book into our processes & methodologies for tackling our clients’ business problems. It’s thinking like that in this book that will make the case for design’s value to the business of our clients. Thank you Jenn & Ken Visocky O’Grady!” —John Chen, Amazon Review

Access Ability: A Practical Handbook on Accessible Design

The RGD Access Ability project was undertaken to provide the Canadian design industry with the information, tools and training required to meet Ontario’s Accessible Information and Communications Standard, a component of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005.

The standards proposed in the AODA hold businesses and organizations responsible for providing accessible public information in various formats, such as online, print, and digital.

Download the Guidelines

RGD Ontario, the professional association and accrediting body for graphic designers in the province, understood the urgent need to become an advocate for the design industry and an active participant in the development of best practices for these standards. Access Ability, provides designers with the guidelines, tools and information needed to achieve accessibility in multiple formats, making it a required criteria in every information and communication design project.

Our role was as “Guest Experts,” outlining information design and print design best practices for the Access Ability project (pgs 3–10).

Published Articles:

Reflect on What’s Next

The best designers seem to thrive on change. They embrace risk. They are forward thinking, trend setting, and early adopting. Design as a culture embraces, preaches and praises these qualities. We hone them as students and admire them in our heroes. Yet inevitably the by-product of such skills lead us to not only question traditional design and business conventions, but also ourselves. Constantly plaguing us with a single, recurring question: “What’s Next?” Read Full Article

originally posted on parse

Help Your User Retain Your Message

Memory is a cognitive process that enables us to store, retrieve, and apply knowledge. Educators and psychologists have spent years studying human information processing and how it relates to our ability to remember that information. Designers can take an important cue from these efforts. Related to the study of short-term memory, cognition, and perception is the theory of Miller’s Magic Number, or Chunking. Read Full Article

originally posted on parse

Process This

Sometimes simple but often complex, the “process” used by graphic designers and their respective studios varies widely. Whether the project is print, interactive, or three-dimensional in nature, designers use an established set of procedures to create innovative solutions to communication problems. Many studios offer their methods as proprietary services, noting the value that process adds in the otherwise intangible medium of creativity. Read Full Article

originally posted on parse


 

case study: In collaboration with KSU/VCD Graduate Studio, Rule 29, and Lifewater International

Diagnosing and treating Malaria patients in the slums of Kenya

Under the direction of Ken Visocky O’Grady, KSUVCD graduate students engaged in a semester-long, research-driven group project, linking design to relief efforts in developing nations.

Universal Approach

Located in Kenya, Kibera is the second largest slum in the world, home to approximately one million people living in cramped, crowded dwellings with little infrastructure support for fresh water, sanitary sewer, or trash collection. Poor drainage and open sewers create a breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the transmission of malaria. Our goal: provide visual communication tools to help educate and reinforce positive health habits related to the prevention, detection and treatment of malaria, while fostering communication between doctor and patient. Our partner: Rule29, a Chicago-based design firm with deep philanthropic connections to NGOs working in Kibera.

Research determined that many of the existing visual tools used by relief workers failed to communicate. This lack of communication was attributed to overly complex narratives and culturally out-of-place imagery. Investigating obstacles related to visual literacy, and cultural understandings of disease, the students developed a visual approach focused on the use of simplified iconography, teaching viewers about the disease cycle, how to identify symptoms and properly take malaria medication.

Initial rounds of testing were done on-location by Rule29. Doctors in Kibera provided positive feedback, affirming that the universally understood icons were a useful tool, helping them to communicate effectively with patients across language and literacy barriers. Healthcare workers relayed that this visual approach was easier for patients to understand than the text-heavy information they had been using.

This project has been recognized by METROPOLIS Magazine and Core77. To learn more, read the Design for Good Case Study published by AIGA.

⇧ Above: The symptoms of malaria are often misunderstood. Nausea, fatigue and cold sweats, for instance, may seem insignificant when they appear on their own. For this reason, malaria is often detected too late. The symptom cards above were designed as a tool for doctors to quickly communicate with patients.

Selected Work

Cause + Effect, SAW Inc. Annual Report

We Are Partners, SAW Inc. Annual Report

I Saw…, SAW Inc. Annual Report

Connect, SAW Inc. Annual Report

Show Off!, AIGA/CLE Portfolio Show Poster

A Brief History of Tremont Brochure

Nance College of Business Viewbook

Today, SAW. Inc. Annual Report

Growth, SAW. Inc. Annual Report

The Judgement, AIGA/CLE Portfolio Show Poster

Solutions at Work, SAW. Inc. Annual Report

No Pressure, AIGA/CLE Portfolio Show Poster


 

speaking engagements + workshops:

Information Design Dissected

RGD, Ontario, Canada

Design is having its moment. In the past decade, design has come to the forefront as a tool to differentiate in a crowded market, foster innovation, leverage competitive advantage, craft user experience, and simplify the complex. And we’d love to talk to you about it.

Purveyors Of The Well Designed

Our books have been internationally distributed, with co-editions in Chinese and Korean, and are frequently used as university texts. We make academic concepts approachable, and actionable. But that’s no fun unless we get to meet the people who are putting their content to work. So we go out and get involved with our fellow creatives, at industry events, including those by AIGA, HOW, and RGD. And we reach outside the choir too, advocating for design’s transformative power to external groups like NASA and the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR). Together, or individually, we make presentations, teach workshops, jury competitions and are all over the occasional professional pep talk. How about we add your acronym to the list?

Let’s Talk

Previous Engagements