Student Spotlight - Meet Dana Parker

As an artist or a creative, you probably feel the need to address the tragic absurdity of our current political climate. I think it’s okay for an artist’s work to be light hearted too.

Dana Parker attends the School of Art & Design at Portland State University. As a multidisciplinary designer, she is drawn to branding, page design and illustration (with a weakness for coconut La Croix, air hockey and truffle salt). Dana is inspired by different ways of making and enjoys working with typography and color. I recently caught up with Dana to learn more about her journey as a maker. (Confession. She had me at air hockey.)

Here’s what she had to say…

I am a senior doing a post-bacc in Graphic Design at PSU. I was born in the Midwest and raised in the Northwest. I am inspired by different ways of making, and these methods inform my work as a multidisciplinary designer.  More specifically, I am drawn to branding, page design, and illustration. Regardless of the project, I like to work with typography and color. Other things I like: crosswords, air hockey, truffle salt, the smell of old books, coconut La Croix.

How did you find the medium that best worked for you? What was that process of discovery like?

I began my education as a fine arts major, but didn’t feel like it was quite right for me. I decided to pursue my interest in literature and considered a career in academia. I graduated with a degree in English and a minor in Art History from the University of Oregon. It wasn’t until I started working at an art gallery that I discovered graphic design.


What were some of your early influences to pursue an education in the arts? Did you always want to be an artist when you were a child?

I have always been drawn to visual art, and as a child I was fascinated by the Impressionists. It had to do with color and the texture that inspires the desire to reach out and run your fingers across it. My crude pastel studies of Degas’ dancers could be found on my grandma’s fridge. In high school, I taught myself to draw from my dad’s old comic book collection and took every art class I could. My family is greatly made up of creative/talented people, and they were always supportive of in my interest in art.

Outside of your art—what feeds your imagination and soul, and brings you joy?

In my free time I try to keep my sketchbook active through drawing and collage. I am also a huge film nerd. I love going to the theatre and talking movies. When I have the time, I still enjoy reading, journaling, and I like to cook. I am impatiently waiting for summer to kick in so I can get back to lazing around Sauvie’s and hiking the gorge.

Our theme for this quarter is “light hearted”. As an artist, what does this mean to you?

As an artist or a creative, you probably feel the need to address the tragic absurdity of our current political climate. I think it’s okay for an artist’s work to be light hearted too. It is more than okay, it is necessary. I am reminded of an article about the Dada movement, titled, “The Rising Charm of Dada,” and the author proclaims that, “sense and nonsense need to be partners in order to mirror the absurdity of the world.” Do the heavy stuff if it strikes you and do the light-hearted stuff too. Stay weird.

How do you hope your personal expression will reach others, through your art?

I’m really into the storytelling potential of design. I feel like my work has a lot of character, and people can gain glimpses into my personality through my design. Lately, I have been dipping my toes in the great pool of coding/web development. The possibility of reaching a greater audience is an exciting aspect of working in the digital world.

I'm looking forward to seeing where Dana lands in the design world!