Published on

Q&A with Elana Schlenker

Independent graphic designer from Pittsburgh

My name is Elana Schlenker, I’m an independent graphic designer working mainly with clients in the arts, publishing, and non-profit sectors. I also publish, edit, and design Gratuitous Type, an annual magazine of interviews and projects from contemporary designers and artists.

© Elana Schlenker

Software / hardware

Nothing special—I use my MacBook Pro and iMac somewhat interchangeably, and then Adobe Creative Suite on both devices. I love Adobe InDesign and while I don’t design with Spotify, it’s become a pretty important part of my process. And I suppose I couldn’t live without my Google Calendar and GDocs (for all the list-making I do).

Ideal work environment

I work out of a studio in the Pencil Factory, a big old space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that’s full of designers, illustrators, artists, woodworkers, and many other creative businesses. It’s got lots of light, lots of interesting people, and is in close proximity to coffee and tacos. It’s also just a 10-minute walk from my apartment, and I can bring my dog to work—so it’s just about as near to an ideal work environment as I can imagine! Like most of New York, the only thing lacking here is outdoor space, but we do have a rooftop with a great view, so there’s not much I can complain about.

Work inspiration

Through Gratuitous Type, I have the opportunity to interview some of my favorite graphic designers and artists, and these conversations inspire me most. Their work is creatively exciting, but it’s also really motivating to discuss how these people make things happen, how they deal with clients, self-initiated work, or other challenges in their practices. These conversations inspire me to push myself professionally as well as creatively.

In my commissioned work, I particularly enjoy collaborating with other artists, and have recently been working with several people in the photography industry whose work I really admire, including Peter Hoffman, John Francis Peters, and Christina Labey and Jason Burnstein of Conveyor Arts. These projects are highly collaborative, and involve a lot of back and forth and conversations between us. For me, projects like these are often the most exciting and the most fruitful. Additionally, I collaborate often with my boyfriend Ross Mantle, who is a photographer as well. His work and his dedication to it inspire me, as do the conversations we have about our practices.

Beyond this, I love product design and am always finding exciting work on Site Unseen, one my favorite blogs. I also look at lots of magazines and independent publications, I really can never get enough of beautiful printed pieces. Most recently, I picked up Matt Connors: Machines published by Rainoff.

Creatives you admire most

A hodgepodge list off the top of my head: Agnes Martin, Karel Martens, Joan Didion, Richard Hollis, Albert Folch, Wayne White, Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen of Visual Editions… but there are so many. I suppose that’s why I publish Gratuitous Type, it’s a wonderful excuse to speak with my design heroes.