Karyn Jiminez-EllioTt’s Superpowers:
- ADHD Wizard - It has helped fuel my love of design. It makes me efficient with my time, unwavering in my decision making, and determined when I set my mind on something.
- Constructive Critic - With thoughtful, friendly, quick and concise delivery, I have an ability to instantly identify what is working in a design and what isn’t, and to suggest ways to adjust and refine it.
- Exhibit Captain - My department chair describes me as having a supernatural ability to plan spaces for design presentation. I observe spaces, and I’m able to design and map things out in my head. Then with a toolbox, power tools and a level in hand, I install everything, start to finish.
Graphic Design alum Karyn Jimenez-Elliott ’03 has been an associate professor of graphic design at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI for the last 15 years. She is also actively engaged in the design industry, with a client list that ranges from political organizations and international companies to local small businesses. Her passion for social impact is evident in the projects she takes on, and she often finds herself designing in response to current events as a way to process them. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in 2020, Jimenez-Elliott shared a vector portrait that she made of the longtime Supreme Court justice for a prior exhibit at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The tribute profoundly resonated, and she was invited to be one of 18 international artists featured in the Washington Post’s memorial for Ginsburg.
“Some people write, and that’s how they flesh out their emotions. Design is my version of that, and many of my projects are my personal responses to global and societal issues,” she said.
This is just one highlight of an impressive career that began, quite literally, at Moore. Jimenez-Elliott met her first employer, from the ad agency Paragraph Inc., at her Senior Show. After graduation, she was hired as a graphic designer and later became a package designer at the Bailey Group. While in that role, she received a call from the chair of Philadelphia University’s design department, inviting her to teach a package design class as an adjunct instructor.
“I was 23 at the time, and I couldn’t believe someone wanted me to teach. Honestly, he changed my life,” she recalled. “As cliché as it sounds, after my first night of teaching, I realized this is what I wanted to do.”
Three weeks later, Jimenez-Elliott gave notice at her job and applied to an MFA program at the University of the Arts. She completed her degree in museum exhibition planning and design in 2007.
“I fell in love with design first, and then when I stepped into that classroom,” she said, “I absolutely fell in love with teaching.”
After relocating to Rhode Island, she began teaching in the design department at Johnson & Wales, where she has been full time since 2007. She has developed curricula for courses including typography, brand identity and development, package design, and wayfinding and environmental graphics.
Looking back on her time as a student, Jimenez-Elliott notes that her experiences at Moore are now directly reflected in her teaching style.
“My project-based approach to teaching and one-on-one crits during studios stem directly from how I was taught at Moore. I tell my students of the academic rigor and craft level expected by my professors at Moore. I hold that same bar in my classroom now, and students respect me for it; I challenge them. I tend to view my students as future colleagues in the design world, and there’s an element of mutual respect in my classroom.”
These days, Jimenez-Elliott is readying for the publication of The Gravity of Typography (Cognella, January 2023), a typography guide that she wrote and designed for use in and out of the classroom. She describes it as an “anti-textbook” for visual learners, brimming with useful content and inspiration for designers of all experience levels.
Beyond her many notable career achievements, Jimenez-Elliott finds the most joy in donating her design skills to animal rescue organizations worldwide, especially Potter League for Animals, a local shelter where she began volunteering a few years ago. She is also starting an organization called Greyson Hound Foster Fund (named after her son) that helps supplement costs for families who foster rescue dogs in need of medical care.
“I think it is so important for artists and designers to use their talent to help make a change,” she said. “Regardless of your skillset, we should all strive to be part of something larger than just ourselves.”