Black and white photograph of Julie Mader-Meersman.

Hi! Welcome! I’m Julie — a designer, artist, and full-time professor of visual communication design at Northern Kentucky University. I’m passionate about the ability of design to create meaningful experiences; artfulness as an essential form of human engagement; and deep learning about design, art, and creative practice. I’m happy to share some info about different aspects of my creative practice and my professional background here.

design services & specializations: I help organizations and businesses across a wide range of media and project types with creative direction, art direction, design, design consultation, project management, and production. Identity and brand design, design systems, electronic and traditional forms of publishing, experience design, food truck design, information design, interaction design, nonprofit design, promotion design, sustainable design, typography.  

mission & values: I strive to create high-quality design for small businesses, startups and non-profit, community, and arts-based organizations. An inquisitive and informed approach that banks on tangible research yields the invention of insightful ideas with artistic sensibilities made through visual experimentation. I strive to maximize potential and create appropriate visual outcomes for each project I’m involved with.

  • OriginalityA drive for unique, creative perspectives and authenticity fuel the production of memorable and impactful design outcomes.
  • professionalismFocused, strategic planning with a personal, collaborative approach are accompanied by sophisticated, well-crafted, efficient execution.
  • passionCommitment, high energy, and love for the work go into every project.
  • responsibilityConscientious thought is used to maximize precious human, natural, financial, and industrial resources.
  • advocacyAdvocacy is a given: for my clients, organizations of social/cultural worth, the practice of fine arts, and design through higher education.

design accolades: My design work has won awards and been recognized in well-respected, industry competitions and journals — regional, national, and international. These include ADDY Awards (Fargo, North Dakota and Austin, texas), AIGA Cincinnati’s Design Origination Competition, AIGA Minnesota Design Show of Excellence, the Communication Arts Design Annual, FontShop International, Graphis Typography 3, How Magazine, Information Is Beautiful Awards, Mobile Cuisine Food Truck Graphic Design of the Year, and Print’s Regional Design Annual, among others. Some additional publications include: “Image of Business Cards Today” by ArtPower, and “Big Book of Design Ideas 3” published by Harper Collins.  

my fine art: I specialize in limited-edition, original art — primarily in the form of artists’ books and mixed media collage. Common themes in my work include reflections on graphic culture, the definition and conveyance of meaning; personal narrative / experience; domestic life / women’s issues; the visual / physical properties of words and books; and the processes of recording, cataloging, mapping and documenting meaning and experience. My work has been exhibited and published broadly at museums and galleries such as 23 Sandy Gallery (Portland), Abecedarian Gallery (Denver), ALL Gallery (New Haven), Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati), Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, (Louisville), Riffe Gallery (Columbus), University of Northampton (UK), and Woman Made Gallery (Chicago). Selections from my portfolio are prominently featured in “Masters: Collage — Major Works by Leading Artists,” curated by Randel Plowman; “500 Handmade Books, Vol. 2,” curated by Julie Chen; and “Eco Books: Inventive Projects from the Recycling Bin.” I also have artist’s books in the permanent collections of Duke University (Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture), the University of Oregon (Architecture and Allied Arts Library), and the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry. In 2021, I was an artist-in-residence at the Art Farm of Serenbe (Georgia). Most recently, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Delaware) awarded me a Maker-Creator Fellowship, where I’ll use their vast, historic resources for inspiration while I design and develop a new, low-code web design resource titled, “The CSS Dollhouse.” This project will take place during my fall 2024 sabbatical, supported by the faculty development programs of NKU, before which I’ll also work on a Summer Fellowship to obtain Nielsen Norman Group UX certification. This project is an example of all three of my areas of expertise converging (design, art, and education).

career start: I got my MFA in Visual Communication Design from the University of Washington School of Art, Division of Design (Seattle, Washington), and my BFA in Graphic Design from NKU, where I co-lead the design program with stellar colleagues. Before I was recruited by NKU, I was an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Minnesota State University Moorhead (across the river from Fargo, North Dakota). I’ve been a freelance designer for most of my career, after working as a Senior Designer at Whittington & Co. — a marketing and communications firm in Austin, Texas. There, I did design, art direction, and project management encompassing the entire creative process for editorial, informational, and commercial projects including corporate, institutional, and product brochures; magazines; identities; catalogues; annual reports; posters; billboards; newsletters; trade show exhibits; web sites & ads; and self-promotional items. My first job in the industry was as an in-house design and production consultant for Chiquita Brands, International in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I designed and produced fruit packaging.

teaching designers: As a Professor in the NKU School of the Arts, I teach introductory through advanced design courses. This involves authorship of individual courses and course materials; co-management and co-authorship of curriculum; the development of policies and procedures; and success-oriented culture creation. I mentor design students to achieve heights of academic success and professional alignment. Over the years, my students have earned internal and external scholarships; taken home awards in design competitions and publications; obtained internships and full-time positions at reputed agencies and corporations; presented at conferences; and won numerous awards. My pedagogy appears in, “Teaching Graphic Design: Course Offerings and Class Projects from the Leading Graduate and Undergraduate Programs,” by Stephen Heller, editor, and my research has been cited in fellow educators’ research and publications.  

personal: My husband, Marty, and I met in college and have been married for 28 years (wut?!). He started an award-winning food truck, built from the ground up with his own two hands after a successful teaching career came to a close. Marty’s Waffles is his business, for which I do all brand- and design-related work. We have two incredible sons who we adore and could talk about for days! And, we have a sweet fur baby named Penny.

Portrait by Mike Tittel.