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Mikki Janower

What do you love most about what you do?
I love the flexibility of freelancing, which lets me renegotiate the terms of my creative process each day. I love that I have the time and the skills to pay my privilege forward: while my day job keeps the lights on, I can build platforms for creatives and nonprofits in my off hours. Most of all, I love the way design draws on inspiration and play. Many of my favorite things—leafing through magazines, trawling museums, talking to strangers—hone my design ethos even as they bring me joy; I have the privilege not only of cultivating my own sense of wonder, but of instilling the same within others.

How do you think design can or should influence the world?
Design can’t make change unless designers do. I keep returning to a quote by designer Raphael Roake: “When designing something, you are making a choice to further an agenda.” It’s our responsibility to further agendas of care, compassion, and connection. This means shouldering a high degree of social obligation, and it means interrogating systems of oppression in which we’re complicit.

What did you learn as a design student that you’d be lost without today?
Design education transformed my approach to creative practice. I learned to activate my design goggles, and to experience the world as a composite of sensory experiences that feed into my creative lexicon. I learned to welcome feedback and to offer my own. Maybe most importantly, I learned to value my friendships with other creatives and the cross-pollination those relationships bring.

Must-have desk snack?
Snack time is a perfect excuse to leave my desk and get some sun! I like to stroll toward the nearest croissant or pick up a treat at the farmers’ market. And I love to cook, so I always have leftovers.

What do you do when you’re not on the clock?
When it’s up to me, I wind my way across the city, stopping at museums and bookstores along the way. If I’m staying in, I could read all day!

What’s the biggest project you ever carried back from Bixby or Steinberg to the dorms?
A giant cardboard beetle, for sure. And my ancient 15-inch laptop weighs two zillion pounds; does that count?

Favorite WashU memory that you can share with the general public.
A friend organized an art happening-cum-dinner party punctuated by various modes of guest-generated mess-making (we smashed our hand-thrown bowls against a target, for example, following the soup course). For me, the evening realized the potential of creative practice as a means of discovery, catharsis, and fun. And it reminded me that we can make room for joy even as we build a better world.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
The D.I.Y. music scene is unlike any I’ve seen. The art scene punches above its weight, too: institutions like The Luminary are making real change in and beyond local communities. The city’s fraught political climate and relatively affordable living costs have fostered a really special creative environment. Even pacing its periphery from within the WashU bubble was formative and inspiring beyond my wildest dreams.

What advice would you give to our students?
The better you play, the better you’ll work. Throw a dinner party! Doodle under your desk! Sneak into Anthropology 101! Your personal pursuits will inform your work in unpredictable ways; invariably, they’ll make you a better designer.

Alumni work

Two cell phones, showing the layout of news stories designed for The New York Times, including section header, headline, subhead, image, and byline.

Open book spread for a self-curated anthology of contemporary art that includes single columns of text. The lefthand page includes photos of two faces; the righthand page includes a three photos in a column to the left of the text.

A black-and-white poster on a slightly tinted background with the all-caps headline, Save Independent Booksellers. A large, full-width photo of a T-Rex-like monster is shown walking among skyscrapers with an open book at the top of the poster; a smaller photo in the bottom right also shows a dinosaur-like monster reading.

Open book spread, with all time and the single image set in a dark teal tint.