A lover of the countryside, Shannon hits the road at 6:00am from southern Maryland. On an average day, it takes her a whopping 2.5 hours to get to the studio—now, that’s dedication. Shannon has been designing publications and print collateral for education and public health programs at Design Lab 360 for six years. Prior to that, she designed packaging for a toy company, where she developed an obsession for Mr. Potato Heads. Her lesser-known skills include knitting and operating a folk lift (seriously, she’s actually licensed).

What was your very first design project?
Ever? I think I was about six or seven years old when I created a book called Top Secret: Tricks to play on Dana (my sister); it included illustrations and maps. Professionally, it was a redesign of a women’s health newsletter called The Lark Letter.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from everywhere. It depends on the project, but I’ve gotten inspiration from driving, random conversations, even weird dreams.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn?
To speak and write Arabic.

What project are you most proud of?
Probably the Health Native Babies Project from a few years ago. It wasn’t the most ground-breaking design, but the project really spoke to the specific audience and addressed an important issue (reducing the instances of SIDS within Native American communities). I also really enjoyed working with the client. More recently, I’ve enjoyed working on the interactive PDFs. I think the functionality is pretty cool and I enjoyed teaching myself a new skill.

Who are your design idols?
The people who design the window displays and catalogues for Anthropologie. I also really like the Takashimaya NYC catalogues — but I heard that store closed 🙁 I guess I like thoughtful catalogues.

How do you spend your weekends?
Catching up on laundry and TV shows, while spending time with my husband, baby boy, and our husky, Whitney. If we get a wild hair, we like to get Robeks smoothies and walk around the lake. I’ve also been getting into quilting…some recent fabric swatches are below.

What advice can you give to designers who want to use their talent for social good?
Volunteer! There are so many different directions you can go in, I think volunteering is the best way to focus your ambition, learn about yourself, and build your career in a way that meets your personal goals.

Shannon is always looking to expand her Mr. Potato Head collection. If you have a unique one, send her a Tweet (@snsmith99).

Velvet ropes, motion detectors, and glass boxes begone!

Anne‘s “Take One / Leave One” exhibit at the New York Museum of Arts & Design (MAD) allowed visitors to both contribute and bring home objects on display. Check out the full article about the event here, published today in The Atlantic.

Here’s a snapshot of items deemed museum-worthy by the public:

The curators hoped serious artists, designers, and crafts people, “who have been waiting to be collected by a museum,” would bring their artwork to MAD. But they also were excited by more random possibilities. “I really wished someone would have taken off their bra and left it there,” Quito says.

No bras were recorded in the log, but there are a few delightfully curious transactions among the 150 people who participated and who were asked to fill out a donation card with title, date, artist’s name (if known) and personal notes. Murray Moss, a well known design entrepreneur, left a vintage red star pin with a photo of the baby Lenin. Someone left a Chilean satirical newspaper with Barbie on the first page and took the donkey mask. A young boy left a pencil from the MET gift shop in exchange for a paper sculpture by a visiting artist at the MAD Museum. Another visitor swapped a Library card from Maryland for a urine test kit. Then there was a faulty iPod with “Superior Music” exchanged for a broken “10:15:37 cat o’clock” (a broken watch). One visitor wrote in the log: “Entry: I TOOK: ‘a look’ I LEFT: ‘happy.'”

What’s an artist to do without her model (or available colleague)? Why, Photo Booth, of course. Check out Kay posing for her own illustrations on public health and green building:

Deanna takes D.C…and all the donuts.

Just as birds fly north in the spring, our southern belle made the 1,100-mile journey from Louisiana to D.C. last week for much needed face time with the team. Packing a change of clothes and a voracious appetite only ultra-glazed donuts could satisfy, Deanna found not one, but two dozen deep-fried rings of warm, sugary goodness waiting for her.

Talk about DOA (diabetes on arrival).

Let’s roll that donut reel!

But her visit wasn’t all play—er, eat. After making sure we had our fair share (one for each of us, 18 for herself), Deanna met with various FHI 360 staff so they could put a face to “that lovely drawl on the phone.”

Web team unites! Jake and Deanna recapturing the moment.

No longer confined to her hallway-office at home, Deanna got a kick out of the studio’s extra square footage.

Kudos to Brian for immortalizing her visit!

King Cake fuels design

It’s that time of year again. The time when the grand ole king cake makes its way to the DesignLab-ers in DC.

Pause to salivate.

The tradition extends back to January 2007. Deanna’s mother so generously shipped the cake from her hometown of Baton Rouge so that our team could gain inspiration, if you will, from the savory sweetness of this sinful donut cake.

As seen below, our honorary Design Lab member, Mia, models her slice and magical baby-finding finding skills (for the third time). #3-peat

Naturally, there is a reason why this cake is critical to our design work and environment. So here goes. It promotes happiness and full bellies, which supposedly can trigger high levels of right-brain creative activity.

Who are we kidding? We do it because it is delicious and a great reason to congregate even for a few minutes.

Happy Mardi Gras, fellow designers and creative thinkers.

Our Year in Pictures: 2012

2012 was a year for the record books.  300++ projects, 12 designers, 1 new outpost in Bangkok, 2 office moves, 80 APHA posters in 4 weeks, a 400+ page volume of charts, 5 conferences, 4 pregnancies, 2 babies (so far) — it was a productive and fertile year.


Happy Birthday, Brian! A sweet pairing of chocolate cake and hand-crafted paper flowers.



Stef back at the UN.

Brian tests the new video cam.


Carly weaves daisies into a delightful message for Design Lab’s booth at the Global Leadership Meeting.

Everybody loved the booth and binders too.


Anne in FHI 360 orange with Liza at the GLM Closing event.


Matt Mattassa, official understudy for TEDxDupontCircle speakers.

More hosting duties for yellowpants: “Have a great, er good Friday!” at  TEDxChange TEDxDupontCircle

Melanie scribbling on the TEDxDupontCircle wall (that she ordered!)


Un voyage à Paris? Mais oui! A stroll through the City of Light after meeting with UNESCO. Followed by THE BEST. MEAL. EVER.


How’s it hanging in the FHI 360 PQC (aka condom exploding lab)? Kung shows off her…*ahem*…package designs. (Yes, she designed the pink strawberry!)



Just hangin’ out…

Leanne joins Brian, Jake and Anne at the Vimeo Film Festival. (It was a windy day.) Cool video wall in the Gehry-designed IAC Headquarters building.



Design Lab moves to new studio! So many, many, many boxes.

Kung visits DC! Taking her out for some Southern Hospitality.

Birthdays – sponsored by Google Hangout

Homemade (in-house illustration) Candy. Welcome to Design Lab, Kay! How did we exist for so long without you?


Meliha auditioning to be a Pantene model. #glamphotobomb

Scenes from Design Lab Pet Thursdays. Note the kitty stare-off.


Louis Frederick Saab III is born! Congrats to Deanna, now the mother of two. (But seriously, how can she look this good moments after delivery?!)

Working and working out….

Major team headache effort: APHA Conference Posters. Signed, sealed, delivered – 80 research posters for in 4 weeks.

Good morning, AIGA DC!: Lively and passionate audience at AIGA Salon“How to Design for Good, Full-time


After a long search… Welcome Irinn to Design Lab/Bangkok! (Something tells us that you’re going to fit right in)

Congratulations to the new Mrs. Shannon Smith Dyson!

WOW! Our laser cut Marian Bantjes poster on display at Cooper-Hewitt’s Graphic Design: Now in Production


Thanksgiving package. Welcome to earth, Stella Marie O’Brien. Stef gets a new name: MOM.



Design without a dime…Kay crafts a message for our wall using tape, paper, and whatever else is lying around the studio.

And then the Rauschenberg arrives…


Our BKK ladies…at play work


Prepping for first ever TEDxLumpini at the stellar FHI 360 APRO office in Bangkok.

Irinn’s concept note: An “X” forms when you bridge the space between “> <”

Last checks with Kung, the “AV” director (It means different in BKK. Scroll to 1:46 to find out.) with Pailin and the inspiring TEDx speaker / horse whispherer Dr. Siraya.

Anne with the lovely Jackie McPherson

Thank you to AIGA and the fine folks who attended our studio tour.

Holiday mini potluck. On the menu: Kay kale, Peruvian chicken, noodles, a blueberry pie, green tea crepe cake and Brian’s divine ginger crème brûlée. Naps.




“Design for Good”: A Working Definition

Opening remarks from the AIGA DC Salon: How to Design for Good, Full Time, September 24, 2012, Washington, DC

“Design for Good” is any form of design work that aspires to better someone’s life. To me, it is a distinct facet of the design practice, a specialization as discreet as branding or interactive design. Designers working in this field have expertise in the traditional aspects of graphic design — print, web, interactive — but will have one special power: empathy.

Aside our usual obsessions — fonts, paper, the smell of ink, kerning— we are also keenly interested in people, in history, in current events, in culture and care to know how our work is received and how we can do better next time. Our work supports, vivifies and amplifies programs. Change doesn’t happen when the brochures are delivered from the printer.  Design is part of the process and not the end.

Design for Good is iterative. Inclusive rather than exclusive. We co-create. To be effective, our work must be timely and responsive, not just to a client deadline but say, to the urgency of a burgeoning epidemic. We are pragmatic as we are idealistic.

What we won’t be able to spend time on is the word “Good”. There are gradients to “good” perhaps enough to warrant its own Salon. At times, “Design for Good” can be political or critical. But at the heart of Design for Good is always a love for community, a cause and the other. Design for Good” is animated with a zeal for service. —AQ


Anne shares insight on designing full-time for development at TEDxPhoenix.

Designing Across Timezones

How do we collaborate across timezones? Creatively.

This year, Design Lab branched out to the FHI 360 Asia Pacific Regional office in Thailand. We use Google hangouts, Skype calls, video messages, annotated PDFs, What’s App, Viber, Facebook pokes, etc. to stay in touch.

Irinn explaining a die-cut concept to Anne (with Kung behind the camera).

“Hello from +12 Hours into the Future” via Google Hangout: 9:30am EST — 9:30pm ICT (Bangkok time)

Sending sketches before a call.

Irinn and Kung at Lumpini Park

So Irinn turns out to be a fantastic photographer and Kung a very persuasive model recruiter. Some never-before-seen images for a planned TEDxLumpiniWomen JR InsideOut Project collab.