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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Visual

Kentuckians in Visual Arts


Graphic Designer Leslie Friesen
Louisville, Kentucky

Leslie Friesen

Who Leslie Friesen has worked as a graphic designer for 22 years. After graduating with a degree in fine arts from the University of Louisville, she did design and production work for Louisville magazine. In 1985, she took the position of art director at Wenz-Neely, a Louisville public relations firm. She headed the design group there for 17 years before leaving in 2002 to start her own graphic design business. That same year, Friesen was invited to fill a new position as the designer-in-residence at the Allen R. Hite Art Institute at U of L—a position specifically created to bring professional experience into the classroom. She teaches graphic design in a BFA program in communication art and design and serves as a liaison with the professional community.

What “I didn’t intentionally set out to study graphic design. After first studying photography, I decided to take a course in graphic design. I found out this field really suited me, with its artistic side and its logical side. I like creating things, and I like creating things that have a specific purpose. My current position at U of L involves teaching graphic design classes; helping find and develop co-op opportunities for students; promoting our program to potential students and to the professional community; and participating in faculty activities including committees, faculty meetings, advising, and service. In addition, I still do design projects, some for the Department of Fine Arts, several pro bono projects, and I still do a small amount of client work that can fit within a full-time teaching schedule.”

When “I generally work about eight hours a day. My teaching schedule is usually two studio classes a semester, both of which meet for six hours a week. Most of my work is done at U of L, although I can work at home on work that is outside the classroom.”

How “The biggest challenge, I find, is dealing with the ongoing issue of ‘How can I teach creativity?’ Concept development is usually the biggest challenge of the creative process. The aesthetics and craft skills are easier to teach, but students must come up with their own ideas for how to approach each problem. There is no simple formula for generating creative ideas. There are many different paths and processes that will help you get to that creative idea. Mostly you have to get students to develop lots of ideas so they can choose a successful direction. Most students, and probably many professionals, are very quick to run with that first idea, shortchanging the hard process of additional idea generation, which may lead them to a better idea.”

Why “I really enjoy working on an interesting project with a team of people, including other designers, clients, copywriters, photographers, illustrators, printers. I enjoy coming up with a solution that both successfully solves the problem and remains visually engaging. As a teacher, it’s great to watch students evolve, seeing their creative growth as they gain skills and confidence. It’s exciting to see students come up with a great solution and then design it beautifully.”

Getting There “As a designer, you are a visual communicator. You are communicating information or a message to a particular group of people for a particular reason. The designer is both a specialist in visual communication and a generalist, both in the creative and analytical sense. Designers have to learn enough about a client’s business and message to be able to communicate well to the appropriate audience in an appropriate format. You are going to be doing lots of other things besides just ‘being creative,’ such as meeting with clients, working with other designers, doing production work, and managing the project and the budget. You might be wearing a lot of different hats aside from the creative one. I believe that the best graphic designers are also very intelligent people, so I definitely recommend getting a BFA in graphic design. Not only are the graphic design and art courses going to help you develop your skills, but also the other liberal arts courses are extremely important. Read, look, learn, and assimilate. Be curious, be engaged, and be ready to learn about anything. Be a lifelong learner.”


600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951