Beyond Mind/Body Wellness

Steve McConnell
Seattle Office
223 Yale Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109 USA

Dear Mr. McConnell and the Seattle NBBJ Team:

Thank you for the wayfinding signage at SEA-TAC. Each time I have traveled in or out of Seattle’s airport, I have sung your praises, though I did not know who was responsible for that example of excellent communications in a public space until a recent search attracted my attention to your firm and your search for a graphic designer to add to your Studio 7 team. Other airports are not so fortunate, as I noted during my last trip to Albuquerque. Of course it’s not just the sign shoved through a hole in the wall that is the problem there, but also the serif face, and the color and more importantly still value choices, as well as the (cropped) dirty wall not quite hidden behind a jumble of badly designed posters competing for visual attention beneath the environmental graphics greeting visitors to the state home to the nuclear waste currently burbling in eastern Washington.

In addition to our shared concern for the environment and designing sustainable communities, more of our commonalities: my unsinkable optimism that my – you may say “talent,” I would say – education and hard work will soon be rewarded despite hurdles many folks might consider insurmountable, my ever-deepening awareness that design can and should solve problems, and my determination not to cave even when surrounded in mediocrity. Our client list even includes one or two of the same names: Stanford University and the Gates Foundation.

I further applaud your commitment to transparency, public accessibility, and quiet reflection in justice, all communicated by the windowed façade of your design for the U.S. Federal Courthouse, its terraced garden extending the halls of justice into the neighborhood, and reflecting pool:

Reflecting pool at U.S. Federal Courthouse in Seattle.

Reflecting pool at U.S. Federal Courthouse in Seattle.

Like mine, your work has been desecrated. By rotting meat, no less.

I hope, though I was not entirely sure when I encountered the scene, that this is only a whole chicken, and not a human brain:


Reflecting pool at U.S. Federal Courthouse, detail.

One or two of our differences: likely, you have never been incarcerated for describing your professional development or job-seeking experiences, your ability to think critically and identify systemic problems, your focus on design and public policy, the imperative of prioritizing patients ahead of administrative demands in the healthcare environment, or your understanding of the connection between mind/body wellness or the individual in relation to our designed environments. Perhaps, if you can imagine yourself in my shoes, you can also understand my post-carceral commitment to transparency in both justice and human resources?

If you are considering further pushing from the field of healthcare generally into more specifically the ineptly named but booming business of mental health – in hopes of better educating policy makers, so-called mental health “professionals,” and the public about human psychology, may we rename and redesign psychological care? – I have already conducted the design research essential for planning nurturing spaces for human beings whose early childhood development experiences lacked the care that every child needs and deserves to thrive beyond brute survival. For example, at one state mental hospital, the architecture was not so bad, historic structures combined with low-lying red brick facilities reminiscent of a university campus; the landscape architecture was almost inviting, sprawling green lawns and sweet flower beds, with vegetable gardens and working farm intended as therapeutic though regrettably abandoned projects; thereafter psychiatric abuses accelerated from external to internal with interior design composed of drab furniture, a blaring television, and flickering fluorescent garage lighting, where I kept expecting to encounter my graduate school faculty, because they would have fit right in with the clientele; visually illiterate graphic or communications design correlative to staff’s passive aggressive communication; and of course most internal still, abuse at the cellular level.

The rotting meat that desecrated my cleaning and organizing (or redesigning) efforts I attribute to at least four generations of unrecovered trauma or abusive parental role modeling exacerbated by 13 years of state-sanctioned psychotropic pharmaceutical experiments. My experiences teaching drawing at the university level reiterate your knowledge of the importance of drawing, not just for memory and learning retention and engagement, but also trauma recovery. Hopefully before too many more Sandy Hooks, the neuroscientists and the psychiatrists will catch up with the painters and the type designers. How do you explain the chicken in your pond?

Thank you for recognizing that graphic design is a communications problem-solving profession, not a suite of software, deserving of a professional wage. Adding me to your team will mean that your clients can benefit directly from my innovative problem solving and lived expertise. For example, consultants for the Gates Foundation would no longer need to attempt to brain drain behind the scenes while I subsisted out of cheap motels until my plastic ran out before I ran out of jobs to apply for during our post-Great Recession economic recovery. Without my expertise, it looks like the committee working for over a decade on the problem of poverty and homelessness in King County has only been able to devise a scheme of corporate welfare, or a surefire guarantee those communication problems will not be solved a decade hence.

Thank you for your review of my portfolio demonstrating my range of skills that you seek in a graphic designer to add to your team. If you would like me to add CAD to my three-dimensional design and build experience, I am happy to continue learning as I have learned all the software in my repertoire: while managing multiple competing deadlines. And I welcome the opportunity to meet my Twitter friend Sean David Burke in person so we can make more “architecture-less” pizza!


Jana Brubaker


One thought on “Beyond Mind/Body Wellness

  1. Pingback: Why Amazon? | journal6other

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