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Alumni Spotlight: Jenny Rozbruch

Sep 16 2019

It’s been a couple years since graduating from SVA. What are you doing professionally?
I currently run my own small design studio in NY (Jennifer Rozbruch Design) and work on a wide range of client projects – in particular, I focus on small business branding and life cycle event designs; I also create various self-initiated projects that I turn into salable products. Earlier this year, I began working with a very exciting new client – the Jewish Museum in Manhattan. As someone who is in love with everything curated by the Jewish Museum Shop (I can peruse the store for hours), I was absolutely thrilled to get the chance to work with them. I am currently designing new products for their store, as well as redesigning some of their existing merchandise.

In addition to my design business, I am still running GreyMatters, which was my thesis project in the SVA MFAD program. I’m proud to say that last year, GreyMatters was named the Winner of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards” in the Apps category, and it is currently available for download in the App Store for the iPad. GreyMatters is an interactive life storybook app that helps people with dementia & their caregivers stay connected to one another and experience a better quality of life. 

What are some of your favorite recent projects? How did you get involved with the Jewish Museum? 
I’ve loved working on my latest designs for the Jewish Museum Shop. Most recently, I created two illustrated Rosh Hashanah cards, which are currently being sold as box sets exclusively through their store. The “Circle of Life” card pays homage to the traditional foods served during the Jewish High Holidays, exploring their naturally round shapes as a reflection of the circle of life renewing each year. The process of creating these cards has been extremely rewarding in many ways – from the concept clicking, to illustrating the vision, to seeing the final product sold in the JM Shop and resonating with customers.  

My work with the Jewish Museum grew out of some of the Jewish wedding designs I recently created for couples getting married at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As a non-traditional wedding venue, the space essentially called for visuals everywhere (with an abundance of poster vitrines and screens), so I had a lot of fun branding the entire space with posters, graphics & other collateral. This project offered much room for creativity, curation, and allowed me the chance to take a fresh, quirky approach to wedding design. In particular, I enjoyed bringing a sense of humor & delight to age-old Jewish wedding traditions and breaking them down to their basics – everything from an illustrated, step-by-step Hora dancing guide, to modernizing classic Yiddish expressions. 

Jewish culture & food have become a recent focus in my work without even really knowing it. For a recent self-initiated project, I decided to draw an alphabet made out of traditional Jewish foods, entitled “Nosh” (which means “eat” or “food” in Yiddish). I am now working to turn this alphabet into various products for adults and children. Working on these types of niche projects over the past few years led me to take a leap and present a focused body of work to the Jewish Museum, and a relationship was formed!  

Which designers do you admire most nowadays?
Designers who manage to find a good balance between work and family! My greatest challenge since I had my kids is finding the right balance. As a mom of two little ones, I am grateful to have the flexibility of working for myself, but I’ve also learned that you have to get creative with how you maximize your time and energy – you just can’t give 100% on both ends. So I really admire designers like Deborah Adler, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Tamara Connolly, Joy Cho, and other successful designers/moms who run their own businesses and seem to have it all together. I also love the designs coming out of Ampersand Design Studio – they have created an amazing multidisciplinary shop with their colorful, modern graphics, and their products seem to be everywhere right now. 

What keeps you inspired? 
I always just try to keep my eyes open to my environment, keep sketching (my Moleskine is always with me), and consistently leave space in my practice for personal design work. I have many side projects that keep me excited – whether it’s drawing my Jewish food alphabet or designing each of my kids’ birthday party themes, I always try to make room for non-client projects that are meaningful and fun (and often these turn into commercially viable products that other people want to buy as well). I completely attribute this entrepreneurial design approach to my experience in the MFAD program! In addition, I’ve recently gotten back to my painting background, creating abstract watercolor ketubahs (Jewish marriage licenses) for many of my wedding clients. 

What design trends are you into these days?
In terms of the design profession in general, I do feel like there is a trend toward designers being their own content-creators & entrepreneurs – which is of course what the SVA MFAD program is all about. I love seeing so many design studios creating and selling their own products, or partnering with larger companies who incorporate their designs. I think the MFAD program has always been ahead of its time with this approach, and I’m glad to see that everyone else is starting to catch on!

What advice would you give incoming students?
Soak it up! It’s truly a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience of learning from your graphic design idols, making work that you are passionate about, being challenged to your core, and being surrounded by incredibly talented and supportive peers. Also, stay true to yourself. The work that you do at SVA will be a launching pad for the direction you want to go in after school ends. So, do what is meaningful to you and the work – even if indirectly – will lead you where you want to go.

What is your favorite part of the MFA Design program?
Hmm. That’s a tough one. I really loved it all. I would say the unbelievable faculty – it was a dream to be mentored by some of my favorite designers. Also, while exhausting, I enjoyed the many late nights working in the studio with classmates who become your teammates on this crazy ride. (As a side note, I do believe the lack of sleep in the program offered some indirect preparation for the many sleepless nights as a new parent and beyond…)

What impact has SVA MFA Design had on your career?
Everything! The program has had an enormous impact on my career, in every way. I would say it gave me an entrepreneurial approach to my entire design practice and honed my design thinking (especially the thesis process), which I apply to every project I encounter. During the summer between grad years, I had the unique opportunity to work for Deborah Adler, who I had admired for a long time and taught me so much. And, of course, I don’t think I could have ever created GreyMatters on my own without SVA as a launching pad. Lastly, one of the biggest impacts it had was making me a better presenter (I was afraid of public speaking before SVA!). This has been crucial for the countless pitches I’ve made for GreyMatters since graduating, and also gave me the confidence to approach big clients like the Jewish Museum and present my work to them.

And if I ever have a moment of self-doubt, all I need to do is think back to grad school for a little reassurance. It’s that feeling of, well, if I can spend an entire day standing in a steam-filled bathroom creating a stop-motion animation out of strands of hair on a shower wall, I guess I can do anything?

How has the program’s multidisciplinary approach helped you?
When I entered the program, I came from a traditional print background and had worked in children’s books for 5 years – at that point, I would never have dreamed of creating an app, designing the UI and UX, or working with developers. I think gaining skills in every discipline gives you the confidence that, no matter how foreign something feels, you’ll be able to figure it out somehow. 

If you could choose a thesis topic today, what would you pick?
I honestly wouldn’t change a thing! Improving quality of life for older adults with dementia & their families is unfortunately still a huge issue. But if I had to do something entirely new, I would probably be more focused on life with young kids – my caregiving lens has reversed a bit since grad school. For working (and stay-at-home) moms with little ones at home, there are definitely pain points to address! 

The Jewish Holidays are fast approaching (Sept. 29) – check out Jenny’s new Rosh Hashanah cards, now available at the Jewish Museum Shop! You can see more of Jenny’s design work at jennyrozbruch.com, and learn more about GreyMatters at greymatterstous.com.