Designer of the Week: Sarah Osborn

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In “Becoming an Idea Witch Doctor,” Stefan Mumaw shows you tricks to quickly formulate ideas for your clients using comedy improv practices. Watch this video for speedy inspiration.


Meet Print’s latest Designer of the Week, Sarah Osborn, who lives and works in a “constant cloud of collective creativity” that’s helped her to create award-winning designs, such as the poster designs that were recognized in the 2013 Regional Design Annual.

Name: Sarah Osborn

Firm/Studio: Freelancer / A Legion Ox

Location: Portland, OR


How would you describe your work?I love the journey of getting there. The process of thinking, the journey of writing, the sketching of ideas and then knowing how to merge it into the voice of design. Every designer has a unique artistic imprint that is born from their voice and their experiences. The work I’m happiest with intertwines 2D & 3D disciplines, strategic planning and writing—and strikes a balance between simple clarity and nuanced surprise.

Design school attended:University of Wisconsin-Stout, Goldsmith’s University of London

1_BackyardCinema_Osborn; poster designs

Osborn’s poster invitations for Backyard Cinema. These were recognized in Print’s 2013 RDA.

Where do you find inspiration?With all the immediate access to online inspiration at our fingertips, it’s easy for design expression to feel ubiquitous really fast. So what really excites me is to walk around cities I visit and obsessively shoot photos, both big cities and small-town gems. It makes me look at the world in a different way and be more present and immersed in the inspiration around me. I also collect old books, and the amazing nuggets you find on the covers underneath the dust jackets always make me smile.


Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?Living in Portland, there are many amazing designers and a constant cloud of collective creativity around me. I’m also a word nut and am fascinated by the linguistics in well-written song lyrics and well-versed conversation that I run across with people around me. The dance of clever language is the same dance as good design. So my favorite designers are the verbally articulate ones who push beyond visual expression and make me wonder how their brain thought of something.

Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?My first-ever paid project at an internship during college was designing an album logo for one of Prince’s band members. I still measure my thrill for new projects against my excitement level for that. PRINCE!

I also love any packaging design challenge—both structural and graphic. As a kid, I used to cut up old checkbook boxes and build my own boxes that had secret compartments and functional drawers. It’s so fun to design a tangible object that someone is going to interact with and can delight their day in an interesting or helpful way.


Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far? A recent challenging project was designing graphics for a line of tennis rackets. Instead of using 3D software that uses algorithms to optically distort the artwork around curves, the client required us to use an analog trial-and-error method of wrapping flat graphics around a racket frame, then cutting and tweaking on the fly until they appeared as intended. That included figuring out how to manually distort typography. It was a mind-bend, literally. A tennis racket is a more complex object than one would imagine.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?I hope to keep working with genuine, smart people who appreciate the process of unfolding a challenge.

What’s your best advice for designers today?The industry has been moving in a strategic and logic-based direction, which is powerful to build the depth and value of design, but it’s equally as important to allow room for the magic of intuition and serendipitous discovery. Creativity comes from a place where we naturally synthesize logic into magic and we shouldn’t squelch that.

Additional work by Osborn:






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Thinking of entering the 2015 RDA? Here are two reasons why you should:

“Print is one of the most influential publications in our industry; having the opportunity to even be considered for inclusion in the RDA is a no-brainer.” 2e Creative

“We are proud to be able to talk about our Print RDA award on our website and in social media. We hope that it will boost our studio’s recognition within the design community. We also think potential clients view award-winning design studios as a valuable partner that can potentially produce award-winning work for them too.” —Jen Thomas, The Beauty Shop