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Brooke Chornyak

Brooke is a graphic designer who designs digital work for print, a design researcher, and an educator who has worked across a range of media. She is currently making cyanotypes in her free time. Brooke has been at RWS five years and is departing to pursue a second master’s degree in design studies at Harvard University. Brooke finds being challenged in an academic environment and being a part of that conversation exciting. She appreciates communities that challenge you to discuss bigger topics, “That’s what I like about RWS. If you work independently, this becomes an interesting community that you can engage with or not. You can do your thing, but it sucks you in if you don’t.” Brooke’s made some really good friends at RWS and she looks forward to returning each summer while she earns her degree. A lot of her work is driven by what she’s teaching or researching. For the past couple of years she has taught a class called “Info Design” at the college level. It’s an entry-level class about visually communicating large amounts of data or instructions on how to do something. The objective is to learn how to synthesize large amounts of information and make it easily accessible and quick to understand. “That excites me; that’s what I love about info design. You can have this data and what do you include and exclude?” She is driven by the question, So what?, as in, Why does this matter? She’s always asking her students too to get them to think about who is interested in the subject and what is it going to do for that audience. “COVID has been a great example of how you communicate data in messaging and what kind of behavior we should be living.” Brooke is a provocateur, especially in her design work. This may be a reflection of being motivated by a ‘really good problem’. Complex problems, or ‘wicked problems’--a term whose modern usage came out of the sixties–are problems where there are no definite solutions. “You keep putting out your ideas and look at how it shapes or reshapes the system the problem resides in.” It’s a problem that’s not going to be fixed right away and is something you keep working at. Considering her audience and the importance of the message are examples of the things Brooke thinks about while she’s creating. She’s not trained as an artist and is a self-described ‘outsider’ because her motivation differs. “I look at what artists do and I think, I don’t operate that way.” She hasn’t gone through the processes of thinking and consideration that artists do. She also lacks that deep drive inside to make something, which many artists do have, but she has always had the desire to design and recalls how she used to carve the butter and shape her food at the table. Her family and friends were not surprised to see her work as a designer.

She operates in a way of always thinking about who’s looking at the work and whether they will think it’s interesting and think about the process behind the piece. Cyanotypes are heavily process driven. Sometimes she’s disappointed about the outcome, but is happy to have learned along the way. “The joy in that thing is mostly the process. It’s the designer in me.” She started working in cyanotypes by picking up trash in the street. She was interested in recording and knew from past experiments that transparencies, like plastic bags, looked interesting. This got her thinking a lot about plastic and the materials that we use and transferring them onto cyanotypes along with the process of paper chemical exposure. She’s begun to turn the cyanotypes into origami, after a class she took at Penland School of Craft. “I’ll fold it, unfold it, coat it, fold it again in the dark, and then expose it and wash it. The results are really interesting because that memory of the paper is always reflected in the final piece.” She irons them out afterward, but she can always look at them and know what fold she made. A lot of her research focuses on play. Creative making or engaging in movies or reading are all acts of play. “When you don’t have that your life becomes really depressing. That’s why I think a lot of people are really unhappy; they’ve lost the ability to play. Or they’re feeling lost or disconnected.” Brooke mentions how important this community is and how important it is to try to sustain and nurture it. It’s something she’s always seeking or wanting because it’s a fundamental trait of human nature. “We don’t operate in lonely bubbles. We need to talk about our work and ask whether it’s good or not and get feedback and it’s cool to see these groups forming here. It’s always sad when people have to go and move on, but new people come in.” To that we say, “Once a scissors, always a scissors.” Contact Brooke via email at

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