Donna Farrell: Glasses Flaunting Web Designer!

This past summer, when my life was caving in on me a bit, I knew I needed a new website, but I couldn’t find the time to revamp mine. My friend Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen understood the pressure I was under, so she surprised me by researching web designers and calling me with Donna Farrell’s name. “Here’s who I found to do your website. Contact her.” I did. Donna did a great job with my site! Sudipta ended up getting her site redesigned by Donna too.  At this point, Donna has designed web sites for over twenty children’s authors and others.  She is also a wonderful illustrator. Thank you for joining us today Donna!

What is your favorite way to flaunt your brain power? 

I love to use my hands.  So anything I can fix, repair or create with my hands makes my noggin happiest.  From creating a visual world for a story from the tip of my pencil to taking apart the vacuum to figure out why it isn’t working, everything is a puzzle to me that I MUST solve.  I find natural curiosity leads to problem solving, letting your brain power shine through.

If you can take apart your vacuum and have the confidence you will fix it, you’re not only nerdy, you’re brave! Are there any social norms are you fond of flouting?

I’m really comfortable with who I am, so I don’t really worry about the norms, or what people will think. I focus on staying optimistic, running an honest business and treating others fairly. As a sole proprietor, I’m more concerned with my customer service and relationships then the bottom line, that’s about as against the norm as it gets.  Probably not the perfect business model, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I love it when interviewees pick that flouting question! So how is brain power an asset to your career?

It has allowed me to be flexible and take opportunities as they come, in directions I might not have foreseen, embracing the changing landscape and carving out a niche for myself.  My creative path has been varied.  I hold a BFA in Graphic Design, but have also done hand painted furniture, murals and technical illustration. Currently I spread my time between my web design business, illustration work and freelancing as a graphic artist, this variety has been what has made me most happy.

What’s cool about being nerdy?

I get to wear glasses! I love different styles of frames the way others crush on shoes.  I figure if you have to wear them every day why not have fun with it!

I got my first pair of glasses this past summer. I like them too! Can you tell us about a well-known fictitious chick you admire and why you admire her?

Anne Shirley.  (aka Anne of Green Gables) L.M. Montgomery created such a great character with so many of the qualities that I admire. She is smart, imaginative, passionate and stubborn.  I love the notion of “kindred spirits”, that we can form alliances that run deep into your soul. Anne also struggled like most adolescents wishing she looked different, wishing for more wealth, only to find comfort in her own skin and the modesty of a simple life.

As a designer and an artist, how do the nerdy parts of your brain help out the artistic parts?I think what sets some of the really good designers apart, is their ability to work with a grid.  There needs to be some rhyme or reason to the placement and hierarchy of the text.  The grid is really a mathematical element.  Even with portraiture, there is math.  Eyes sit 1/2 way between top of head and chin etc.

Then you use your skills to try to make other people happy, a lot of them are authors! Since authors tend to be brainy folks, can you tell us what it is like to work on projects with so many people who have big ideas?

I have met very few in person and have only spoken by phone to about half.  I think because writers are comfortable communicating in text, it’s possible to pick up on their energy and personality through an exchange of emails. With each site I hope to create an online presence that is unique to them, their books and their writing.  Because I have studied the market of children’s publishing, attended SCBWI conferences and am in the trenches myself, my relationship with my clients isn’t all about design, but also advisor and comrade. Sure, at times I’m a little star struck, having the opportunity to collaborate with those whose work I have admired, and professional success I’ve envied.  I feel so much gratitude to be a part of the creative direction of their sites.

What’s something you like to do that might be considered a tad bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I love organizing.  All the labeling, sorting, compartmentalizing.  To take chaos, toss the reins around it and show it whose boss, now that is pretty powerful.  Evaluating and eliminating clutter, it’s like an episode of CSI for me.  It also has therapeutic benefits.  When my environment is unsettled and scattered, that’s how my brain feels.

Oof. I hate organizing. I only wish I thought it was fun! I think my life would be a lot better if I had your attitude toward de-cluttering. Oh well. If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

“Adolescence is when girls experience social pressure

Books Donna illustrated for Target.

to put aside their authentic selves and to display

only a small portion of their gifts.”

-Mary Pipher

To that I say:

You are original and uniquely you.

Be authentic.

Let all your gifts shine.

Very nicely said! To find out more about Donna and to see a snapshot of many of her sites, visit her WEBSITE!      

You can also find Donna on Twitter and Pinterest

I’m so glad to have been in touch with this particular Nerdy Chick! Her mad web skills made my life so much easier this summer. Thanks Donna.