Member Spotlight: Barb Chotiner

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your current job?
I am currently the graphic design manager and lead designer for the in-house design department The Franklin Institute. Our team is responsible for the design of all marketing communications as well as designing and development of pieces for museum programs and external affairs. We also work to ensure brand consistency and collaborate with the exhibit/experience team.

I studied Communication Design at Syracuse University, which was an intense program and highly prepared me for my career path. In 2004, I decided to go back to school and I received my MFA in Book Arts and Printmaking from The University of the Arts, here in Philadelphia.

Through the years, I have designed and art-directed in Boston, New York City, and in 2001, I moved to Philly and have actively worked here since. I feel fortunate my career has led me to work in many types of work environments – from small boutique design firms to large ad agencies to a few in-house companies as well. (Including Jim Henson Productions.) For many years I was a full-time freelancer, however in 2017 I went to work at The Franklin Institute. 

As of March 2020, like many others, I am now working remotely, but I have also unfortunately lost my talented design team due to layoffs. It is a challenging time – with many shifts in priorities and focus – but I am staying hopeful for the future. Design and good communication are always needed. 

I also am a freelance illustrator and have experience with creating art and illustration for editorial, children’s books and art licensing. 

What do you geek out about?
Currently printmaking as I recently acquired an etching press for my garage and my spring/summer plans are to get it up and running. Also I’m an illustration junkie… and coffee, always.

Other loves are: Kinokuniya (an amazing Japanese bookstore in NYC), and I love branding/design books, podcasts etc. I also love watching skillshare classes and using procreate on my ipad. I do also like to run, and occasionally strum a guitar – but I can’t play very well.

Why design? What inspires you to do the work you do?
I have always loved design before I knew what it was. When I was in middle school I assisted a neighbor with her business. (I grew up on Long Island where there are MANY diners.) Her company provided business cards to diners for advertising purposes – in those lucite carousels that would sit on the counter tops. (This was pre internet.) We would have stacks of cards to deliver and then clean the holders. I would take and save my favorite cards and stick and organize them into an old photo album. (How I wish I could find that. I would likely be horrified.) When I was little, I also collected stationery (oh the 80s) as well as hang-tags from clothing. (I wasn’t aware they were called hang-tags. I just liked the die cuts and the fun colors and typography)

Besides being inspired by my passion for art and design, my 2 kids keep me inspired. They are the future. And, I love that the work I do now for The Franklin Institute (a science museum) is many times created for kids – of all ages. My kids are the target audience, as am I, being a parent of kids ages 8+. I love being able to gather their input and see their excitement when they get to go “behind the scenes” at a world famous institution/museum.

Who helped get you here?
My parents encouraged me to go to Syracuse University where I could study art/design – but also change my mind if I wanted to. I never did. Also my parents were teachers of Math and English and I think their careers directly influenced my love for, and my views on design. I see design as an organization of chaos. It’s problem solving and ensuring good communication. I see Math in grids and vectors… and English in photography, illustration, as well as words and typography.

How long have you been an AIGA member? Why did you join?
20-ish years? (There have been lapse years – but I always have come back!) I have been a member in NYC, Boston and now Philly. I initially joined the NYC chapter to get to some of the speaker events and meet other like minded designers, after I had graduated from college.

What do you enjoy most about the Philadelphia Chapter of AIGA?
I like the variety of events and the positivity that surrounds this community. I really appreciated that The Franklin Institute allowed our full team to attend the in-house conference in 2017 which I found really informative. I’m hoping there is another one in the future.

What gets you through a rough day?
Coffee. But also 100% by seeing my kids energy and their genuine love, curiosity and smiles. Also drawing helps. It’s meditative for me. I also try to do instagram projects when I have the time:

By aigaphiladelphia
Published April 21, 2020