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Leah Maldonado starts design career at Wieden + Kennedy
Leah Maldonado starts design career at Wieden + Kennedy


Leah Maldonado’s interests focus on how visual language impacts society. To her, typeface design is the vessel for most of that language. She sees it as the architecture of communicative culture. Seeking to understand the impacts of visual language, and its limits, she finds expression through conceptual ideas that exist in the medium of letterforms.

Her recent mixed-media installation and typeface design work GlyphWorld was on display in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU as part of the 2019 Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize exhibition. The Schnitzer Prize is the highest award offered in the School of Art + Design and Leah received the $5000 first-place prize. Winning the prize allowed her to bring her vision to fruition. Set in a mythical alternate font-world made up of nine landscapes: Forest, Meadow, Flower, Mountain, Airland, Animal Soul, Glacier, Desert, and Wasteland, GlyphWorld pushes the boundaries of what a typeface can be by using the medium of letterforms to reflect an emotional connection to our environment. The project drew notice by two London-based international design blogs: It's Nice That and Femme Type.

Leah attributes her success not only to her design skill but to her skills as a critical thinker. She says, “The biggest thing I learned at PSU was how to do a lot with a little. I looked to my educators to teach me more than the curriculum and got to know each of them as people too. I paid attention to my contemporaries and expanded my idea of who a contemporary could be. If they did something cool I’d reach out and ask them how and why they did it.”

PSU’s Graphic Design program works to connect students to the design community within Portland, and beyond. Through a variety of visiting designer lectures, field trips, in-class demos, portfolio days, and internship opportunities, students become integrated members of a global community of makers. Leah thrived, taking an active roll in the design community herself. While working on her degree she founded an experimental type collective called Club OTF, she helped found a typographic advocacy group called Counter Culture, and she worked at Future Fonts, a platform that supports experimental type design in progress. Rather than simply attempting to network, she focused on making real human connections with her peers and with members of the design community.

It was one of those human connections she worked so hard to develop that helped Leah land a job as a Graphic Designer at the Portland offices of world-renowned creative agency Wieden + Kennedy. She started work there the day after graduation.

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Leah Maldonado is a recent graduate of the School of Art + Design where she received a BFA in Graphic Design (December 2019)


Image: Detail of Glyphworld, an installation by Leah Maldonado at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University (Nov. 2019-Feb. 2020).