Tonya’s portrait by Violet Shuraka.

I had a studio visit and photo shoot with Brooklyn-based art director Tonya Douraghy last month for Cheap & Plastique #11. Then we had a nice chat about living in Greenpoint, travel, inspiration, and design via email. See more of Tonya’s work here.

C & P: Where are you from?
Tonya: I grew up in beautiful Almaden Valley in San Jose, California.

C & P: What made you leave the West Coast for NYC?
Tonya: I left San Francisco for New York in 2008 to get my MFA at the School of Visual Arts. After that things sort of fell into place professionally, and I decided to stick around.

C & P: Now you are living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. How long have you lived here?
Tonya: Three years.

C & P: What do you like most about living in Greenpoint?
Tonya: I think my little corner in north Greenpoint is just about perfect at the moment. I love living a block from the water, and the views of the Manhattan skyline are spectacular. There’s a unique energy to the place, partly the legacy of disused industrial spaces. And so many hidden gems.


Tonya’s desk in her studio.

C & P: What are your Greenpoint favorites? For dinner:
Tonya: Five Leaves, Paulie Gee’s, Alameda.

C & P: For a whiskey:
Tonya: The Pencil Factory is a old standby.

C & P: For design/artistic inspiration:
Tonya: Going for a run through the neighborhood.

C & P: For relaxation:
Tonya: Taking in the view where Java Street meets the East River, with the feral cats.


Tonya’s bookshelf.

C & P: Did you always know that you would be involved in a creative field when you were young?
Tonya: I suppose so, but I always thought it would be in journalism.

C & P: When did you decide to study graphic design?
Tonya: Freshman year of college, after being disappointed in the journalism classes I was taking. I was lucky enough to be at UC Davis, one of the few public universities in California that had a design program. The fact that my program allowed me to study both textile and graphic design in tandem was hugely appealing.


Art direction and design for Vanity Fair. Typography by Alex Trochut.

C & P: You have worked at a variety of magazines in NYC over the past few years and you are currently working as a freelance art director at Vanity Fair Magazine. What led you to want to go into editorial design?
Tonya: It was a very unconscious decision on my part. I sort of fell into it after I got my MFA and grew to love it. I think my interests and attitude are well suited to magazines, though I don’t really think of myself as an editorial designer.


Art direction and design for the Design*Sponge Summer Newspaper, in collaboration with Alanna MacGowan.

C & P: You also take on freelance design assignments through The Dye Lab, a 2 person design studio you run with your friend, Alanna MacGowan, who lives in Seattle. Tell me a bit about the Dye Lab. How did you decide to form this studio with such a far away friend? How long has the Dye Lab existed? What is your design process like when working on a project together?
Tonya: The start of TDL was very organic. It grew out of our close friendship during college. At school we were both more interested in textile design than visual communications, and we were the punks breaking into the dye lab at night, silkscreening on any kind of surface we could think of. Now Alanna and I live 2,856 miles away from each other, so collaborating on projects has been a great excuse for us to hang out together virtually between Seattle and Brooklyn. And I think our talents complement each other pretty well.

C & P: What is inspiring to you design-wise at the moment?
Tonya: I’ve been a little bored with what’s going on in graphic design, but there are definitely some standouts. Spin, the British studio, is a perennial favorite. Every issue of IL Magazine is pretty spectacular. I think most of my inspiration comes from seeing what friends in the design scene are doing outside of their jobs, just for the love of making things.


Editorial design for New York magazine.

C & P: Is there a certain time of day when you feel most creative?
Tonya: In the morning, after a good night’s sleep.

C & P: Who are your biggest artistic/design influences?
Tonya: That’s tough to define. But some important ones, in no deliberate order: Orson Welles. Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Herb Lubalin. Twen Magazine. Terence Conran’s vintage interiors. My dad. Sheila Hicks. Gyöngy Laky. Zadie Smith. Plants. Ceramics. And just the weird unexpected moments that happen every day.


Editorial design for New York magazine. Photograph by Platon.

C & P: You have traveled to many far away places over the past couple of years. What is your favorite thing about each place? Turkey?
Tonya: The mix of so many cultural influences all in one place. It’s the best of everything.

C & P: Morocco?
Tonya: Tiled courtyards in old houses. Walking through the medina.

C & P: Thailand?
Tonya: The people. And getting Thai iced coffees made on the street.

C & P: Cambodia?
Tonya: Temples in the jungle. Stories of tigers.

C & P: Iran?
Tonya: Family. The feeling of being connected to a place that is so different from my everyday life in New York. The traditional architecture in general and my grandparents’ house in particular.

C & P: Do you feel that travel inspires you as a designer?
Tonya: Of course.

C & P: What is your next travel destination?
Tonya: Indonesia.


Editorial design for The New York Times Magazine.

C & P: What are you working on right now? Do you have any creative non-design-related side projects?
Tonya: For better or worse, for me everything is design-related in some way. I recently took up watercolor painting, a good excuse to get away from the computer.

C & P: What would you do if you were not a designer?
Tonya: Beekeeper.

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