Just one glance at graphic designer Jacqueline “Jacqui” McCullough’s Instagram page will tell you all you need to know about her passion for her work. Hailing from Piermont, New York, the 22-year-old artist graduated from SUNY New Paltz in May of 2016. The self-proclaimed Beyonce fanatic is a graphic designer by trade, but her true passion lies in lettering, the art of designing and hand-drawing text. It’s perfect for a tactile artist like McCullough, who loves to draw and create.
“I love graphic design,” she said, “but it often focuses on computer-generated art, and I have this constant need to make things with my hands.”
Post-graduation, McCullough works at a small design studio in Manhattan, New York called Suite Paperie. The studio specializes in custom stationery, like wedding invitations, place cards or event signage, but McCullough’s position also involves corporate work. She picks up freelance gigs where she can, especially ones that involve lettering. McCullough likes to keep her skills sharp and passion strong by lettering for fun a few times a week, even in the midst of her busy schedule.
McCullough made her lettering skills the focus of her BFA senior thesis project, “Public Positivity,” a series of hand-lettered installations and postcards meant to be consumed by SUNY New Paltz students and faculty. The idea came from McCullough’s two-fold desire to grow as an artist and to give back to the community she loved.
As a former RA in DuBois Hall, McCullough often spoke to her residents about their personal struggles or relationship issues. Pulling from experiences of trauma, grief, abuse or other struggles that her residents or friends at SUNY New Paltz endured, McCullough found motivational quotes to help heal and inspire, which became the content of her project. The process was therapeutic for her, she said, but it was also a way to show the people in her life that she cared and thought about them.
“Some people think graphic designers are nothing more than advertisers who are trying to sell you some expensive crap you don’t need,” McCullough explained. “I totally disagree. I think designers and artists have a powerful voice to communicate to the masses, and I wanted to use [my] platform in a positive way.”
“Public Positivity” was a multi-tiered project for McCullough, involving chalkboard displays in select Humanities classrooms, postcards strung on the windows of the Lecture Center tunnel and screen-printed t-shirts at a public event in DuBois Hall. It was hard work and took a year to complete, McCullough said, but the effort was rewarding.
“[I really wanted] each of my pieces to take on a new life once it left my hands and entered someone else’s,” she said.
McCullough’s advice for aspiring graphic designers looking to “make it” in the creative arts? Don’t wait to be hired for the work you want to do, she said, and never be afraid to post your best creations on social media.
“[During junior year], I realized I would never get hired to do hand lettering if I had never done hand lettering,” McCullough said. “From that moment on, I kept a little mini notebook of hand lettering practices that I challenged myself to do everyday. You can only improve through practice, and everyone has to start somewhere.”
Curious artists-in-the-making can follow McCullough on Instagram at @jacqmccull or visit her website, jacqmccull.com.