Jenny Tondera
BFA in Graphic Design
Global Art Director for Nike Women
Portland, Oregon, USA

Where are you originally from and how did you hear about MCAD?

I’m from Troy, Michigan. I heard about MCAD during a summer program for high school students that I participated in at the neighboring Cranbrook Academy of Art. My instructor Jeffrey Nebolini, a Cranbrook graduate student at the time, recommended MCAD when I asked him about the best undergraduate programs for graphic design.

What was your major and how did you choose it?

Graphic design. I was the Editor-in-Chief of my high school yearbook and loved the process. I knew I wanted to study journalism, photography, or graphic design in college but was having trouble choosing. When my mom brought home a pamphlet she picked up at the library about the summer program at Cranbrook, I saw that they offered a graphic design course. I signed up to learn more about design and fell fully in love during the two-week program.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

David Goldes. Even though I was majoring in Graphic Design, I still had a love for photography and took many photography classes as electives. David and I really clicked—he understood that I wanted to work with photographers but not necessarily be the photographer. He graciously connected me with the photographer Alec Soth, and I began an internship designing photobooks with Alec. It was the perfect combination of my two passions — Graphic Design & Photography — and I have David to thank for guiding me in that direction.

How do you feel about the Twin Cities?

Cold and lovely.

Describe your internships.

I did six internships during my time at MCAD. I wanted to discover the kind of work environment that I most enjoyed so I could pursue that path after graduation. An art museum? A small studio? A large retail brand? I’m very grateful for my internship experiences as they allowed me to sample so many different ways of working.

Best thing you ever got/saw on the free shelf?

I found a cardboard box with a single Polaroid inside. The photo was of some older MCAD alumni smoking and hanging out in an MCAD apartment as students in the late 90s. I still have the photo.

Did MCAD prepare you for life after graduation? In what way?

Yes. MCAD taught me how to think, both conceptually and critically—a skill I use every day.

Describe what you do for work and how you feel about it.

I come up with creative concepts for brands and then work with creative partners (writers, designers, artists, photographers, stylists, architects, composers, set designers, video editors, etc.) to bring the ideas to life. I love collaborating — choosing the right partners to bring into a project is a big part of my creative process.

How did you get your job? 

Worked many hours over many years to hone my craft.

How do you network yourself and your art?

Personal, human connection. Genuine conversations. Being present and part of a community. Supporting friends and their creative practices. 

What inspires you?

Traveling to new places: how people live, the architecture, the youth culture.

Current obsession?

Staying hydrated/drinking water.

What advice do you have for artists at the beginning of their creative careers?

Trust your instincts and don't let anyone change how you see the world. One day, people will celebrate you for exactly that.

Your biggest takeaway from MCAD?

The Midwestern work ethic is second to none.