Breakout

Jessica Foncannon

Art Director, Grand Canyon Education, Inc.

Jessica is an art director for Grand Canyon Education, a unique, hybrid in-house creative team and agency in the heart of Phoenix. She has received dozens of design and illustration awards and her work has been published in the New York Times. Her passions include creativity of all kinds, pushing herself beyond limitations, jumping off of cliffs and most importantly, giving back through volunteering and mentoring students. 

Get to know Jessica

Tell us about a project or accomplishments from the past 10 years that had a major impact on your life or career.
I will give you two:

  1. Being contacted by a writer from the New York Times requesting to publish a design I created for use in an article. It came unexpectedly and was truly great because of strong relationships and collaborative concepting efforts between myself and the client. The article was about the playwright Arthur Miller and various artists’ unique representation of his works through design and illustration. A poster I created for a Grand Canyon University theatrical production of “All My Sons” was featured among seven additional posters; mine was the only one from an educational institution.
  2. Being asked by my mentor and close friend Rick Burress to present as a keynote speaker for the Phoenix InDesign Hot Topix conference earlier this year. This also came unexpectedly and was a huge mountain to climb, being a little last-minute and my first speaking session. I received high praise and positive feedback from attendees. Arising to a new and difficult challenge was equal parts terrifying, humbling and exciting. Deciding to have as much fun with it as possible, I discovered the climb was well worth the view and more importantly, that my experiences and insights were an inspiration and benefit to others. The cherry on top was the honor of hearing from Mike Marinello afterward who happened to be in the audience that day and invited me to speak for Phoenix Design Week. Mont Blanc summited; K2 is in my sights!

What is your favorite color, and why?
Orange, because it is the color of joy and energy!

What keeps you going when you’re focused on a project? Is there a particular saying or song that gets you moving?
Linkin Park: “Living Things” album cranked up all the way & Imagine Dragons “Natural.”
Also, knowing that I’m not in it alone; I have a strong community of incredibly skilled creatives. We’re stronger together! 

What’s your superpower, or one you wish you had?
Boundless joy! I GET to work in a creative field, I GET to work on projects with positive messaging that impacts peoples’ lives, and I GET to work with students!!

What design or career advice would you give to your younger self?
No one expects you to know everything — stop putting that expectation on yourself…still good advice for myself now.

If you were given the opportunity to see into the future, what would you want to know?
Has teleportation been invented? I would LOVE to cut my 1- to 1½-hour commute down to a few milliseconds. Plus, we could say “Energize” and turn into a cloud of light.

How do you think design impacts your everyday life? The community?
It is evident when designers have done their research and placed themselves in a position where the main objective is: what is the viewer thinking? What does the user need? Good design looks nice. Great design is aesthetically pleasing AND provides a benefit to viewers.

Tangent: School paperwork that gets sent home! Way too much information and repetition. Please, designers reading this: if you have time, volunteer to design teachers’ announcements, and parents will actually read through it. You will be changing lives!

If you hadn’t ended up in the career you are in, what do you think you’d be doing?
Being a freelance photographer and an extreme outdoor sportswoman — canyoneering and rock climbing — I would combine these two passions and become an extreme outdoor photographer.  

Attend Jessica’s breakout presentation “Design Systems: Designing Digital Products at Scale” on Saturday, October 12 at the PHXDW Evolve Design Conference.