Part of an ongoing series highlighting the amazing people in the creative community.
See Ashley Courter’s photos and check the interview below.
How does your background in studying anthropology inform your design aesthetic? Would you say there is a connection?
Definitely! In my first round of college while studying anthropology, I was taught to consider other people, cultures, and languages. It has added a filter where I ask, how will others interpret this? All designers have to do that. We are all Anthropologists in a way!
Could you talk more about your specific interests and concentration in anthropology?
I ended up taking mostly Native American studies and linguistics classes. Especially after the linguistics classes, I started to read up on how language works, and how we as humans use it. I think that’s also when my obsession with crosswords started. As for other interests, they mostly include things like antiquing, painting, reading, embroidery, book-making, and as I mentioned crosswords! Art, words and history seem to be common themes in what I like to do!
What strikes me about your work is that it’s a report of Portland’s urban history and geography in particular. How might your designs take on a different role if you were living and working in another kind of place?
Oh goodness, I think about this often. I have a personal connection because I grew up here. Also, Portland’s history is quite colorful so it’s fun to discover things about the people that used to live here, and the buildings and houses that are no longer around. It is also interesting how geography affects how people use a city. It seems like each of Portland’s 90+ neighborhoods have a personality all their own. For example, SW Portland is covered in trees, defined by winding roads, and is largely sidewalk-less. This seems to create a private and quiet existence. (I know from experience!) But, I actually think I would continue to make the exact same work if I lived in another city. I really enjoy the process of research. Of discovering things I didn’t know before about the area I live in. I love to be able to walk down a street and say, “Oh there used to be a theater here,” often to the chagrin of my friends…
What’s your dream project?
The illustration I did for PSU’s Portland State of Mind was pretty dreamy! I got to illustrate a Portland history timeline, what’s better than that?! I hope to continue this trend of history related projects. I will make up any excuse to go the Oregon Historical Society library. Maybe designing OHS exhibits would be a dream project!
In design, definitely two of my professors Briar Levit and Kate Bingaman-Burt. I really admire how they approach teaching and their work in their own distinct ways. I only hope I find my voice just like they have. Also my Grandmother Nancy. I didn’t get to know her well in life, but I have gotten to know her through the pictures and things she collected through out her life. She went to college in the 40s, was a single mother starting in the 60s, and raised the ranks in her long running career at PGE in the 70s and 80s. She is the reason I was able to go to college and am able to do something I love. I try to work hard to achieve even just a fraction of what she accomplished.