New IDer: Susan Stirling

by New Idiom


By Nheeda Enriquez

Susan Stirling

Please quickly introduce yourself in a quick sentence. Where are you from? Major, age, etc.

I’m Susan Stirling and I’m a full-time MDM student. I am originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin but I haven’t lived there since I was 18 years old. I was a fine arts major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then moved to New York City after I graduated to start my career in design. I sort of fell into publishing when I got my first job, an internship at Rolling Stone magazine. I worked in New York City for the next ten years as an art director at various magazines and book publishing companies. I spent several years in Philadelphia before moving to Chicago in 1991. I have worked as a design manager in the educational publishing business since then.

Married? Children?

Yes and yes. I’m married to Jerry. He is a pediatrician and he works at Loyola University Medical Center. We live in Oak Park have two teenage sons. Adam is 17 and is a senior in high school. Eli is 14 and is in 8th grade. (My kids couldn’t believe that I would choose to go back to school after so long, but they’re coming around. Eli would like to be an architect and he wants to come to class with me sometime.)


Politics? I just voted in the primary. Democratic all the way.

Religion? Jewish

How did you end up at ID? What were your motivations for coming? Where
were you before?

Before I came to ID I was working as a design manager at Pearson, a large educational publisher. I enjoyed my job, but I was becoming increasingly frustrated that we were producing the same products over and over again. There was a lot of talk about innovation, but very little innovation was happening.

The educational publishing industry was in the process of changing and my company was reorganizing. It seemed like the perfect time to make a change. I have always been interested in the business of design. After I attended the ID Open House in September I knew that I wanted to be a student here.

What are your first impressions about ID?

I am so impressed with the diverse student body. I have met so many smart and creative people here from so many different backgrounds. It’s exciting and challenging in every way. I’m a bit overwhelmed, but I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of what is going on here.

What do you think you could bring to the people here at ID? (culturally, socially, etc.)

As far as design, I have a lot of work experience, especially experience as a manager. I started in design in the dark ages, before personal computers transformed the industry. I still feel that our most important tools come from our heads, not our computers. It’s the thinking about the process that I believe is crucial. The tools we use help, but it’s our ideas and how we communicate them that really count. Having said that, I am much more interested in learning from everyone here.

Is there anything from your home that you think people should not miss?

Oak Park is an interesting urban/suburban community and it’s worth a visit. Any Frank Lloyd Wright fans should visit the FLW Home and Studio, and the Unity Temple. Come and visit and stop at my house for lunch.

Which designers/thinkers have impressed you the most lately or you are following now?

As a designer in the publishing world I’ve always admired Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast and the work of Push Pin studios, but there are so many great new designers out there right now.

Tell us quickly about a project that you’re working on now that you’re really excited about.

I’m just trying to absorb everything right now. It is all is so new.

What are the websites you could not live without?

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon.

What kinds of activities are you planning to do in your free time (in case you have any) while at ID?

Well, I don’t have much free time. I thought I was good at the work/life balance thing before I started this program. Now my expectations are changing. Exercise and yoga helps.