I had the opportunity to check out a number of cool events during last week’s 2016 Design Week Portland, and especially enjoyed hearing Dana Tanamachi’s talk, “Perfectly Imperfect” on Wednesday night at PNCA. It was inspiring to get a glimpse of her background in design, her unexpected successes, and to hear her thoughtful reflections on her evolving work and processes, as she continually explores new avenues within her passion for design and typography.

From chalk to children’s books

Much of Tanamachi’s recognition came from what started as a fun hobby, and soon became an in-demand, signature style. Her impressive chalk lettering style has inspired many designers and artists, who have tried to duplicate her approach with varying success. She’s since moved into new kinds of media, and continues to explore her passion and skill for design, typography, and illustration in beautiful ways.


Chalk lettering for one of a series of wine labels for Nagging Doubt winery


Children’s classics book cover designs – lettering and illustration


Phone case design for her Target line and Tanamachi’s recently released book, “DIY Type”


On being “teachable”

It’s essential for designers (and really for anyone pursuing their passion): stay teachable. Tanamachi’s account of her own experience with this important lesson is a great reminder of how easy it is for our love and skill for something to blind us to necessary improvement. We convince ourselves we’ve achieved expert status and settle into doing what we know best…at the cost of continued growth and improvement. However subtle they may be, there are always ways to examine an existing skill from new angles; to push ourselves to explore our abilities outside of our comfort zone, whether through a new medium, within a new industry, or at a different scale.

I appreciated Tanamachi’s humility and thoughtful self-reflection; it’s clear that she’s focused on maintaining an authentic and grounded artistic voice, despite sometimes feeling pulled in many directions. Her commitment to her craft through years of dedicated practice shows, and I really enjoyed hearing her perspective and seeing some of her amazing work. Check out more of her work at tanamachistudio.com.