Kelly received her Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design with Honors from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design Magna Cum Laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. Before joining the faculty at Michigan State University, she was Program Head of Graphic Design and Assistant Professor at Kansas City Art Institute. Other previous teaching experiences include RISD and The College of New Jersey.
Her concepts and design work have appeared in several publications, including Dialectic, AIGA’s Design Educator’s Journal; SustainAble: A Handbook of Materials and Applications for Graphic Designers and Their Clients; Mapping the Intelligence of Artistic Work: An Explorative Guide to Making, Thinking, and Writing; Typography, Referenced: A Comprehensive Visual Guide to the Language, History, and Practice of Typography; Designing for the Greater Good: The Best in Cause-Related Marketing and Nonprofit Design; and Atomic Ranch Magazine. Kelly has presented at AIGA, European Academy of Design, International Institute for Information Design, International Design Principles and Practices, College Art Association, University College Designers Association, Foundations in Art: Theory & Education, and Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design conferences. She has guest lectured at several universities. Her work has been exhibited internationally, and selected by Graphis Poster Annual, Print, Creative Quarterly, GD USA, IIID, Emirates International Poster Festival, Type Directors Club, Society of Typographic Arts, American Alliance of Museums, United Designs, AIGA Kansas City, and AIGA Detroit competitions. She develops design solutions through elevate design—her independent company—for clients across the country.
She is President of the international design organization, United Designs Alliance. She is a member of the UCDA Design Educator’s Advisory Committee, and former member of CAA’s Committee on Intellectual Property. Kelly initiated the AIGA Get Out the Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote poster initiative to commemorate 100 years of the women’s vote in 2020, partnering with Nancy Skolos, AIGA and the League of Women Voters. She served as President of the Detroit Chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, 2009–2011—which followed five years of service as Education Director for the Detroit and Kansas City Chapters.
A retired two-time Olympian, she balances her passion for design and education with miles of rowing on the Huron River.
My creative research primarily explores environmental issues through the integration of materiality, production technology, format and volume—as creative opportunities parallel to type and image in graphic design.
Capitalizing on the means and responsibilities of a visual communicator, I have taken varied approaches to environmental action (which is fundamental and urgent to the survival of humankind, as well as the ecosystems we impact and are a part of). Various strategies have been tested—humanistic appeals to reconnect one’s self with nature, alarming statistics meant to instigate response, logical calls to action, collaboration with a poet to visualize her environmental warning, partnership with an eco organization for community engagement, etc. Each communicative tone and perspective strives to create empathy and incite proaction towards humankind’s relationship with the natural world.
Informed by life and social sciences, and inspired by architecture and industrial design, my work often exploits volume to emphasize the message. The integration of surface, volume, and material has led me to investigate various production methods and technology. This inquiry-through-making explores (among many other things) visual/tactile interchange, planar/spatial relationships, and variation in communicative tone.
I aspire to demonstrate a span of alternatives—in creative, dimensional and environmental realms. Given the power of a message, I contribute to society through creative participation and the cultivation of our future design practitioners. When design is truly embraced, its essential lessons become a part of the way one lives and thinks.