Hi, I'm Joan Cairney,
a Northern California-born art director based in Chicago with 20 years experience as a storyteller and communicator.

I thrive on cracking open the manuscript, bringing it to life with the layering of research and design. My focus is to move the story forward and create an impactfully rich experience for both the audience and writer.

MORE than the BIO: I am an open-water swimmer throughout the year in Lake Michigan.

Email / LinkedIn

Visual journalist, art director
Editorial narratives with smart design.

American Planning Association
Art director (2011-2018)

Chicago Tribune
Senior art director (1998-2009)

Loyola University Chicago
Adjunct instructor (2006)

New York Times 
New York
Presentation editor (1997-1998)

Chicago Tribune
Art director (1995-1997)

University of California, Berkeley 
BA History of Art

Additional studies: California College of Arts, San Francisco; School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Continuing Studies;  Columbia College Chicago; The Second City and Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago.

Work recognized by Association Media & Publishing, the Society of News Design, Print Magazine Regional and Society of American Illustration.

Grants for personal work:
Ike/Florence Sewell Scholarship Grant, SAIC Merit Scholarship