3 Degrees of Inspiration: Ross MacDonald, Alexander Isley & Laurie Rosenwald


Editor’s Note: This is part 49 in Emily Potts’ inspirational series (previously called “Design Links”). Every other week she features three artists whose work offers fresh, fun, and stimulating creative inspiration. Each artist picks the next link—someone who personally inspires him/her. Check out the forty-eighth part in the series, featuring Kurt Woerpel, Caroline David & Brie Moreno.

This week kicks off with master illustrator, printmaker, designer, propmaker, and comic artist…

Ross MacDonald

Everything Ross touches takes on a life of its own. Whether it’s a letterpress protest poster or a pack of cigarettes for The Hateful 8, there’s always a rich back story with many nuances. The details in each project are always incredulous, as well.

Letterpress posters from Brightworks Press


When you look at the cover above, you just know Ross is a comic book fan. The way he drew the Black Panther coming out of the author’s hand, is just perfect for the assignment. Not only is the character on point, but the hand-lettering makes you think this is a comic book. His instincts are so good, and it’s fun seeing how he brought this to life.


Ross has illustrated many covers for Harper Collins over the years, but probably none have hit so close to home as this one. He even says, “As someone who has set and printed a lot of letterpress pieces, this scene is almost drawn from life. There’s no feeling like printing thousands of copies of something by hand and then spotting the glaring error you failed to see before.” The expression on the printer’s face is priceless!

Ross MacDonald is inspired by …

Alexander Isley

Alex does a lot of different work–periodicals, books, packaging, signage, environmental design–and does it all really well. I first got to know Alex’s work from SPY magazine.


The mix of style and humor in the design was the perfect counterbalance for the witty snark of SPY. Those covers and interiors seem as fresh now as they did back then, and still make ripples through the pond of design to this day.


Alexander Isley is inspired by…

Laurie Rosenwald

Her work is curious and smart and funny. She’s an artist and designer and illustrator and animator and teacher and writer. In a world where people are encouraged to specialize she proves that there is an advantage in un-specializing; just bring your brain and your hands. Plus, she uses type in her work. She uses drawings in her work. She writes in her work. And she uses scissors. She’s both self-deprecating and confident. When I look at Laurie’s work I see her smarts and spirit loud and clear. I want to be like Laurie.


I like how this is personal and human, yet it completely holds its own when plopped into the most public and visually competitive place in the world.

Here’s a video of a David Sedaris piece. Even her static work seems animated to me, so when it really does move it’s an extra bonus. Laurie did these as part of a series. You can’t not look at these.

Tune in next time to see who inspires Laurie!