A blurry picture of Cortney at some club.

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I have one simple mantra: Design for good.

I pour myself into the work when I believe in it. Knowing there is a purpose to what I’m doing and that the work is contributing (at whatever scale) to the advancement, or even simple joy, of humanity on this planet is what’s made me show up all these years.

I’ve been lucky enough to say I’ve been a designer for over half my life — and I still love the work. I started out more fortunate than most, working part-time at a tiny book publishing shop in Northern Virginia while still a junior in high school, working my way up from formatting catalogs and schlepping boxes in a warehouse to designing actual published paperback books. Standing in a mall bookstore (remember those?) holding a book I designed for the first time and seeing my name on it was a singular thrill. Since then I’ve run the ranks through mostly small businesses; I became fast friends with the sensation of balancing many stacked hats and diving headfirst into the work, design-related or not, because it needed to get done.

I’ve produced print materials, digital products, and branding campaigns for food banks, ASL interpreters, dance collectives and culture shindigs, warehouse raves and animal shelters. I’ve touched up crumbling historical photographs of (very) native Washingtonians standing iron-jawed in cow fields that later became Federal thoroughfares, and snapped candids of a parade of sequined Carnival dancers in the early-summer streets of Adams Morgan. I’ve sat with kids half my age learning how to address their biggest fears regarding their recent diagnosis, and talked a friend or two out of getting one of my logos as a tattoo.

In my last position I engaged with Americans living with HIV and their health providers, helping facilitate care that saves lives via best-practices reports, provider guides, infographics, educational products, websites, and more. In my current position at the Energy Department’s Public Affairs Digital Department I am privileged to tell the stories of a vast network of brilliant scientists, engineers, and energy geniuses. They are quite literally changing the world and our understanding of it through groundbreaking work, both here in DC and across the country in our 17 National Labs.

To say that I love where this work has taken me is underselling it. But I am always excited for what’s next.