“Little Donnie” Comes of Age
By Erin Moore
Get rich? Ha!
Designing doesn’t bring in the big bucks. So how does Donovan Beery stay afloat amongst thousands of designers, while working for a better cause? His secret: always make time for everything.
At age 14 “Little Donnie” –so named after his father, Donald– was stocking Ace Hardware shelves with a John Madden signed video game manual in his back pocket.
Donovan Beery remembers, “I worked at Ace Hardware for six years, starting when I was 14. My father was the manager there, until he passed away when I was two. I was told he use to carry me into the store on his days off sometimes. As his name was Donald Newton Beery, Jr., I was called ‘Little Donnie’ when I was two. Caroline, who worked there from then, still referred to me that way. Always a bit weird to hear ‘Little Donnie to the Garden Center’ when she called over the intercom.”
Now, he is the creator of one sharp design community, 36Point, and a buzz-worthy design agency, Eleven19. His simple childhood in Grand Island, NE did not hinder his design process (or lack thereof). Instead, the farming community instilled a strict rule of thumb: never say never.
With his mid-western typical can-do attitude, Donovan works where passion and profession meet. For his community, pro-bono work includes student projects at The Attic, teaching over-flow web design courses, seven years on the AIGA/NE board, a seat on the Omaha Public Arts Commission, even assisting the Eleven19 intern in building a website for Omaha’s Pug Partners of Nebraska.
So he saves puppies – kind of. And public art. But how does non-profit work turn his business profitable? Name recognition, exposure, and a large, ever growing audience of design enthusiasts – plus, he gets to brainstorm with new, old, and awesome designers.
Emphasis on “new”, as new is Donovan’s favorite thing to do. His most recent new assignment was a Billboard advertisement with Chris Kelly – huge, literally! As an avid Dew drinker, his fingers are crossed for his next fresh project to be the Mountain Dew can design. Non-profit is new, too, adding flavor to the day-to-day mundane with projects unusual in process, creative freedom, and client expectation.
Donovan now works independently but began working under everyone else. Piloted by Human Factors Specialist Robb Cardwell, Donovan’s first day as a full-time designer at Union Pacific Railroad involved an overwhelming task: to design and implement a new look for a 3,000+ page website. Rough, but an eventual success. Kept by Robb’s side, Donovan continued web design while experimenting with carrying brands from online to print.
Then born was Eleven 19, enabling Donovan to continue with print and web design with a more expansive variety of clients, and to his preferred style. His world rocked by a library find, Donovan’s straightforward design style was born from Bob Gill’s “Graphic Design Made Difficult. “My last semester of college was a time of grunge design and overly decorative work, which I liked, but not areas I thrived in. I found Bob Gill’s book and I think I read the entire book while standing there – it all clicked.”
At the end of the day, Donovan is an experienced creative with a boatload of friends, but what truly measures his productivity? Paper. With his most recent design in hand, he notes the smell of the ink and impression of a tangible result – what his clients admire as much as he. And of course, it’s recycled paper.
In that regard, Donovan believes we in the paper industry have it all wrong, “Neenah does a great job with sustainable practices and promotion; just sometimes we forget to look for it. Sustainability campaigns should not be independent, but a critical piece to a company’s campaign. Really, just put big red skull and cross bones on anything not sustainably produced!” Well, you can’t say he’s not honest.