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Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Marvell

The MIAD alumni community is doing extraordinary things, and we want to shine a light on our alumni and their work. Through our Alumni Spotlight series we will feature the great work of the MIAD, MSA, and Layton alumni community.

This month’s Alumni Spotlight features Lauren Marvell ’16 (Integrated Studio Arts). Since 2019, Lauren has practiced a freelance career under the name Lauren Marvell Illustrations, creating cheerful and humorous illustrations. She has worked with clients nationwide but takes pride in her Wisconsin-based work, collaborating with local Milwaukee businesses designing custom logos, illustrations, branding, hosting events and more.

MIAD: Thank you for joining us, Lauren, tell us about yourself!
Lauren Marvell: Thanks for having me! Even though I studied what was called Integrated Studio Arts during my years at MIAD, illustration ended up sweeping me off my feet. I took my first illustration class my last semester of college, and I loved it! I remember walking down the illustration wing since freshman year totally in awe of the illustration students’ work. I can’t tell you why I waited so long to take an illustration class, but I’m happy to have majored in ISA, as I do think it informs parts of my career.

MIAD: You were chosen recently to paint a mural in the City of Cudahy Health Department. (MIAD alum John Kowalczyk also painted a separate mural). Tell us about that project and how you got involved!
Lauren: How cool is that? Another MIAD alum painting the other mural! Kowalczyk did an amazing job. I grew up in Cudahy (K-12th grades), and it was incredibly special for me to have an opportunity to contribute something to my hometown, especially somewhere as important as the Cudahy Health Department. Being able to paint the mural while meeting the good people taking care of the residents of Cudahy (and beyond!) is something I’ll never forget.

MIAD: Tell us about some of your other clients and project highlights.
Lauren: Milwaukee County Parks Maptacular project is absolutely genius. MCP hires a handful of local artists each year to draw up Milwaukee Parks and I was lucky enough to draw Washington Park. This map is particularly special to me, because it was one of my first professional commissions. I had so much fun drawing it, and to this day I think it was one of the projects that pushed my career to the next level and gave me some of the confidence I needed to move forward.

The Clouds & Cream Label is one of a few beer labels I have gotten to draw for Central Waters Brewing Company. This particular beer is the second in their Clouds & Cream series of Milkshake Double IPAs, which is available at their Milwaukee Tap Room.

Culver’s hosted a nationwide “Swagriculture” design contest, looking for a design for their “Thank You Farmers!” Project merchandise and somehow I won first place! It was surreal seeing my work and name on their website and all sorts of goodies with my design printed on it.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper advocates for clean waterways in Milwaukee; doing water monitoring, educating the public, hosting an annual river cleanup, and more! When I was contacted to create a t-shirt design to be worn by thousands of volunteers for their annual river cleanup, to say I was honored would be an understatement. It was awesome to be able to create a design that people were excited to wear while making the world a better place!

The Captain Pabst Pilot House formerly located in Milwaukee’s Brewery District asked local artists to create a visual element that would be referenced as tour guests were being told about Captain Pabst’s life in a timeline. In the painting I’m holding (above), I got the year 1864 — the pivotal year that Pabst had to decide between repairing his heavily damaged ship, the Seabird, or investing in his father-in-law’s failing brewery. Luckily, he chose beer!

MIAD: Tell us about building  a relationship with a return client like your work with Moran’s Pub.
Lauren: I’ve been working with James Moran, the owner of Moran’s Pub in the city of South Milwaukee for quite a few years now! Since meeting in 2018 we’ve collaborated on a lot of projects and he’s an immensely imaginative person. As an Irish Pub, St. Patrick’s Day is always a huge deal for Moran’s! When James asked me to create something fun for their 2022 St. Patrick’s Day merch, I knew it had to be a happy guy with all sorts of luck poking out of his beard! Our most recent collaborative endeavor was completely transforming the pub for Halloween. We’ve created an immersive witch/wizard themed pop-up bar, hanging elaborate decorations, creating specialty cocktails (like Irish Butterbeer), and have run themed events like art “make and takes”. The pop-up installation runs throughout the month of October 2022.

MIAD: Tell us about your Gold Davey Award in collaboration with the Vendi Advertising Agency!
It was a meaningful day when I received the email informing me that my collaborative work with Vendi Advertising Agency had received the Gold Medal Award for our Integrated Marketing Campaign for Marine Credit Union. As a freelance illustrator, there are only so many skills I can provide, that’s why it was so fantastic to be able to work with the talented folks at Vendi Advertising in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I drew the pictures, and they truly took them to the next level! I’ve gotten to work with Marine Credit Union for a few years now and they’re wonderful people. To be able to collaborate with all of them at once to build this campaign was such a great experience.

MIAD: How did your time and education at MIAD help you get to where you are now? 
Lauren: Being around a community of creative people changed my life
. I experienced a tremendous amount of growth as a person in four short years. The way my friends and professors transformed the way that I perceive the world and people around me makes me emotional. I remember feeling completely out of place during freshman orientation – like maybe I made a huge mistake. I had only taken a few art classes in high school before diving into an art-focused college, then only a few illustration/design classes before diving into what ended up being an illustration-focused career. Being an ISA student helped me realize the limitlessness of what being a creative person is for the most part — everything and anything can be used to say something, if given the proper amount of thought, time, and intention. People giving you their time and attention is invaluable. I want to celebrate their trust and give them something that I value.

MIAD: What advice do you have for someone wanting to freelance in illustration, branding and design? 
Lauren: I’m not sure it’s the best advice, but keep moving. If you’re stuck, assess why (if you can) and fix it, or move on. Invent projects if you have to, just keep making and learning about yourself. Pay attention to how you feel when you’re working. Usually, the better you feel while doing your work, the more satisfied and excited you feel to share it. Try and fill your portfolio with pieces that are genuine and make you want to create more like it.

MIAD:  What other projects are you working on now or are excited about in the future?
Lauren: I’ll be continuing some fun projects with the Cudahy Art Coalition for the holiday season, vending my illustrations at upcoming holiday shows, and I was asked to design the Milwaukee Art Museum’s annual Holiday ornament! I’ve also got a bit of the pop-bar bug, and want to do more if the opportunity presents itself. The holiday season is always busy, as my sister and I will be starting our annual Christmas paintings this month, and I’m hoping to create some new holiday prints for my website. Let the festivities begin!

MIAD: Thank you so much for your time, Lauren! How can people stay connected with your work?
Lauren: Thank you so much for your time!! Find my work at and follow me and my work at @lm_illustrates on Instagram!

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