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Innovation Center connects MIAD alum to book illustration

When she first started at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), Emily Rutherford ’23 (Illustration) originally intended to pursue a career in Animation, even minoring in Digital Media Production. But through an opportunity with the MIAD Lubar Innovation Center, she branched out more than she expected by illustrating a children’s picture book.

“Let’s Go, Puppy!” is a board book written by Holly Rosensweig and illustrated by Rutherford, which was published by local company Ninewise Publishing. Jane Kim, a founder of Ninewise Publishing and a MIAD Board member, originally reached out to the MIAD Lubar Innovation Center for help sourcing an artist to concept, illustrate and design the book. Since publication, “Let’s Go, Puppy!” has risen to the Amazon top 300 children’s book sellers list.

At the time, Rutherford was a senior and also working as a resident assistant. “I really had to learn how to balance out my time,” says Rutherford. “I definitely pushed myself, had some ups and downs, but I think the overall experience made me feel more confident as an illustrator.”

With the support of the Innovation Center, Rutherford worked with Ninewise and author Holly Rosensweig to produce the successful book. “I can’t stress enough how lovely [Ninewise was] as I learned throughout this process,” says Rutherford. “I could tell Holly was very passionate about the topic of the book, she had this positive energy that helped me keep pushing to make it the best I could.” Rutherford also credits the Innovation Center with helping to facilitate and mediate communications between herself and the publisher.

“In all honesty, I didn’t think I would be here,” says Rutherford. “I think that’s what is so wonderful about being an illustrator; you can try out all sorts of things and still be doing what you like to do! (Art, of course).” Relying on her peers, especially classmates from the Communication Design major, was immensely beneficial to Rutherford for help with type and design aspects of the book.

Rutherford also drew on her skills as an animator. “I needed to be able to create quick and readable sketches in the early stages, so ironically I found my sequential classes helped me build that skill over anything else,” she explains. “Comics and animation skills come in handy!”

“I want to encourage young illustrators to take chances and try new things,” continues Rutherford. “I like animation, but I love storytelling!” A multi talented artist, Rutherford also suggests curating different audiences with different brands. “I have a personal art instagram, an Etsy for fandom content, I do kids’ books… It’s all different, but it keeps me busy and motivated!”

Coming up next, Rutherford will be illustrating another book with Ninewise Publishing set to release in summer 2024. Find out more about Ninewise Publishing, keep up with Rutherford and explore MIAD’s Illustration major and Innovation Center!

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