Kelly received her Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design from the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. Before joining the faculty at Michigan State University, she was Program Head of Graphic Design and Assistant Professor at Kansas City Art Institute. Other previous teaching experiences include RISD and The College of New Jersey.
Her concepts and design work have been published in several books, including Sustainable: A Handbook of Materials and Applications for Graphic Designers and Their Clients; Mapping the Intelligence of Artistic Work: An Explorative Guide to Making, Thinking, And Writing; Typography, Referenced: A Comprehensive Visual Guide to the Language, History, and Practice of Typography; and Designing for the Greater Good: The Best in Cause-Related Marketing and Nonprofit Design. Kelly has presented at national and international conferences, and guest lectured at several universities in the United States. Her work has been exhibited internationally, and selected by Graphis, Print, Type Directors Club, International Institute for Information Design, American Alliance of Museums, Creative Quarterly, GD USA, United Designs, AIGA Kansas City, and AIGA Detroit competitions. She develops design solutions through elevate design—her independent company—for clients across the country.
She is a Regional (USA) Director in the international design organization, United Designs Alliance. She is a member of the UCDA Design Educator's Advisory Committee, and CAA's Committee on Intellectual Property. She served as President of the Detroit Chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, 2009–2011—which followed five years of service as Education Director for the Detroit and Kansas City Chapters.
A retired two-time Olympian, she balances her passion for design and education with miles of rowing on the Huron River.
My creative research primarily explores environmental issues through the integration of materiality, production technology, format and volume—as creative opportunities parallel to type and image in graphic design.
Capitalizing on the means and responsibilities of a visual communicator, I have taken varied approaches to environmental action (which is fundamental and urgent to the survival of humankind, as well as the ecosystems we impact and are a part of). Various strategies have been tested—humanistic appeals to reconnect one’s self with nature, alarming statistics meant to instigate response, logical calls to action, collaboration with a poet to visualize her environmental warning, partnership with an eco organization for community engagement, etc. Each communicative tone and perspective strives to create empathy and incite proaction towards humankind’s relationship with the natural world.
Formal inspiration is found in architecture and industrial design, as I emphasize the visual message by synthesizing two-dimensional surface with three-dimensional form. Doing so utilizes haptics, informing the creative process and user interaction, while exploiting materiality and tactility as creative, influential, and expressive opportunities.
I aspire to demonstrate a span of alternatives—in creative, dimensional and environmental realms. Given the power of a message, I contribute to society through creative participation and the cultivation of our future design practitioners. When design is truly embraced, its essential lessons become a part of the way one lives and thinks.