Alumni Helping Alumni


Once in a while, the planets align and one alum connects with and hires a new alum. That happened last spring when Bonnie Siegler (Graphic Design 1986) called me with the news that she had started a new company. Prior to that, she was half of Number Seventeen, that lively NYC studio responsible for SNL’s opening sequence. Since she and her business partner were splitting, she was calling her new company Eight and a Half. Get it?

Bonnie mentioned a new client she was excited to be working with: the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona. That’s the location of Taliesin West, Wright’s western campus (the other one’s in Wisconsin.) “They need a lot of communication design help,” Bonnie said, “and they liked my idea of starting a one-year fellowship for a graduating senior in design.” This person will live and work at Taliesin West, interacing with the staff there, which include some of Wright’s architecture students. 

Six schools nominated graduating seniors to Bonnie and in the end she selected Nick Abele from our undergraduate Communication Design program. Nick has had a range of projects to work on, from informational print and Web pieces to environmental signage. Here’s what he wrote not long after he started work in July 2012:

“I started my fellowship July 9th. I’ve enjoyed my time here so far. Since I am the first in-house full time designer they’ve had, it’s been a learning process for both me and the Foundation. There are many projects here that desperately need to be completed and it’s been fun starting to sink my teeth into a few things. I’m currently working on a new way-finding system for the campus, as well as updating the look and feel of our print publications from brochures to the Quarterly magazine. This fall I’ll be working with Bonnie on updating the Foundation’s Website and overall visual identity. Rest assured there will be a lot of work and evolution at the Foundation over the next year.

I’m living in the main building of Taliesin West right above Frank Lloyd Wright’s garden room and regularly eat dinner with members of the Legacy Fellowship (apprentices who worked directly with Frank Lloyd Wright and still live here on the campus.) The oldest Fellowship member is 99, and as luck would have it, she attended Carnegie Mellon for Architecture before joining Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin. I often feel quite young and humbled by the amount of wise, talented people here. It’s an interesting community to be a part of and an incredible place to explore.”

This summer, a new designer Sophie Nicolay from Cranbrook Academy of Art started work, but Nick has stayed on at the request of the Foundation. He’s helping introduce the new design fellow to Taliesin West and is finishing up some projects he initiated in the year he’s been there. Nick writes…   

“I’ll be continuing my work at Taliesin West through the end of December and I’m currently looking for a new creative opportunity to begin in the new year. The past year my main focus has been developing clearer and better structured information design for the Foundation. I’ve worked on refining the visitor experience at the Taliesin West campus through a new signage system, brochures, and tour takeaways. I’ve also developed a new cohesive visual system for all of our digital external communications. During the last period of my time with the Foundation I’m working on expanding and restructuring the visual and written content in our Quarterly magazine, as well as developing promotional pieces for our School of Architecture and Education Outreach Program. The most rewarding experience has been the opportunity to live in both of Wright’s Taliesins and immerse myself fully in the Taliesin creative community. In addition to working with Bonnie, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with resident scholars, artists, faculty, and the architecture students.”

Although I love the idea of hiring CMU students whenever I can...I chose Nick because he was the best candidate for the Fellowship. Truly. —Bonnie Siegler

I asked Bonnie why she hired Nick in the first place and she answered: “Although I love the idea of hiring CMU students whenever I can (to work at eight and a half please apply to!) I chose Nick because he was the best candidate for the Fellowship. Truly. His portfolio was the strongest and he had the best interview. He spoke intelligently about what he did and why he did it, and it was clear he had the maturity to handle the rigors of this position. He has charmed everyone at the Foundation and they are already worried about what they will do without him. I look forward to seeing many more CMU candidates for the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship in the future.”

May the planets be so aligned in the future.

Dan Boyarski
Date Published: 
Sunday, August 25, 2013
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