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March 11, 2010

Owner and creative director Ebony Snow Chafey cofounded the Chicago-based design and stationery firm Snow & Graham in the spring of 1998. One successful decade later, her firm does more than $2 million worth of business each year, producing cards, calendars, stationery, notebooks, and even wallpaper. One of Chafey’s stated goals is “to put good design in everybody’s hands,” and that includes producing “big, bold, modern” holiday cards you could even send to Grandma. Amazingly, Chafey was once a welder, studying sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago—but this somewhat brutal background is impossible to detect in the simple and often mesmerizing lines of Snow & Graham’s design. Chafey invited Dwell into her busy Chicago workspace for the following Q&A.
 

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ebony snow chafey

What’s your ideal office or working environment?
Our new offices at 4021 Ravens-wood, here in Chicago. We started with 12,000 square feet of raw space and made it fit us just right.
Is there someone outside your field who inspires you?
Chef Thomas Keller. His approach to food is both serious and self-disciplined, and his results have wit and sincerity.
What novels, music, or films keep you thinking about design?
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Her novel shows that individuals make great design.
Is there anything that you wish you had designed?
The Paul Rand UPS logo—that knot is binding.
What three buzzwords do you never want to hear, applied to your own work?
“Retro,” “whimsical,” and “letterpressed” should never apply.

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