INterior REndering of DAAP



How DAAP Graduate School led to Friendship, Love, and a Life of Design


Illustration of woman on left and man on right with a pink heart above their heads between them.

Brendan's illustration of his wife and himself


Date: 2/12/2018
By: Jamie Muenzer
Phone: (513) 556-4423

Brendan Murphy (MDES `94) jokes that in many respects, he and his wife, Catherine Larimer (MDES `94), were an arranged marriage via their faculty advisors, Robert Probst, Heinz Schenker, and Dennis Puhalla. “They smartly started us at the beginning, taking introductory typography, drawing, and color theory classes,” Brendan says. “Neither of us have an undergraduate design degree so we were really a graduate experiment.”

With a lot of catching up to do in comparison to their “younger more experienced” undergraduate counterparts, Brendan and Catherine leaned on each other for support, spending many long days and nights in the studio, packing five years of learning into two.

But their lives didn’t always point to design. Prior to their accelerated years at DAAP, Brendan and Catherine were in different parts of the world.

Brendan, originally from Dublin, Ireland, first came to the U.S. on a track scholarship at Pittsburg State in Kansas where he studied commercial printing. After graduating, he returned to Dublin where he worked at a small design firm, took life-painting classes in the evening, and dreamed about the next big thing.

Meanwhile in Cincinnati and The Big Apple, Catherine received her BBA (Bus `81) and MBA in Finance, followed by a decade of work as an investment banker in New York City. In the midst of figuring out her next steps career-wise, she took introductory design classes at Parsons the New School where she realized her next professional leap would be an unconventional one.

While DAAP was always on their respective radars, it took learning of the flexible graduate program to ultimately seal the deal. And after diving headfirst into the program, the closeness that is fostered through DAAP’s shared studios, group critiques and collaborative projects created a strong foundation for their growing friendship. And they learned quickly to appreciate each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

“Brendan, who had more design experience than I did, patiently helped me to open up the left side of my brain and think less literally and more abstractly,” Catherine says.


Beyond the Studio

They found that their shared passion for design was also met with the same values, work ethic and life goals that opened the door for a true partnership. And in the midst of their budding relationship, they were building lifelong friendships among their classmates and teachers.

 “For a relationship to work, you need to work at it,” Brendan offers.

And work they have.

After maintaining a long-distance relationship between Cincinnati and Connecticut immediately following graduation, the two finally ended up in New York. Together. And while both pursued freelance while exploring different studios and areas of graphic design, they were married one lunch hour and have remained each other’s constant ever since.

Still in New York City, each has taken their own approach to design over the past 24 years. Catherine, comfortable with working for herself, has maintained her own studio and clients. Brendan, preferring the collaborative nature of a larger studio, has been working for Lippincott since 1995 specializing in brand identity.

 “As our relationship has grown and matured, it’s been important to respect the differences that both partners have. And we’ve never, ever underestimated the importance of patience and compromise,” Catherine says.

When asked what’s been key in the success of their relationship, Brendan reflects, “A sense of humor, patience, shared values, and respect – All of which we learned raising our kids, Aran and Rowan. And, love comes in many forms, most especially in hand-knitted sweaters and wool socks.”

And while their paths to each other were on roads less travelled, they’d take those roads again, every time.