Frequently asked questions

How do you pronounce your last name?

WAH-na-nin. It's Finnish. I got married in June 2014 and wrote about the decision to change/keep my name here.

Are you available for freelance projects?

Why yes. How nice of you to ask. Yes, but on a limited basis for now. Send me an email at lisa.waananen@gmail.com if you've got a project in mind.

What's your design philosophy?

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." The old designer William Morris said that, and ladies used to stich it onto little pillows for their parlors. Morris meant it broadly, and I think it applies to design just as well as it applies to homes. I believe in efficiency, authenticity and caring about what you make.

So what programs do you use to make things?

I'm a big fan of Illustrator, and I also use Photoshop a lot. ArcMap for GIS projects, and Excel and the various Google tools for data research. I code with HTML, CSS, JQuery and some Javascript, and basic PHP and Ruby. (Also Actionscript, not that it really matters anymore.) I also regularly resist tweeting about how much I adore 0.5 mechanical pencil lead.

Can you do other digital media things, too, then?

Yeah, I take a lot of photos and that's something I really enjoy. I can shoot video with HDSLRs and traditional video cameras, and edit in Final Cut Pro, Premiere and other programs. I'm also trained to record and edit audio, and I know my way around social media though I'm not obsessive about it.

How do you get a graphics internship at The New York Times?

I’ve seen this come up in my Google search referrals and I've been there, I know how it is, so here’s the best answer I’ve got: There’s no specific application or deadline or time of year, but there are interns. And interns almost never get hired immediately, but they’re more likely to get hired eventually than people who aren’t interns. (Unless you are a genius, that is better, but I assume those people are busy making amazing things and not reading this.) So, you need to have good journalistic work and you need to have it seen by people you want to work for. Emailing a link to your online portfolio is a nice way to do that these days. In my experience, this is generally the same best advice I could give for pretty much any job/internship you might want.

I personally got to be a graphics intern by growing up Minnesotan and being in the right room at Columbia one evening.

Why did you go to graduate school for journalism?

Things looked pretty bleak in 2008, for the economy as a whole and the journalism in particular. It was quickly clear there wouldn't be a lot of room for learning on the job in short-staffed and worried newsrooms, and I felt that if I wanted to stay in journalism I needed to learn as much as I could as fast as I could. It turns out Joseph Pulitzer had this in mind when he wrote the manifesto for a journalism school: "A fool trailing an alphabet of degrees after his name is still a fool, and a genius, if necessary, will make his own college, although with a painful waste of effort which might be better reserved for productive work." In my own experience, I've learned the majority of what I know outside the classroom, but it's not true to say I'm self-taught; I've always learned most when surrounded by other motivated people who inspire me with their work and share their discoveries.

Do you regret not going to law school?

Not a bit.