Amy Cavenaile – Design Director, Emerging News Products at The Washington Post

Less than a year after graduating from Ball State’s Journalism Graphics program in 2014, Amy Cavenaile landed a position at the Washington Post as an Art Director. Her role manages four teams of designers to create consistent and engaging experiences across the Washington Post’s products and platforms. Amy has helped launch the Washington Post Select, The Post’s Snapchat Discover Channel, and The Lily– a female-based publication for the Washington Post. Among many other projects, she also co-ran The Lily’s Instagram account, designed the Thursday edition of Lily Lines, and created the style guide for The Post’s Snapchat Discovery channel. 

“I’m extremely humbled by the trajectory of my career so far. And it’s a testament to the type of place that the Washington Post is,” Cavenaile says as she describes her experience working with a team of talented people and a company that values their employees. 

At the Washington Post, Amy likes that every day brings new challenges. As Design Director, she manages many products, which all provide a variety of tasks and ample opportunities for creativity. Of the many projects Amy has worked on, she fondly remembers her experience designing the Washington Post Select App.The Washington Post Select App was the first of Amy’s projects as Digital Designer, her role prior to Design Director. The project was bold and fun. So bold in fact that Amy eventually returned to the project in a managerial role. “It was really cool to come full circle, having worked on that app every day [when she first started at the Washington Post], to [doing] a more big-picture editorial redesign for the app,” she describes. 

Amy’s Journey to her professional career

Cavenaile had a passion for design at a young age. From strategically selecting colors and fonts for brochures in the fifth grade, to interviewing newspaper designers in high school, to majoring in Journalism Graphics in college, Cavenaile knew she wanted to work in a creative field. However, she did not expect her career to end up in journalistic design. She always thought it would be PR, or advertising, but when she joined the school newspaper in college, she absolutely fell in love with it. “I literally spent all of my time in the Unified Media Lab. One, it was the relationships with all of the other student journalists, but I truly loved the work. It became something I knew I didn’t want to go without. It is that newsroom atmosphere. It is very addictive,” she explains. 

Cavenaile’s experience at Ball State did more for her than lead her down the right career path. It provided her the knowledge and experience she needed to succeed. She described the importance of her classroom experiences, but also the huge impact student media had on her career outlook and experience: “I think classroom knowledge is great, but being able to put it all into practice in student media, in the paper, and in Cardinal Comm, that is where everything started to click for me. I realized I can take this forward. I can make a career of this.”

Advice from Amy

Amy is thankful for all her experiences, from Ball State, to her first job out of college at the Omaha World-Herald, to her experiences at The Washington Post. Each journey allowed for learning, growth, and perspective. After many years of growth and success, Amy has some advice for anyone who is looking to pursue a career in journalistic design:

When asked what qualities make a good graphic journalist, she describes someone who asks a lot of questions, who is curious, and who works hard. She explains the importance of being humble, “It is hard work, and there’s always someone who is better than you. But, the key is to figure out your strengths and your weaknesses, and the strengths and weaknesses of the people around you, and being able to work together with those people. That’s how you create the absolute best content.”

Cavenaile also emphasizes that you do not need to master every single skill. She explains how you should dabble in a lot of skills, but, you should be really good at one thing, and be able to market yourself. “I think that takes you farther than being mediocre at eight things.”

Cavenaile’s last piece of advice is to get involved in student media as fast as you can. “Doing things in the moment and on the job is how you learn the most,” she explains, “I learned more from my fellow student journalist than I did from my classroom experience. Both equally important, but to this day, I still remember some things some of my student journalists said to me in that moment . . . I definitely value that experience.”


Photo by: Jesse Dittmar