AU Alum Designs A Life He Loves
BY ERIN BURKETT ’20
4 MIN. READ
Think back to the last time you carefully picked out a greeting card for someone’s birthday or wedding. Maybe you chose based on the words in the card or the beautiful (or maybe silly) graphic displayed on the front. Well, if it was distributed by Hallmark Cards, Anderson University’s very own Chris Russell might have played a part in getting it to your hands.
Russell, a transfer student who came to AU in search of a fresh start, made a great impact on campus as an art student, resident assistant for Smith Hall, and accomplished athlete. He grew in the classroom, made many meaningful relationships, and deepened his faith largely due to the football team’s Bible study.
Russell enjoyed internship opportunities during his time at AU and even worked with David C. Cook Publishing two summers in a row. Through these experiences and many more, including working through sports injuries, Russell learned many lessons about creativity, prioritization, and the importance of taking hold of unique opportunities. He and his friends started a community agency which they operated before they were even upperclassmen at AU.
Joining his future wife in Kansas City, Russell began his career as a graphic designer for a growing energy company, Ferrellgas & Blue Rhino. He was able to make a lasting design impact and was challenged visually and creatively in unique ways. In 2016, he applied for a position at Hallmark and that is when everything changed.
Russell started out as a production designer at Hallmark, which helps along the creative workflow for various projects. He learned the ins and outs of the production process, which opened doors to learning new skills. It was a few years into his career when Russell was able to participate in the My Five Days at Hallmark program, which gives employees the opportunity to explore creative renewal and learn new skills they would not usually be exposed to. This is when Russell’s interest in hand lettering took off.
Dedicated to learning and practicing, Russell invested in ways to advance his lettering skills. What started as an interest and hobby turned into a passion. He was able to participate in a mentorship program and learn from an experienced hand lettering professional, Jim Lankford. Lankford invested in and supported his desire to grow as a lettering artist. Russell practiced for more than two years before accepting a role as lettering artist at Hallmark.
As a lettering artist, Russell interacts with many different kinds of products and projects. He works with other departments to set the visual tone for Hallmark and carry out the vision of a project. His artistic style range has been expanded over the past two years of being in this position. He enjoys the variation of each day and project and finding unique ways to face challenges. Russell has been able to impact and be blessed by the creative culture of Hallmark.
At Hallmark, it’s not just greeting cards that occupy Russell’s time. He’s had the chance to work on adventurous projects such as designing graphics onto pies using whipped cream and creating words from wood shavings. His curiosity and hardwork has allowed him to step outside of his comfort zone and try things, even when he knew he wouldn’t be perfect at first.
Russell has shared his unique story by serving as a brand ambassador for Hallmark and speaking with a team at design conferences, including Kansas City Design and How Design in Boston. But the biggest opportunity came in 2022 when he and his team spoke at Adobe Max, a state-of-the-art creativity conference. Russell and his colleagues shared their experiences with the success of the My Five Days program.
AU, especially the art department and professors, served Russell well in his career. The fundamental skills he learned and critiquing opportunities are some of the most notable lessons he still carries forward and it’s helped him lean into collaborative experiences and lead teams to success.
Russell is now leading the mentorship program he participated in and is able to help other artists grow and learn from one another. Investing in one another and oneself has become formative to Russell and opened doors he might not have otherwise. He has learned to sit in patience, while also balancing determination and grace.
The next time you grab a greeting card or see a Hallmark graphic on social media, remember Russell, his hard work, and his team that made those designs possible. And also remember that the work you see began long ago in a classroom at Anderson University.
Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.