Marisa Ten Brink is a graphic designer who believes in the opportunity of the region. She and her husband and daughter live on a farm outside of Astoria, South Dakota, so she spends a lot of her time driving to and from Sioux Falls or elsewhere for her work, but the passion she clearly hasnfor her creations makes it worth the trip. Marisa specializes in print and brand identity, is a member of AIGA South Dakota, and recently updated her website at

Thank you, Marisa, for sharing your story!

Name: Marisa Ten Brink

How can people connect with you? (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Website):

Twitter: @marisa10brink

Facebook (personal): Marisa TenBrink

Where do you live now?  Where do you call home?

I currently live near Astoria, South Dakota, which is north of Brookings near the Minnesota border. I suppose after living there for 10 years, I can safely call it home. (However, I will always have a soft spot for the Pacific Northwest, and it still feels a lot like home when we get a chance to visit.)

Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.

An average day, ha! My day usually breaks down into one of several patterns depending on the project I’m working on. It usually starts with trying to get my daughter and myself out the door on time to drop her off for daycare. From there, I usually hit the road and end up in Sioux Falls for client meetings, or, in the case of the past few months, in Brookings at the university to assist in the junior level graphic design class. On a rare day, I get to stay at home and work in the studio — usually on client work, but if I’ve been really efficient, I get to work on artwork for my own ends. In the evenings, I try to concentrate on being a parent and housewife, and if that’s not the case, I’m at a board meeting or helping with an AIGA event. I think the only thing that stays the same from day-to-day is the amount of coffee consumed, which is a lot. … It’s hectic, but definitely not boring.

What projects are you currently working on, both in your career as well as hobbies or passions?

The biggest thing I’m working on right now is applying to graduate school. I’ve been working as a graphic designer for several years now, but I think I’m ready to take a deeper dive into design theory and critical practice. I’m very interested in that grey area between art and design and hope to start creating work that reflects that interest.

What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?

Time management and learning to say “no” to things more regularly. I’m often pulled in so many directions, I end up putting too much on my proverbial plate. I really admire the folks who are disciplined enough to schedule their time and lives according to a set schedule and achieve their long-term goals.

If you could do any job, what would you do and why?

When I was little, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I was fascinated with the artifacts of past civilizations. Then I realized it involved a lot of meticulous digging in the dirt and writing, which was pretty much my least favorite thing to do at that age. And there was no guarantee you would find anything of interest. How much better would it be to just make amazing things for archaeologists of the future to find and ponder over? And so here I am, doing exactly what I would be doing if I had every job to choose from, which is creating and making.

What’s your desert island album/book/TV show/movie (answer one or all)?: 

I don’t know why this type of question is always so hard. I can think of a lot of music, books, movies, etc., that I’ve enjoyed, but none that have affected in me in such a profound way that I couldn’t bear to be without it. The Bible, maybe? Honestly, I would just want a deck of cards and my sketchbook.

Since you live in one of the OTA states:

•    Why do you choose to live here? I have roots here. My mother’s side of the family lives in the region, and it’s been wonderful being close to them. My husband and I also have a farm, which keeps us grounded in the area. 

•    What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the region when it comes to your career? I think there is still opportunity here for someone who is willing to work hard and take chances. I think the region is beginning to realize the value of good design and art, which is a great thing for someone in a creative field. On a personal level, the farm has given my husband and me some freedom and flexibility to explore different career options that might not be available to our peers who are dependent on a full-time job.

•    What’s one thing you would change about the OTA region? I would love for the region to be a little more open-minded. (I’m thinking of the small communities around us and not Sioux Falls, in this case.) Just because something is different or seems strange doesn’t mean it is bad. Also that value can’t be determined only by the monetary cost of something. I’ll leave it at that …

•    What’s one thing that most people don’t know about the OTA region? I don’t think people realize how many opportunities are here if you’re willing to look for them and work hard.

Where do think good ideas come from?

Working, making and being open to new possibilities. I am always surprised how easily the ideas flow while making — waiting for inspiration to strike never seemed to work for me.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I would give my younger self two pieces of advice. First, a good attitude is almost always a choice. If you’re unhappy with where you’re at, you need to at least try changing the situation before becoming bitter and blaming others. Second, perfection is an admirable goal but is actually very hard, if not impossible, to achieve. If you insist on absolute perfection, you will never finish anything.

Who is the most creative person in your life and why?

There are so many creative people in my life, it is hard to narrow it down to just one, so instead I’m going to acknowledge the huge influence my family’s creativity has had on me. My grandfathers and dad have been examples of ambition, craftsmanship and commitment. The women in my family have been wonderful examples of humility, grace and ingenuity. All of these characteristics have helped them in their creative pursuits, and I think I’ve learned it’s very hard to be continuously creative without being simultaneously committed, humble and inventive.

Who is the most connected person in your life, and what personal characteristics make him or her so well-connected?

Hugh Weber. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to elaborate much on this one, but I’m always amazed at his energy and the connections he has.

Who is the most community-focused person in your life, and how do they impact their communities?

Since Hugh Weber can’t be the answer to all of these questions, I have two other suggestions. The first is Emily Pieper in Flandreau. She’s been building community by having art classes and shows through her gallery space. The second is Shari Avery in Brookings. I’ve worked with Shari for several years on the Brookings Arts Festival committee and am amazed at the amount of volunteer work she does behind the scenes for several of the cities’ organizations.

At what intersection do you live your life? (ex: creativity and community, humor and humanity, art and athletics)

Hmm…  I would say at the intersection of Design and Community.

Who are the three people you need to have coffee with when you visit Sioux Falls?

Caitlin Pisha — She’s a wonderful designer and friend and one of the most creative people I know.

Kellen Boice — I love talking to her. Her passion creating a design community is infectious, and she always seems to know what’s happening in Sioux Falls.

Randy Stratton — I’ve had the opportunity to work on a couple projects with Randy in the past year, and I admire his entrepreneurial spirit.

What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?

If it’s something large, find other people who believe in the same thing, and then go for it! So what if it doesn’t work the first time, or the 10th time? If it’s really worth doing, it will be worth trying again until you get it right.

Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?

I hope to leave a legacy for my daughter — I hope she has access to the same opportunities I have had. I also hope to leave the region a more welcoming place for artists and designers.

Who’s one regional writer/artist/leader/entrepreneur we should pay attention to?

Zach DeBoer. I am an admirer of his artwork, and I am excited to see how he will shape the art scene in Sioux Falls in the coming years with his involvement in DTSF and with Exposure Gallery.

What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?

The greatest risk I have taken was going back to university to finish my graphic design major. I had no idea what it would mean to be a designer in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota (and I still don’t have this completely figured out), but I went ahead and enrolled. In addition to finishing my degree, I was rewarded with friendships I hadn’t  expected and was connected with one of the organizations that has been an important part of my life for the past several years.

What’s your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

I have to pick just one…?

One of my biggest failures occurred back in high school — I’m sitting here typing and cringing while thinking about it. I was asked to put together the slide show for our high school’s banquet (basically it was our version of prom). At the time, I was quite shy and introverted and had an even worse time refusing tasks than I do now. I was not interested in the type of nostalgia created by such an endeavor and could not have cared less about documenting the activities of my classmates. So, the whole thing ended up being quite a disappointment for everyone that was expecting a touching tribute to their high school experience.

In hindsight, I definitely learned some valuable lessons about myself, but also about leadership. It’s crucially important to match someone’s interests and talents to the job that needs to be done. (I’m still really baffled about why I was asked do this…) I’ve also learned that while saying “no” can feel rude and uncaring, not following through with something and letting someone down later is so much worse.