Omaha has a great community of artists and designers – especially for a city this size – and today presented me the opportunity to view a few studios within blocks of my house. Besides the amazing work I saw at the houses, at the last stop someone asked who I was. When he heard me answer ‘Donovan’, he said he’d never met a Donovan before. Since he also had an uncommon first name, he spoke of hating it when he was a kid, but has grown to love it. I told him I had the same experience – that I always went by Don to try to fit in when I was younger – but finally figured out I was who I was. That was Donovan. I told him I got the name because my mom didn’t want me to be Donald Newton Beery the Third.

And on the way home, this conversation reminded my of my first job. A job I talked briefly of years ago, but forgot to talk about the first decent size project I ever got there.

The summer of 1997 was my last at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. I was offered a job at ‘Printing and Publication Services’, as a designer in the school’s print shop the month before and thought it would be a great way to both design a few pieces that would see print, and to learn a bit about the process that is printing. This was my first real design job, and the first project that would take more than an hour or two was to create a retirement gift for a professor in the English department.

Professor Donovan Welch recently had some poetry published in the Kearney Hub, and the department wanted to give him a framed copy of the printing plate that was used. Unfortunately, the plate was recycled too soon (being that papers are printed daily and all). The plate needed to be recreated. This was my job. It’s weird to think that even this recently, they didn’t have backups of the files.

The print quality of the newspaper was a bit lower than they wanted, so I had to recreate it in Quark. The photos weren’t digital either, but they had CMYK transparencies I could scan. And real CMYK – one color per transparency. Brutal, but better than the printed copy where the registration was slightly off. Every part of this project was way more difficult than it should have been. Every part of this project came in a different format. Re-typing because the ink blead poorly on the newsprint, matching type, and scanning these weird transparencies was the solution I remember using. Other than replacing the ads on the page with the part of the article that continued on the next page, I remember being kind-of happy with how it turned out. I say this never seeing what my files created though – I wasn’t scheduled to work the day it came in, and it was out the door before I got in.

Being my first design job, my mother asked me what I was working on. I told her. She told me, “That’s who you’re named after.” What? I always assumed it was the only other Donovan I had ever heard of when I was a kid. Turns out, it wasn’t. It was Donovan Welch, who I have never met. But I did design his retirement gift.

I’m not sure she had ever met him either. Her and my father had seen the nametag for Donovan Welch at what was then Kearney State College, walking through the English department, and my mom remembered liking the name. When I was born, my mother didn’t want me to be the Donald the Third. She remembered the seeing the name Donovan. This was the compromise. I’m glad they did. I feel like I’m a Donovan.

I’m not sure I’d ever really feel like a Donald.