Alumni Spotlight: August Heffner

August Heffner Headshot

Tell us about yourself. What do you do?

I’m August Heffner. I am a designer and Creative Director at Instrument, a digital product and brand experience agency. We have 240 employees who create digital first brands for the world’s most ambitious organizations. We have a mission to make people’s lives better through design and technology.

Screenshot of a website about Malaria treatments

What led you to this profession or why did you choose it?

I wanted to be an artist or a scientist as a child. I fell in love with typography and realized I’d been unconsciously studying graphic design all of my life through MTV, Comic Books, and Record Covers. After college spent 15 years at 12 different roles New York City working across a variety of industries from MoMA to J.Crew to Google. I’ve loved them all. I’ve taught for over a decade at both The School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design. Today I live in Portland, OR.

A mockup of an app design

What does a typical day look like at your job?

I work closely with teams of designers, strategists and developers to set a vision, design, prototype, test, and play. We solve lots of different types of problems and design on lots of different platforms. At the end of the day communication and inspiration come through to users we want to reach.

A mockup of an app

What is a favorite project you have worked on and why?

I could never pick a favorite, but to have designed a book for Stephen Colbert 10 years ago (with Doyle Partners), to designing title walls for exhibitions at MoMA, to designing Philz Coffee App (with Work & Co), to launching a massive site for Vaccine research and global health at (with Instrument) — I think the collection (and variety) of opportunities I’ve had is my favorite part.

Mockup of an app for coffee

What advice would you give your college self?

Always diversify your taste. Don’t hang out with only designers. You are only as unique as your variety of inputs. Also: read more, study architecture, fight for social justice every day.

What makes you proud to be a KU Alumni?

I feel lucky to be one of the first in my family to attend college and still I recognize the privilege I was afforded. I had some great professors who unlocked opportunities for me. It truly changed my life.

Learn more at August Heffner's Website.

Illustrations for the New York Times