by Elyse Wild | photography by Two Eagles Marcus
For Alysha Lach-White, it all started with Donald Duck. At just 3 years old, the illustrator, designer and founder and CEO of Little Space Studio spent hours studying the pages of a pocket-sized flipbook that portrayed Donald Duck in motion. She noticed that in order to achieve movement, each drawing of the iconic cartoon was just slightly different than the last. She imitated the effect in a flip book of her own making in a newsprint sketchbook.
“That was my first illustration,” she laughed.
Today, Lach-White is living out her dreams, applying the artistry she has honed since childhood to her work as a professional creative. Throughout her career, the Grand Rapids native has produced visual content for clients ranging from national and multi-national companies like Disney and Amway, to local nonprofits such as Heartside Ministry, Local First and DisArt; and she’s just getting started.
In a city bustling with creatives and a booming design industry, Lach-White has carved her own distinct niche. A vivid one-woman show, she provides services in ideation, prototyping and sketchnoting, armed with tools she couldn’t have imagined as a little girl. Her signature messenger bag holds not a canvas, but an iPad Pro; out of the pocket protrudes not brushes, but a stylus, a pen-shaped device used to input drawing commands to the iPad.
Like most who have attended art school in the past decade, Lach-White learned the basics of illustration and design in the classroom, but acclimating to new tools and software as they roll out has been essential. She learned how to draw digitally in her second year of college, an experience she describes as akin to learning how to draw all over again.
“It took me a long time to get used to it,” she divulged. “But once I did, it was magical.”
Lach-White was introduced to sketchnoting, or the representation of information through hand-drawn images, by a friend a few years ago. Sketchnoting requires the artist to produce images, in real time, of what is being drawn or discussed. The result is an easily digestible visual map that allows participants to engage with content on a deep level. She was struck by the potential impact the process could have on local businesses and nonprofits.
“I was shocked that it wasn’t used more often locally,” she explained. “I have a background in nonprofit work and immediately saw all the good it could do for that field. I began to focus my efforts in that direction.”
Lach-White explains that in her volunteer work, which includes stints with AIGA West Michigan and Django Girls among many others, she witnessed time and time again well-meaning groups and nonprofits approach branding in the final stage of development.
“Oftentimes, good design, social media and other types of new media and technology are the last to be thoroughly developed on an annual budget,” she explained.
Lach-White’s sketchnoting brings design into each step of the development process; this gives organizations that are dependent on reaching donor bases and connecting with community allies what they need to start succeeding right out of the gate.
“Understanding how searchable your organization is, what media platforms might be beneficial for you to tell your story on, or even just upgrading your branding presence makes a huge difference in a world where all content is interconnected,” she expressed.
In 2017, Lach-White sketchnoted DisArt Symposium: Disability Arts Now!, an experience that united her two passions: art and advocacy.
“I had this amazing feeling that all of my experimentation through my projects over the years had worked up to me discovering this way of working.”
DisArt was founded in 2014 as a collaboration between the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University to bring a disability art festival to Grand Rapids. The organization has since grown to become a global leader in a burgeoning conversation about event accessibility and the portrayal of disability through art. The three-day symposium brought together academics, designers, artists and advocates to explore the current state of disability and what the future holds. Lach-White’s sketchnotes were released to the public and helped people watching from all over the world access and engage with the symposium’s ground-breaking content.
“I had this amazing feeling that all of my experimentation through my projects over the years had worked up to me discovering this way of working,” she expressed. “It was such an honor to be a tool for DisArt to spread their important work to a global audience.”
Lach-White and her iPad Pro have seen the inside of boardrooms, courtrooms, city halls, startup weekends and everything in between. Watching her work is enthralling; the slim Apple Pencil glides across her screen like a delicate twig over the smooth surface of a still pond, producing strokes of varying thickness. With a skillful hand and an ear tuned to her environment, she taps the tip of the stylus into the digital palette, peppering flourishes of colors throughout the drawing. Within minutes, she coaxes ideas, words and concepts from the world around her into a vibrant, mesmerizing visual.
“I love connecting people to information, whether it be through visuals, workshops, public events or activities,” she smiled. “It’s the most rewarding part about what I do.”
As Lach-White draws, glancing from her digital canvas around the room and back again, she sees more than what meets the average eye; and it’s easy to imagine her as a child carefully examining that spellbinding flip book, searching for the magic and meaning behind the images.
For learn more about Alysha and sketchnoting, visit alyshalach.com.