Designing Life: Graphic Designer Linette Lao Inspires Creativity in her Community

. November 1, 2016.
Photo Credit: Doug Coombe
Photo Credit: Doug Coombe

Linette Lao is busy these days. As a mother of two, a graphic designer, a creative writing lecturer at Eastern Michigan University, and someone involved in many creative community projects, Linette has a busy schedule and is connected with many in the community. “I really don’t have to market myself much right now. Most of my projects come from word of mouth,” says Linette, who has already waved ‘hello’ to several  people during our early morning meeting over coffee at Beezy’s restaurant in downtown Ypsilanti. “It’s so great to live in a community where people are supportive of each other and want to see each other succeed.”

Building community through design

Linette’s business, Invisible Engines in Ypsilanti, is devoted to building community through print and web design as well as branding and identity support for local non-profits and area businesses. Founded in 2000, she named it for the unseen desires that power people to make things-inspiration, imagination, and the impulse to reach out and connect to each other.

Linette describes herself as a facilitator who helps her clients develop clean and powerful communication. Regarding clients looking to reach other parents, she said, “What’s great for me is that as a parent I can easily connect with organizations who are trying to reach out and grab the attention of other parents. I help them consider why specific visual and written language matter.” 


FLY Children’s Arts Center

In addition to her business, Linette is a founding board member, and currently the board president of FLY Children’s Arts Center in Ypsilanti where children are inventing solutions to the world’s problems with art. FLY provides hands-on, creative experiences through summer camps and workshops at schools. At the camps this summer kids are constructing mechanical hands, using nature as inspiration for art projects in the nearby parks, and making exhibits about the first woman to map the entire ocean floor, Ypsilantian Marie Tharp.

Linette’s passion for this organization is evident. As board chair she helps write grants, sits on the communication committee, and helps refine the vision. “At FLY kids are learning how to be resourceful, agile, and curious. I want all kids in this community to learn that the whole world is accessible to them,” she says. “Being creative is about staying curious and developing problem-solving skills.”

Parenting as creative work

Parenting, too, is included in this creative work. As she describes it, parenting requires figuring out solutions and embracing the day-to-day struggle. “There’s no balance between work and family. It’s all connected for me,” she says. “I think about what I want my children to learn, and I imagine a future for them where they have the skills they need to thrive. And I extend that to asking what do other kids in the community need.” Most importantly, Linette wants to show kids that they can make things happen, not just for themselves but also for the community around them.

Parenting philosophy:
I think of Eddie Murphy in the movie Bullworth dashing across the busy highway muttering “keep it together…” However, I aspire to be more mindful and have more ease than that!

Perfect day with your kids:
I love having time with each of them separately! Clementine loves a bubble tea date. Arlo is happiest outside.

Favorite spots in Ypsilanti:
All the great coffee spots. Riverside Park, designed by Olmsted Bros who created Central Park! The growing downtown that is our neighborhood.

Favorite season in Michigan:
Apple time! That’s now.

Best art project I have done with kids:
I don’t do many with them. I watch them do their thing.