Managing the studio at Chen Design Associates is not for the faint of heart. The pressure of deadlines, meeting preparations, travel arrangements and unwieldy schedules… you might just need the patience of a bread baker or the strength of a fisherman. Fortunately the team at CDA has both in the friendly voice and organizational mastermind of Deborah Ogburn. A Kansas City native, she came to the City by the Bay via Boulder, Colorado where she studied Humanities. On weekends you might spot her walking in The Mission District where she lives or perusing the bulk section of Rainbow Grocery.
Q: I’ve seen you be efficient, calm and kind under pressure. What experiences have prepared you for this role of keeping the hub of CDA running smoothly?
My past jobs have included other administrative positions, high school academic counselor, deli counter person, hotel maid (worst job ever — I try to always tip when i stay at a hotel!), and most importantly mom. In my previous workplaces, I’ve had to work for and with a variety of people.
Q: As CDA’s studio manager, what aspects of your role do you especially enjoy?
Here at CDA, I interact with designers, interns, vendors, potential & current clients… It’s a good fit for a “people person” like me. I enjoy the variety of work that I get to do — human resources, product research, accounting, party planning. Every day looks a little different.
Q: In the last 2 years you’ve worked here at CDA, what have been your top 3 projects?
1. Gramr Gratitude Co. — This was such an interesting project and one that has broad appeal. I liked it so much I was a Kickstarter supporter. My Gramr box sits in my dining room and occasionally as a way of saying “grace” before meals, my family will write a thank you note.
2. Creative (un)Blocks for Neenah Paper — This project was just finishing up when I came on board. There was an amazing amount of work that went into it — everyone played a part. It was satisfying to see the final product.
3. Craftsman and Wolves — As part of my duties, I “have” to stop in occasionally at Craftsman and Wolves to pick up snacks for client meetings. It’s great to see CDA’s work “in the real world” not just in the studio. This image shows some recent Halloween visuals the creative team worked on for some spooky treats.
Q: So what do you recommend getting at Craftsman and Wolves?
The cube cakes. Those designs!
Q: What recharges you after a full day at CDA?
I love good food and good conversation. I’m thoroughly recharged when I have a chance to go out to dinner with my family, have lunch with a friend downtown, or go on a hike with a group of people.
Q: Tell us more about your passions.
On a day off I’ll go fishing. I also enjoy baking bread. I love food and cooking for others — my language of love. I like to be with kids of all ages, my own and their friends. Much of my volunteering has been with kids. Our family lives in a co-housing arrangement and it’s wonderful to have the neighbors’ younger kids around, interacting with my teen daughters.
Q: An early childhood memory?
When I was little I pretended to be Julia Child doing cooking demonstrations. I was surrounded by good food growing up. My parents and grandma especially appreciated eating well and passed that on to me.
Deborah’s Favorites +
- Comfort Food: homemade sourdough bread
- Book: The Lord of the Rings
- Movie: Notorious
- Music: Dave Brubeck
- Getaway: my family’s cabin in the national forest of Colorado.
- Journey: service trip to Guatemala helping build houses for the Ixil community
- City: Venice, unlike any place i’ve been before
- Best stress reliever… good zombie books and movies. Recently read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (much better than the movie!) and got hooked on The Returned a French zombie TV show.
- Essential tools… a sharp knife, Chaco sandals
- A song that reminds you of someone you love? You are My Sunshine — my husband
- A key moment in your life? pregnancy, realized my life was not my own anymore
- What you’d do if you had another life? nothing different
- What you’ll be remembered for? oh golly… probably jumping out of closets scaring my husband, especially the time I was 8 months pregnant (read: huge) with my first child.