Diving into Design: An Interview with Graphic Designer Susan Fisher Haag

Whether it’s the Wellness in the Schools logo, a WITS Lab brochure on kale, or graphics for the Annual Gala, Susan Fisher Haag of juice DESIGN has been the creator and brain behind all of our branding. She has been a part of WITS since the very beginning, and has seen the organization transform from one classroom to four states. Susan ensures that WITS’ brand identity is always in line with the mission, and examines every aspect to make sure all of our material elevates our vision as WITS continues to grow and evolve.

While she currently works in design, Susan originally studied painting through a graduate program at Yale University. Despite knowing very little about design, she got a job at a well-known design firm after graduation. Says Susan, “My intention of working at the firm was mostly to support my artwork, but then I realized I loved design so I decided to pursue that. It seemed like a great way to combine being creative – but also be able to feed myself!”

Susan started her design studio, juice DESIGN, in June of 2002. She’d held a full-time job at a boutique marketing agency, but was laid off. She intended to find another full-time position, but by word of mouth, one project after another kept coming her way. “I soon realized that I thrived in my newfound freedom and flexibility, and the ability to focus on solving client problems in multiple media formats.” She loved the opportunity to work with people, as well as the problem-solving aspect of design. “Every design project has its own unique requirements, such as working around budgets, size, materials, etc. It’s like figuring out a puzzle.” For Susan, it was the perfect chance to use both sides of the brain in combination, to be analytical and creative at the same time. By connecting with a multitude of clients in various industries – nonprofits, finance, the arts, and so forth – juice DESIGN was officially born.

When Nancy Easton co-founded WITS in 2005, a mutual friend reached out and asked if Susan could do some design work for the organization. In true WITS spirit, she dove in and started fashioning the main logo…which has led to her handling all of our design work today.

Says Susan, “There’s a different kind of energy with WITS. It’s very thoughtful, everyone dives in, we get the job done, but we also have fun in the process.” Susan holds the unique position of having been with WITS since the beginning, when 3 moms gathered together with the goal of bringing wellness into schools. “It’s been so interesting seeing this nugget of an idea play out step by step and mile by mile, almost like a marathon training, and seeing how systematically we’ve been able to advance the cause and fulfill the mission in a really expansive way. It’s pretty incredible, and to have been a part of that process has been really amazing and gratifying.”

When asked about the moments that have stood out over the years, Susan points to the galas, especially this year’s, due to its new design challenges. Additionally, she loved working on the cafeteria re-branding at PS 145 last fall. Says Susan, “It was a tiny little budget, but everyone involved really nailed it. It was a true collaborative effort of making it happen somehow.” She loves the organization’s ‘get it done’ attitude – “Nancy doesn’t take no for an answer, it’s always a ‘we can do it!’” – and attributes the working relationships, open communication, and everyone’s willingness to dive in as one of the main reasons WITS has been able to grow and evolve over the years.

Most importantly, her involvement with the organization has given her further insight into the value of nutrition and fitness education. “I’ve always been a pretty healthy person, but WITS has made me see that nutrition and fitness are more than an influence on health – there is a relationship there. It’s also enhanced my appreciation for the value and need for healthy eating options, especially for children. My role at WITS has definitely led me down a path that’s changed my understanding of nutrition and health for the better.”

Thank you so much, Susan! We are all extremely grateful for all the work you do for WITS.

Edited 4/14/20: After a courageous, 5-year battle with ovarian cancer, Susan peacefully passed away in April 2020. Susan captured the heart of our work through her designs so beautifully, and that is because she firmly and wholeheartedly believed in our mission. Everything — from our ubiquitous logo to our gala invitations to the recipe cards in our students’ hands — has her thoughtful, intentional touch. We will always remember her fierce commitment to Wellness in the Schools, and we feel honored to have her live on in all that she created for us. 

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