I’m Alex Kostiw,

an independent designer of thoughtful books and vivid identities

I specialize in editorial design, branding, and illustration, for print, digital, and built spaces. My clients are in arts and culture fields—from artists to scholars, studios to institutions. Parallel to my design practice, I head the publishing imprint of a contemporary art gallery. What can I say? I love what I do.

Every project is a process of discovery.

I guide clients through in-depth research, diverse ideation, and collaborative conversation. Putting critical perspectives in focus, I give clarity and nuance to our vision. The result is design that is as diligently crafted as it is insightful.

To me, design is a map to other viewpoints, other worlds. I’m drawn to projects that tell a meaningful story, and I constantly investigate story as a tactile experience that bridges people, opens eyes, and fosters understanding.

A project begins with a thought. ︎

—an artist making poetic comics and prints

Tenderly is the moniker of my self-publishing practice. Like knots in experience, my books and works on paper complicate our understanding of things, hinting that there is more than what we can see or unravel. They ask the reader to look “between the lines”—to inhabit liminal spaces between subjective realities, to grasp what is unspoken, and to perceive what is neither wholly figurative nor abstract.

Rooted in design, printmaking, and literary criticism, I experiment with poetic and reimagined text and image, visual structures of comics, and conceptually driven forms. My pared-down stories point to what is personal, but indecipherable or elusive. They describe the hidden parts and possibilities of the self; the depth of our connections with others; and the tensions in our relationship with reality. Along these themes, my work has explored magic, myth-making, language formation, notions of distance, and absence. 

My work has been in several juried shows and group exhibitions, including the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, the LA Art Book Fair, and the Chicago Art Book Fair, and is collected in the Joan Flasch Artist’s Book Collection, the Chicago Zine Collection at the University of Chicago Library, the Zine & Comics Collection at the MassArt Library, Decker Library at MICA, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, among others.

—and an educator focused on storytelling through design.

I teach courses on design fundamentals and visual narrative at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I received an MFA in Visual Communication Design. And indeed, I’ve always loved stories—I have a BA in English literature from the University of Chicago.

My areas of interest include graphic design as a type of magic, comics at the intersection of graphic design and poetry, and the special relationship of form and content in artist’s books. I’m fascinated, too, by tactile, immersive, and participatory narratives.

I’m always happy to give talks and workshops, especially on design and comics. Just write me and share your ideas.

Thank you for reading.