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Valentine’s Day Brings Memories of DAAP Romance for Design Alums

As design students, Chris and Mary Anne Luna von Dohlen were told that they wouldn’t have time for romance. The couple didn’t listen and even got married and had their first child as DAAP students. And they’ve since added six more children to their family.

Date: 2/12/2013
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided
Today’s top-ranked design programs at the University of Cincinnati are well known for requiring a heavy time commitment due to workload demands. Pulling all nighters is common practice, a standard necessity in order to meet the high standards of the programs in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).

That was equally true in the late 1990s when then industrial design student Chris von Dohlen met his future wife Mary Anne (Luna) von Dohlen, who began at DAAP as an interior design student but then switched to graphic design.

Recalls Chris, now a design manager at Target, “I even remember how Tony Kawanari, who teaches a challenging chair-design project every year, told us we really needed to concentrate on school instead of romance.”

“But,” Chris also remembers, “That advice didn’t stop anyone, and we students somehow made the time.”

Chris, originally from Nashville, and Mary Anne, originally from Cleveland, actually married in 1996, later having their first baby while still studying at DAAP, and graduating in 1999.
von Dohlen family
UC design alums Chris von Dohlen and Mary Anne Luna von Dohlen met, married and had their first child while DAAP students. Now the family has grown, and they have seven children all told.

Chris likes to recall their meeting and falling in love in the summer of 1995 through a romantic lens. They were both attending intensive summer art and design foundation courses prior to going into their sophomore year as transfer students into their respective disciplines at DAAP.

He recollects, “There was a lot of interaction in the class, and we were together with the same group pretty much day in and day out. Once, for a portrait drawing class, we were paired up to draw one another, and I like to say,even though it’s totally cheesy, that we fell in love drawing one another's eyes.”

While she does recall the portrait assignment where they had to draw one another, Mary Anne doesn’t quite pinpoint that as the romantic moment when they fell in love. Instead, she says, “Our class did spend hours and hours together, and Chris and I did gravitate toward one another. During all that time together we were able to take our work seriously, but also laugh a lot and have fun. So, by the end of the summer, we were a couple.”

From that beginning, the couple mutually encouraged each other throughout their DAAP careers, with Chris crediting Mary Anne as having “the better work, challenging for me to keep up with.”

And he says he’ll never forget her support with his senior project: “She helped keep me sane when I really thought I wouldn’t get it done.”

It might seem that being a married couple and parents while still DAAP students would add undue pressure to their high-demand design programs, but according to Mary Anne, her priorities in life became clear.

Being married, having a family, and being in school demanded a lot of skill with time management, juggling all their responsibilities. This only prepared them for their future, now having seven children ranging in age from 4 months to 15 years.

“Even though our family size has tripled in size since being in DAAP, what we learned in those early years really helped us,” states Mary Anne.

The big family is all part of designing fun in their lives, according to Mary Anne, who added, “Growing up, I always noticed how much fun big families had and how well they got along. I always wanted that for my own kids and family.”

And that fun takes on special meaning for these DAAP alums where sketchbooks, art, mechanical tinkering, graphics and an assortment of volunteer design projects – posters, t-shirts, logos and package designs – for schools and extracurricular groups are all part of the family mix.

In fact, there’s a chance that what began at DAAP – their original romance and start of their family life – just might return full circle to DAAP as their children grow and prepare for college in coming years.