Devaun Longley, BFA Communications Design ’25, has always been drawn to illustration. While he was growing up in the South Bronx, his mom noticed his constant doodling and shared how she had once tried to be an artist herself. Life’s demands got in the way of her creative dreams, but she encouraged Longley to draw outside of his school art classes.

“It wasn’t until the seventh grade that I learned how to observe the world conceptually and decided that this is something I wanted to pursue in terms of my career,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of great art teachers over the years who pushed me to learn new techniques and see the world in new ways.”

In high school, Longley designed logos, posters, murals, and social media content for clubs, advocacy campaigns, and extracurricular activities. He graduated in 2021 and had no intention of going to college, assured that he could find success as a freelancer. 

“But during COVID, my work slowed down and my counselor told me that I should apply for scholarships,” he said. “I got accepted into the HEOP program at Pratt and my whole perspective of college changed once I got here. The environments, the people, the experiences—literally everything about it just shifted.”

New Perspectives

Studying at Pratt has been full of productive surprises that have helped Longley grow as a person and designer. He’s always been into sports, having excelled as a left fielder and hitter in baseball, but picked up volleyball his first year and is now starting on the men’s team. The team has notched a number of wins already this season and is looking to improve its record throughout the spring.

“Our team has exceeded expectations and I’ve had a lot of fun with my teammates,” Longley said.

Devaun Longley going up for a spike. Photo by Autumn Caulkins-Condiff, BFA Photography ‘25.
Devaun Longley going up for a spike. Photo by Autumn Caulkins-Condiff, BFA Photography ‘25.
Devaun Longley about to serve. Photo by Adem Wijewickrema, BFA Communications Design ’25.
Devaun Longley about to serve. Photo by Adem Wijewickrema, BFA Communications Design ’25.

 Longley thought that his studies would focus solely on drawing, but the Communications Design program has introduced him to a range of new skills and concepts.

“The program is about learning how to express yourself through animation, graphic design, typography, printmaking, website design—all of these different skills that give me the ability to understand and work in any field,” he said. 

In Undergraduate Communications Design’s “Dynamic Imagery” courses, Longley learned the fundamentals of animation and how to better communicate ideas in projects. Through classes like “Drawing on Location” and “Children’s Books,” he further developed his knowledge of reportage and storytelling.

Devaun Longley illustration “Selfish Darrell - A Journey to Redemption.”
Devaun Longley illustration “Selfish Darrell – A Journey to Redemption.”
Devaun Longley illustration “Heart Warmer.”
Devaun Longley illustration “Heart Warmer.”

Longley has been able to apply what he’s learned at Pratt to his freelance work as a graphic designer and researcher with the New York City Department of Records and Information Services. He helped build “Harlem Conditions,” a website that explores the findings of New York’s “The Report on Conditions in Harlem” from 1936, which uses on-the-ground research and extensive community interviews to depict the widespread poverty and injustice of the time. Longley created illustrations that bring the report to life, demonstrating parallels between then and now. He’s continuing to work on the project for upcoming conferences and exhibitions and hopes that the work eventually makes its way to schools to help kids learn about the history of Harlem.

Making a Difference

Longley has a passion for advocacy and community engagement. He had been doing social media and art design for the Black Student Union when the club’s leadership graduated. 

“My counselor at the time asked if I wanted to step up to lead it, and since nobody else had, I stepped up,” he said. “I’m still learning how to run the club and organize meetings, but I’m setting the foundation for future leadership.”

Longley likes to see the bigger picture. He’s been building bridges and bringing people together since he was advocating for expanded sports access in high school, and sees how these abilities can help him achieve his goal of becoming a creative director. As he approaches his senior year, he’s kept a full schedule juggling his various obligations, but he always finds time to bring cheer to others. 

Last semester, Longley cooked ackee and saltfish for his illustration class to share his love of Jamaica’s national dish. It was something he learned how to make by watching his mom and aunt in the kitchen while growing up. In case anyone wanted to make the dish themselves, he illustrated the step-the-step recipe complete with a little chef displaying techniques.

Devaun Longley illustration “How to make Ackee and Saltfish.”
Devaun Longley (@devauntheartist) illustration “How to make Ackee and Saltfish.”

Longley is continuing to develop his illustration skills through dedicated classes this semester and he’s learned that he finds the most fulfillment when his subject matter combines his many interests.

“The reason I love drawing so much is that it allows me to enter different fields and express what’s happening in the world,” he said. “And I love the directing role because it allows me to see into everything and have a say into different areas.”