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20 Questions: Christine Llewellyn Ohemeng


Christine Llewellyn Ohemeng, MBA ’07, believes in following your passions, which is why she left her job as a marketing manager at a large financial services company to pursue her passion for design. 

After obtaining her Master's of Industrial Design from the Pratt Institute, Llewellyn Ohemeng founded Christine Joy Design — a product and surface pattern design studio that specializes in the home goods market, based in South Orange, NJ. Her clients now include many iconic brands and companies, such as West Elm, Crate & Barrel, The Gap, AllModern, Minted, and Børn Shoes. 

From an early age, Llewellyn Ohemeng was passionate about various types of design — architectural, product, interior, and graphic — so she was determined to live her life as a creative. 

“Don’t let anyone diminish your worth by telling you that you can’t make a living pursuing a creative career," she says. “Ask yourself, will you be happier than you can imagine waking up every day and doing what it is you believe in your heart you were meant to do? Definitely!” 

Llewellyn Ohemeng’s rise in the design world and as a business leader has not gone unnoticed. In 2017, she was recognized by Essence magazine as one of “50 Black Women Founders to Watch.”

“As a child, I remember my mother subscribing to Essence magazine. If you told me then that one day I’d see my name and picture in Essence, I would have thought you were crazy,” she says. 

Llewellyn Ohemeng answered 20 questions for Dividend.

  1. First album/CD you bought?

    Not an album, but my first music purchase was the “Push It” cassette single by Salt-N-Pepa.
  2. What’s your go-to source for design inspiration?

    I love clean, uncluttered, minimalist design that also feels warm and welcoming, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Scandinavian design typically fits that description. When I was in design school for my second master’s degree, I spent a semester in Copenhagen learning all about Scandinavian furniture design. I often reference the design brands that I was exposed to there when looking for inspiration.
  3. Most important room in your home?

    Our family room serves as our family’s “control center.” Although there are many places in the house where we could spread out, we most often congregate in the family room to watch TV, talk, play games, read, and work together. I’d say we spend 70 percent of our time in that one room.
  4. Who is your personal hero?

    My mother is definitely my personal hero. I didn’t truly appreciate how heroic she is until having kids myself. I have three kids and struggle to not succumb to exhaustion by the day’s end. She, at my age of 40, had four children, was a single mother, and accepted a position at the United Nations where she would be required to uproot her family and move to the Democratic Republic of Congo. I can’t imagine the bravery that it took for her to accept that position without the support of a partner. She showed us very early on the importance of taking big risks to achieve your goals.
  5. Best business decision?

    My best business decision was to get out of my own head and shed the idea of people’s potential negative perception of my switching gears to be an artist and designer. I struggled at first to embrace the “artist/designer” title for fear of being judged as not worthy of being taken seriously by those in the business world.
  6. What’s the most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

    A few years ago, when my two eldest kids were 2 and 4, I faced my fear of flying and boarded a 19-hour flight to Jaipur, India, to study the age-old art of block printing and natural fabric dyeing. I spent 10 days in India, learning from artisans whose families have practiced this art form for generations. It was an amazing experience and a dream come true. I am so grateful that my husband encouraged me to not let my fear of flying (or my Mom-guilt!) get in the way of my having this fulfilling professional experience.
  7. What’s a book that you’ve read recently? How was it?

    I really enjoyed The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. With rawness and honesty, she brings the reader through her personal grieving process after losing a loved one suddenly. While it is heartbreaking, it is also really inspiring to see how she persists and moves on after experiencing unrelenting trauma.
  8. What is your favorite quotation?

    “There’s nothing more powerful than a humble person with a warrior spirit who is driven by a bigger purpose.” – Jon Gordon
  9. Most-cherished Ross experience?

    While at Ross, I took a course in real estate development and worked on a multidisciplinary team with other graduate students from various departments. For our group project, I volunteered to make all of our data and findings visually appealing and also create the three-dimensional renderings of our real estate project. While I had never done this before, I was on cloud nine working on this group project — stepping away from the numbers for a bit and getting lost in our presentation’s visuals. Not to toot my own horn, but I remember our team’s final presentation looking way better than the rest.
  10. The thing you learned in business school that you’ll never forget?

    I learned how to negotiate and advocate for myself and also learned what specific attributes make me and my personal journey unique. I am a stronger creative entrepreneur because of what I learned at Ross.
  11. First website you access in the morning?

    NYTimes.com for news headlines.
  12. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

    My rambunctious 8-, 6-, and 2-year-olds.
  13. Favorite comfort food?

    Any warm fruit tart with vanilla ice cream.
  14. Business or charity you wish more people knew about?

    I wish more people knew about the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine. FOCOS is one of the only hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa that performs surgeries to correct childhood spinal deformities. The work they do, and the positive physical and psychological effects it has on the children they help, is simply amazing. 
  15. What’s your favorite thing you’ve designed?

    I’m always amazed by how a large piece of wall art can transform a space. I absolutely love my “Enchant II” watercolor and the way that the colors transport you out of the room. The colors I used remind me of the gorgeous colors in the Caribbean. I love the way the teal and green pigments come together on the paper. I remember entering this piece in a competition to have my artwork sold at West Elm and was so excited when I learned that they selected my piece. Six years later, this piece continues to be one of my bestsellers.

  16. What or where is your ideal retirement spot?

    Each summer as a child I spent time on the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua. I have such fond memories of our family vacations there. In an ideal world, in retirement my husband, Kwame, and I would split our time between Antigua, Ghana (his family’s country of origin), and the U.S.
  17. Three people, living or dead, you’d like to have dinner with?

    Augusta Savage, Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey.
  18. Describe your first job.

    My first job was as an intern at the Civilian Complaint Review Board in New York City. My job was to transcribe recorded interviews of civilians who were filing claims of police brutality. It was quite an eye-opening experience for me as a young African American woman. I very often think back to my time at the CCRB, especially in light of the racial reckoning that is taking place in our country. It was a “heavy” first job, but one that I am so grateful to have had.
  19. Must-have app for your phone?

    As a visual artist, Instagram serves as a source of visual inspiration for me. I follow many other artists and designers, and appreciate the community that has formed among designers throughout the world, with whom I’ve never met face to face. It is nice to get a sense of what new and exciting projects people are working on.
  20. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

    I always wanted to be an architect. I would spend many hours drafting up my dream home and getting lost in the details of what this house might look like. I wouldn’t just draw the outside, I literally would map out the floor plan for every floor!
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