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Meet Emily McDowell

Emily McDowell

Emily McDowell, founder of Em & Friends, is a writer, illustrator, speaker, teacher, and entrepreneur who is fiercely committed to not doing all of those things at the same time. After spending a decade working in advertising, Emily launched Em & Friends, originally called Emily McDowell Studio, in January 2013. For five years, she served as its CEO, as well as the author and illustrator of all its products. In 2018, the brand joined forces with fellow female-founded publisher Knock Knock, and Emily became Em & Friends’ creative and strategic director. In 2022 both companies joined Union Square & Co., the publishing division of Barnes & Noble. Emily now consults as a creative leader and guide for the brand while pursuing a spreadsheet-free lifestyle.

Emily and her work have been featured by hundreds of major outlets in 22 countries, including The New York Times, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, BBC News, and NPR's All Things Considered, and she was named one of Slate's 10 Designers Who Are Changing the World. She is also the co-author and illustrator of the book, There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life Gets Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love (HarperOne, 2017).  She co-hosts the Quitted podcast with Holly Whitaker, and she’s the co-founder of the nonprofit The Long Table Foundation, offering professional mentoring and grants to artists of color.

You can find Emily online at, and IRL in Portland, Oregon, where she lives with her partner, twin teenage stepsons, two cats, and many low-maintenance house plants. If you’d like to inquire about booking her as a speaker or podcast guest, you can do that here.