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Ellen Donath
Ellen Donath

Ellen Donath ’74 (art and design) came to RIT to study painting. While learning about fine arts, she discovered a love and talent for photography. Although she was majoring in art and design, RIT gave Donath the freedom to follow her other interests. She pursued photography through a series of independent studies, and left RIT with the knowledge that has set the course of her life.

“At RIT, I learned that when you really love something, you should find a way to pursue it,” says Donath. “That philosophy stuck with me.”

Donath is founder and president of Donath Communications Inc., a premier New York City-based marketing and design firm specializing in the financial services industry that works with many Fortune 500 companies.  Always self-employed and motivated, Donath began her career as a freelance designer.
After graduation, Donath returned home to the New York City area.

There, she entered the audiovisual field designing presentations for corporations in a variety of industries such as Sony, IBM, AT&T and American Airlines. Eventually she began specializing in cosmetics and fashion, and her clients included Chanel, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder and Dupont. She even created audiovisual stage designs for the Broadway theater.

Then a new opportunity came along: She landed a major assignment for MasterCard and was plunged into the world of financial services. Selling a new shade of lipstick may seem far removed from selling a fixed annuity, but Donath says her experience in fashion and cosmetics proved invaluable. “It’s about creating an image, even for something that’s an intangible idea,” she says. “That’s why the financial services industry is always interesting to me.” Donath’s new focus evolved into film and video production for clients such as Citibank, the U.S. Secret Service and MasterCard, winning her more than 25 industry awards.

Donath’s confident attitude and entrepreneurial spirit brought her both success and respect. When clients came to her with a request, she would use her resources to provide whatever they needed, continually expanding her skill set and repertoire. “They would ask for something, and I would find a way to get it done,” says Donath.

Her film and video work transitioned to print, and today, Donath Communications is a highly regarded strategic marketing and design agency providing branding, advertising and direct mail. Incorporated in 1986, Donath Communications’ clients include JPMorgan Chase, Bank Leumi USA, TIAA-CREF and CIGNA, just to name a few.

Donath Communications has won more than 40 professional awards, but more important is Donath’s long list of satisfied clients. She prides herself on maintaining long-term relationships with clients and says that has been one of the many keys to her success.

Outside of her business, Donath’s life includes her husband, antique dealer Damon Shaheen, and their 14-year-old son Alexander.

Donath says that her education from RIT has given her the freedom to pursue her interests and the ability to adapt in an ever-changing industry. Throughout it all, she has always strived to be the best at whatever it is that she is doing.

“It all comes down to following your passions, and embracing change,” says Donath.

“I learned that at RIT.”

To find out more about her company, visit www.DonathNYC.com.