Nicole Ginelli was spending between 1-2 hours on a Sunday experimenting with her illustration style while being a UX designer through the week… And oh man… has it paid off! She tells us how there is no right way to illustrate and not to get too hung up on, or intimidated by tools. Just start exploring with whatever calls to you!
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
Definitely my computer experiences at a young age. I remember having Macs around before most of my friends in the early 90s. I was super into desktop games, all the Lucas Arts stuff (Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max). Early experiences on AOL, building geocities sites, curating my top 8, soaking in all those interfaces. Spending so much time on Napster, wanting to design for music, collecting CDs, then records and coveting album covers. I started doing horrible photoshop ‘art’ in high school. I had an extremely emo deviant art page where I would display said ‘art’. From there I went to college for design and got less emo!
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
Pitchfork design is a small team so my responsibilities there involve a little bit of everything, which is great! One day I might be creating or updating an interactive feature for the site, or working on direction/ illustrations / photo edits for a feature piece. We also provide designs for our various live events & festivals, merch and swag, pieces for our magazine, The Pitchfork Review, all kinds of fun stuff.
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?
I began illustrating on the weekends while I was working as a UI designer. The work I was doing at the time was this really deep, technical dashboard interface, it was challenging and great but not really creative. I was inspired by my bud Clay Hickson who would post an illustration piece every week on his tumblr called “Sunday thoughts”. I could see how this weekly routine had informed his style and process. Around this time I had also watched a John Cleese lecture where he talked about the importance of space, time, play and humor in making creative work. I decided to take up this sort of aimless design exercise every week and named it “Sundaes” as a nod to Clay. I would give myself a 1-2 two hour time limit every weekend and never had an intention or agenda going in to it. I saw it as play time and made some pretty surreal/weird stuff that was totally new to me! I got really fast at the pen tool and vector illustration, and everything grew organically from there. Totally recommend this weekly exercise for anything new you want to get better at. Theres no right way to illustrate, don’t get hung up on, or intimidated by tools, just start exploring with whatever calls to you!
What do you look for in a great portfolio?
Strong conceptual skills at the forefront, anything that makes me laugh is an added plus! I appreciate seeing a wide range of work that has some common thread or sensibility to it. Depending on your field (illustration, for example) you might prefer to focus on one style or type of work. I think either of these approaches can be successful, embrace what feels natural in terms of a single style or a more generalist approach. A great rule for portfolios is to only add the type of work you want to continue doing. Editing is key. I also love seeing personal work to get a better sense of someones passions.
Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?
Motion/ 3D/ Interactive/ VR/ 360.. the list goes on! All the formats pushing design beyond a 2D passive experience, for better and for worse, will become more normalized very soon. Interactive design will become more nuanced and start to develop a history and language of criticism similar to print design. Prototyping tools will continue to get better and more versatile. Professional 3D programs will continue to become more democratized and easier to use. I think designers will be expected to deliver assets in a larger variety of formats – still/ animated/VR ready, etc. I’m a generalist and love learning new stuff so I already have the basics of most of these formats under my belt but want to tackle it all! Not for everybody, but a good path for those who find the future exciting :).
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. HAVE FUN, keep a good sense of humor, and stay curious above all, it will show through in your work.
2. Try to connect all your work to a larger vision that is in continuous dialogue with itself.
3. Be a clear and empathetic communicator, and do your best not to assume what other people are thinking.
4. Always negotiate! You will be surprised how easily you will get what you ask for, but you gotta ask.
5. The truth is out there.
Top 5 Design Crushes
1. David Rudnick – Great typographer and designer with a deep understanding of the history/ aesthetics of electronic music.
2. Business Week – I find their approach totally refreshing on their site as well as the magazine. Super funny/ irreverent and the concept is always great.
3. Maria Chimi – Does amazing bumper work for MTV. We are currently plotting a collaboration I’m super excited for!
4. Sam Rolfes – Sam is doing killer 3D work in music/fashion worlds.
5. Those People – Love their sense of humor and the colorful worlds they build.