Featured Graduates

Lucas Nelson

January 2017

We talk to TDK Awards '16 winner, Lucas Nelson, about 'Pretty Much Everything' ( Aaron Draplin's book of course ;) ), my favourite, Ellen Lupton, plus, letting go and being comfortable with the flow of ideas, and of course PIZZA! 

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

I took drafting classes in high school, which really sparked my interest in drawing. The class was strictly drafting by hand, no computers, so my teacher taught me how to solve problems using compasses, french curves and triangles to recreate technical drawings. It forced me to look at things as pieces to a whole while also getting creative with the constraints of my limited tools. After taking some drafting classes I knew I wanted to study drawing in college— but I thought I would go the fine arts direction. My mom suggested graphic design as another option and bought me Ellen Lupton’s “Graphic Design The New Basics” after reading that, I knew I wanted more.

Any passion projects you would like to share?

Lately I've been learning how to make pizza, dough and everything. It's one of those skills I don't think will ever become outdated (I hope). I would eventually like to make it into some bigger event, but right now I want to figure out how to make a sourdough crust. Pizza can make most situations at least a bit better, so whatever life throws my way I at least can make pizza.

What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?

1. The podcast ‘99% Invisible’, I would love it if I could meet Roman Mars someday. I appreciate the variety of topics he covers within the realm of “design” but beyond it as well. Each episode sends you down and back up a rabbit hole you never knew existed. I love that sort of discovery.
2. Aaron Draplin’s book ‘Pretty Much Everything’— I’ve seen him speak, but this book is the director’s cut of that talk, with more pictures. It’s like having a little Aaron sitting on your bookshelf.
3. ‘Little Victories’ by Jason Gay— This isn’t really a design book, but I recommend it. The way he talks about life and just being human puts things in perspective. I don’t really laugh out loud while reading, but this book almost killed me.

Who are your top five design crushes right now?

I've been looking at a lot of SF based places right now so the list skews a bit westward.
1. designstudio
2. Hybrid
3. Manual
4. Moniker

What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

I try to stay open to ideas that challenge or cause discomfort. Even though I realize that I still have to remind myself to stay open to different ideas and perspectives, even ones I might disagree with. Let go. I learned this from my residency at Future Partners, but it’s one of those skills I constantly work on, the more I do it the more I learn. Accepting my limitations and strengths while staying mindful of the project’s needs helps me stay grounded and focused. Trying to force the “right” answer always led to safe or boring ideas. So by reminding myself to “let go” I can stay loose and comfortable with a flow of ideas. The most “unexpected” and interesting ideas come when trying "wrong" ones. Realizing that a weekend spent exploring some new neighborhood can inform a project's solutions— I can't think of a better feeling!

Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

Finding a job! I've been looking in Chicago and San Francisco, but really I hope to get out of my home state of Kansas for a bit. I would like to continue working on identities and illustration, most importantly I have tried to stay open to whatever comes my way. I don't even know what's on the cards 3 weeks from now so really I'm staying focused on applications and interviews.






Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and join our design community of emerging graphic designers around the globe.