Nicole Jacek

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Nicole Jacek has learned at the
feet of the masters: She interned for Stefan Sagmeister, worked for a
year next to Ian Anderson at The Designers Republic, received an
impromptu mentoring session at M/M Paris, and downed a $1,000 bottle of
schnapps with German design legend Kurt Weidemann. Not bad for a girl
from Poppenweiler, a tiny village on the outskirts of Ludwigsburg with
fewer than 4,000 people.

“Where I grew up, no one knew what a
graphic designer was,” she says. Growing up, she wanted to run
Mercedes-Benz, where her father works. She eventually started at a small
agency to learn marketing and played saxophone in a band on the side.
One day, she saw a poster for the band’s upcoming gig and thought
she could do better; when she started experimenting with Photoshop on
the company computers, her boss suggested she study graphic

Unable to meet the illustration standards at other design
schools, she enrolled at Merz Akademie, which focuses on theory and the
“designer as author” approach. She applied for an internship
at Sagmeister on the strength of a poster that contained her work on one
side and her type designs on the other. “From my point of view
now, it looked horrible,” she says. “I didn’t have a
clue about printers or paper. It was just going to the digital printer
and printing it out.”

These days, she’s uncannily
inventive with materials: For a photographer’s set of business
cards, she used thermographic ink, and in a book for the pop artist
Sarah Staton, she replaced the regular yellow with a fluorescent version
to make the colors more “candy-like.” Last October, Jacek
moved to New York to take a job at Karlssonwilker, where she’s
been working on a new identity for the Museum of the Moving Image and a
Ron Arad book for MoMA. But she’d really just like to get an
apartment. With a green card but no credit or guarantor, she’s
been living in a budget hotel uptown, while at the same time trying to
get her dream project realized—an LED screen of a giant,
fluorescent heart that changes color with the temperature and beats
faster as noise increases. Her infatuation with fluorescent colors is
charming, but inexplicable. “Maybe I’m just stuck in the
’80s,” she laughs.