Meet Miami-based Designer of the Week Sara Nicely, a graphic designer and illustrator with a love for branding and typography. This creative has made many moves in her career—and across the country—in pursuit of her ideal creative and personal life. Find out what keeps her inspired, what she wants other designers to know, and what’s next for her.
Location: St. Pete, FL
Design school attended: University of Florida, graphic design program
How would you describe your work?
I focus on branding, typography and illustration. I am interested in the conceptual phase of my work –thanks to art school, I will always carry that with me. I became passionate about fine arts and illustration at a young age, and I like to incorporate hand-drawn elements into my design work when it’s right. Finding a balance between art and design is a fun problem for me.
Where do you find inspiration?
Immersing myself in new experiences through traveling and reading is always stimulating. Exploring unfamiliar places helps to provide clarity. I also find a lot of inspiration in nature, plants and the outdoors.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
So many talented people have helped shape and inspire who I’ve become as a designer and artist, but to name a few of my favorites—Louise Fili [Do you also love Fili’s work? Check out these 16 gorgeous pieces], Jessica Hische [read Jessica Hische on Jessica Hische], Roanne Adams, Alvin Diec, Anna Bond, Bodil Jane and Kate Pugsley.
Branding for Billie Bird Market
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
My favorite project at the moment is a branding piece I have been working on for Billie Bird Market. It involves a subject I am personally inspired by and so it was an instant hit for me mentally. I was able to incorporate illustration into this project, which is so gratifying but also worked for the aesthetic of the brand. It is still in the works, and I’m really excited to see how the project continues to unfold.
Animations for Dog Days Creative, a collaboration between graphic designer and illustrator Sarah Nicely and partner Jesse James Dean
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Currently I’m working on a collaboration/company, Dog Days Creative, with my boyfriend/work partner Jesse James Dean. We are treating the company as a collective that will handle both graphic design and animation. The main challenge is figuring out how to properly present the company as a fusion of our work. Currently we both freelance separately and have our own range of clients/styles. Eventually we hope to evolve Dog Days Creative into a cohesive collaboration that provides our combined list of services.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I hope to continue to grow as a designer and artist and surround myself with creative and enthusiastic people. I want to be a forever-student and stay curious. I’ve made a lot of changes throughout my career and moved around a bunch. These changes have allowed for me to better my ability to thrive as an individual and also a designer. I hope to inspire other creatives to not feel trapped and to never lose sight of how they want to live and work.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
My best advice for designers today would be to pull away from the screen as much as possible. It takes effort to be truly inspired, and I’ve found that some of the best ideas emerge when engaging in real environments with physical artifacts and stimulating surroundings. I love browsing old bookstores, eating at new restaurants, hiking and exploring botanical gardens. Finding connections and ideas in the world around us is valuable on so many levels.
How to Become a Branding Expert: A Workshop for Designers Running Aug. 25–Aug. 31A Workshop for Designers Running Aug. 25–Aug. 31
Enroll before it’s too late! This workshop is a collection of our very popular branding workshop series with Marcia Hoeck and Ed Roach: Common Mistakes Designers Make with Branding and How to Fix Them, How to Position Yourself as a Branding Expert and How to Talk About Branding.