Nicole Jacek

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— Nicole Jacek has learned at thefeet of the masters: She interned for Stefan Sagmeister, worked for ayear next to Ian Anderson at The Designers Republic, received animpromptu mentoring session at M/M Paris, and downed a $1,000 bottle ofschnapps with German design legend Kurt Weidemann. Not bad for a girlfrom Poppenweiler, a tiny village on the outskirts of Ludwigsburg withfewer than 4,000 people.

“Where I grew up, no one knew what agraphic designer was,” she says. Growing up, she wanted to runMercedes-Benz, where her father works. She eventually started at a smallagency 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 thoughtshe could do better; when she started experimenting with Photoshop onthe company computers, her boss suggested she study graphicdesign.

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

These days, she’s uncannilyinventive with materials: For a photographer’s set of businesscards, she used thermographic ink, and in a book for the pop artistSarah Staton, she replaced the regular yellow with a fluorescent versionto make the colors more “candy-like.” Last October, Jacekmoved to New York to take a job at Karlssonwilker, where she’sbeen working on a new identity for the Museum of the Moving Image and aRon Arad book for MoMA. But she’d really just like to get anapartment. With a green card but no credit or guarantor, she’sbeen living in a budget hotel uptown, while at the same time trying toget her dream project realized—an LED screen of a giant,fluorescent heart that changes color with the temperature and beatsfaster as noise increases. Her infatuation with fluorescent colors ischarming, but inexplicable. “Maybe I’m just stuck in the’80s,” she laughs.