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Freelance designer and illustrative letterer Nick Misani developed a love for art and calligraphy at an early age in Italy. These days, after having worked for Mucca Design, Penguin Random House and Louise Fili Ltd., he’s all about ornament and bespoke typography. Here, he shares with us favorite and most challenging projects to date.
Name: Nick Misani
Location: New York City
Design school attended: MFA in
Communication Design at The Pratt Institute
How would you describe your work?
Historically-inspired with a predilection for detail, ornament and custom typography.
Where do you find inspiration?
I really enjoy looking at old books and prints when I’m out of ideas. I’m currently in a major Art Deco phase, so anything from the 20s and 30s is very inspiring at the moment. I’ve also always loved the decorative arts, so I never get tired of admiring wallpapers, mosaics, stained glass, ironwork, etc.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
Since a lot of the work I do is inspired by the design of the past, I’m a big fan of people like William Morris, Dard Hunter, George Bickham, Alphonse Mucha. That said, contemporary designers have also had a big influence on my work. Chief among whom is my former boss, Louise Fili.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
While I was still at Louise Fili Ltd, I worked on a series of notecards for Princeton Architectural Press. These were inspired by Parisian Art Deco wrought iron gates, and each one was printed in only one color. In addition to myself and Louise, Kelly Thorn also worked on these cards. Kelly is not only a great designer, but also a great friend, so collaborating with her on this project was particularly enjoyable. I worked on two cards and Kelly worked on the other two, and “bisous” is my favorite, since I got to experiment with the fountain and fan themes so popular in the 20s and 30s.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Creating book covers during the 1.5 years I worked at Penguin was one of the toughest design challenges. Book covers require you to think metaphorically (something I’m very bad at) and communicate complex ideas in a meaningful, profound and eye-catching way. One of the first covers I was assigned was a particularly challenging one: an autobiographical text about a woman whose brother transitioned from male to female later in life. A sensitive topic, especially considering both the author and the sister in question would be seeing the cover I designed for them. I’m not terribly happy with the result, but learned a lot from the experience.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I’d love to be more well-rounded, and I keep looking for a design voice that feels truly mine.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
Take advantage of social media platforms, but make sure you keep your relationship with them in check. It’s so easy to get caught in the numbers game and lose sight of the real reason why you’re creating work.