Nicholas Huggins is a Graphic Designer who runs Backyard Design Company a boutique design firm. He’s also founder of Deftment Clothing. His drive to work hard at his craft, gave him the opportunity to do the sort of projects that he loves.
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Cover photo by: Brendan Delzin | @brendandelzin
How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
To me, creativity is a way of thinking and problem-solving. You could be a creative painter, or a creative mathematician, or lawyer.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
From a young age, I've always had an interest in art that has never faded. What was an interest turned into a passion, and now I have made a life as being a "creative." For the most part, I think that my creativity and creative skill is something that I developed and something that anyone with the same trajectory in art and design would have also had. It's a result of all my life experiences more so than me being innately creative.
When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I have always been encouraged to follow my passion for art. At CIC I did Art for CXC and CAPE, and when it came time to go to university my parents and teachers were all happy with my decision to attend an Art & Design school.
What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
As far as evaluating other people's work, when I look at something that someone else has done and feel jealous that I didn't do it, then I know that it's good. For evaluating my own work, I guess the more excitement I feel with something then the better I think it is. Sometimes I work on something and feel no excitement to show anyone, that's when I know that it's going down the wrong road.
Monetary rewards are relevant/important to my work because that's how I make a living. I have a lot of passion projects that make no money, and those jobs are extremely satisfying because I would have a bit more creative freedom with them; then there are fully paid client jobs where I need to communicate their message in the best way possible and sometimes what I might think is the most "creative" way is not the most efficient way. But to answer the question, if creativity and monetary rewards were not compatible then we would all be starving artists.
Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
To a degree, other people influence my work. If someone reacts really positively on social media to something I've done, then it gives me a bit more confidence in the piece. Other than that, I actively seek constructive criticism on any project I'm working on, and if someone tells me they think I should change something, or they think something else may work better, I listen to them and at the very least will try it... but sometimes I don't agree, and stick to my guns.
What do you do when you experience a creative block?
I typically have a few projects going on at any given time, so if I'm stuck on one project, I usually just move on to something else and let my subconscious work on the thing that I'm stuck on. Other than that, I usually look through old sketchbooks for hidden idea gems or look through images online.
How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
This is something that really varies. A lot of times, I may get an idea and shelf it for weeks or months before I get back to it. But when I do get an idea I immediately write it down, either in my sketch book or a note on my phone if I'm out... I also send myself a ton of messages on facebook messenger which I've found to be a nice way of documenting ideas. After sketching, I usually do jump into Illustrator and start executing whatever the ideas were.
Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
To-do lists with deadlines for each action...and coffee. I love working and starting new projects, so once I have a clear idea of what needs to be done I find it easy to jump in and start scratching things off the list.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
I think that every project I work on gives me new knowledge, both in how to think about future projects as well as acquiring new technical skills. In terms of style, I don't know if there has been a huge change per se... more of an evolution as I improve through practice.
What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Apart from having a full-time agency job, I started a clothing brand (Deftment) in 2014, a t-shirt printing company (Printmint) earlier this year, as well as freelance design and illustration in between. In March 2016 I decided to post an illustration every day to Instagram which may take me about 1-2 hours a day. So, yeah...definitely time.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
I'm lucky in that I really really enjoy what I do. You know the saying, a bad day fishing is better is than a good day in the office... graphic design is my "fishing." And I get to do it every day. And I get to make money doing it. Why would I ever quit?
Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
For me, it's a balance, as a graphic designer my job is to visually communicate ideas for clients, so if I am accepted as being creative then chances are I'll get more clients. However, I'd like to think that all things aside, I would still do what I love even without any exterior acceptance.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
It depends on what I'm doing I guess. If I am doing something for a client and they don't like it, then I am obligated to either change it or at the very least defend my creative choices to the best of my ability and fight for the idea/ execution of the ideas.
Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
I feel like the admirable thing to say here would be no...but... if I look at a logo that I would have done 3 years ago, I am looking at it through eyes with 3 years more experience so I would see things that I would change given the opportunity...so the short answer would be, yes, I would change things, but I don't dwell on it or let anything bother me, it's all been a learning experience.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
When I first started working at McCann, it was a little hard to adjust to the pace of the work, and the demands of advertising agency life. I went through the "is this for me" phase and experienced a little bit of imposter syndrome where I was thinking how the hell did I find myself working here. Once I got into the routine of things and got help from the other Art Directors it's gone smoothly. Also, I look at a lot of tutorials.
What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
Definitely my t-shirt company Deftment. My business partner Kevin and I decided to design t-shirts that we would love to wear and kind of hoped that people would also buy into the idea and support the brand and buy the t-shirts. In the 2 years since we started, we have been overwhelmed by the number of people who come to our pop-up shops and buy tees. It's an amazing feeling to see someone wearing a t-shirt you designed when you go to out to a bar or to the movies.
What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
My dad always ingrained in me and my sister to start a business so that has been something that stuck with me throughout. A eureka moment that helped me put that into perspective within design was attending a lecture by Aaron Draplin when I was at university. He spoke about starting design businesses and working on your own terms. I always re-watch his lecture "Tall tales from a large man" on youtube and reread his book "Pretty much everything" to get inspired.
To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
To work hard and to develop an obsession with design. If you are passionately obsessed, you will succeed. Don't do something because you don't think that you have the talent to do it. If you want to do something, simply do it over and over and over and over until you get good at it.
What would you most like to be remembered for?
My charming personality and my boyish good looks, just kidding. These are the kinds of questions that remind you of your impending death hahaha, but I'd like to be remembered for being a friendly and happily helpful person who created some amazing work in his lifetime.
If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
Nick nack paddy, Black.
Thanks goes out to Nicholas for taking time out to share his thoughts with us, we appreciate it. Find more of his work at nicholashuggins.com and follow him on Instagram @nicholashugginsdesign, @backyarddesigncompany and @deftment
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