We all know that a true success is not that easy to reach, and true talent can’t be gained or taught. It should be a gift from mother nature and it should be methodically practiced and cultivated. Jared Nickerson’s way to success has been tough but it’s been well worth it.
Jared is a creative illustrator, artist and designer. He owns a design studio based in San Diego, so his clients have a unique chance to get the craftily made logos, editorial illustrations, textile designs, video games, and more.
Growing from a dreamer into a full-blown professional, Jared has managed to become widely recognized and respected product designer, branding expert, character illustrator and even a singer.
Today’s exclusive interview is stuffed with very exciting and useful facts for all those newbie creatives that dream to become industry leaders and real influencers in their field. So let’s chat with Jared Nickerson right away! Enjoy!
My name is Jared K. Nickerson and I am a bearded graphic artist/illustrator/product designer/creative director/singer/animal lover originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia but now located in San Diego, California.
It was one of my dreams/goals, when I was young, to start my own design studio when I grew up. I was always into drawing & my parents made sure we always had a computer in the house while I was growing up.
Always loved to create and draw random creatures as a young child. This developed over time, and all throughout public school and high school I took various art classes. Everything from graphic design to traditional drawing and painting.
I’d known that I wanted to become a graphic designer, but because of a series of events in my life, that desire had taken a back seat later on. I had been kicked out of my house when I was 16, so I spent most of the later years of high school working full time. And because of this wasn’t able to put much thought into college or money in that case. Living on my own I didn’t think paying for school would have been something that was attainable. So I had left my dream of being a graphic designer on the back burner for a few years
A years later, I moved across Canada (East to West coast). I had been working for an online broadcasting company at the time doing sales and account management and found myself with a chunk of extra time while traveling for them and decided to pick up a copy of Adobe Illustrator. I spent time learning the software while also experimenting with various styles and techniques. Much how I had developed my drawing over the years, I had to start that whole process again with digital, but this time with a goal in mind.
I started designing desktop wallpapers and submitting them to websites back in the day when that was still a big thing. I’d found the feedback I had gotten from those communities (good and bad) really helped me grow as an artist. Being able to get honest input from your peers makes an incredible difference in the growth process.
From there I started to catch the attention of more and more people, most importantly potential clients. These smaller clients helped me build my portfolio, and then from there I was able to get bigger and bigger clients.
One of my first larger clients was Suicide Girls. I was able to do a series of editorial illustrations for them and then a pack of desktop wallpapers to help promote a number of their models. They really helped kick start my portfolio and in turn my professional career.
Challenge wise, it was never really the work that was the hard part, it was always the business side of things that were tough to navigate. Knowing how to quote jobs for clients, how to speak to clients, how to do pitches, manage invoices, manage marketing etc. That’s all the tough stuff. Specific projects that stick out to me though as tough or a challenge… Good question.
Some of the harder jobs I had always seemed to be from smaller more difficult clients. The big clients usually have a system that is straight forward and a process, but the smaller clients can sometimes be difficult.
Part of it is educating your client, letting them know how the process works, letting them know how many rounds of revisions they get, when they can expect deliverables, what those deliverables will be etc. As much open communication with a client as possible is good, never assume they know.
It’s just myself mainly. I do work with some great freelancers depending on the project. I’ve gotten to work with a few “regulars” over the years. Everything from character designers to animators, product designers to sound engineers. Whatever helps get the job done for a client.
I’ve tried to stay focused on a number of things though, mainly product design, illustration, branding and creative direction. I’m always trying to expand what I do though, so I’ve even gotten into things outside of design such as consulting, brainstorm sessions etc. Again, anything that can get the client what they need.
No secret, just everyday life. Browsing inspirational websites, travelling, music, movies etc. inspiration can come from anything. Freelancing is tough, because you spend so much time cooped up in a studio, you lose that typical interaction with “co-workers”. I find that’s one of the harder things for me. I thrive off those interactions, that back and forth between other designers or creative thinkers. So I’d had to manage other ways.
I have weekly scheduled calls with a friend in the industry, where we talk ideas and walk each other through current projects we are in the middle of. I find that helps a lot. Talking with other designers online helps too.
Everyone gets burnt out here and there, so it’s a matter of finding the best ways that work for you to keep yourself inspired… Sometimes just a vacation can recharge the brain.
Most of what I do these days is under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so I can’t typically talk about them until they are released. I’ve been able to do some product design for Disney, Blizzard and countless video game companies over the last 2 years or so. Product pitches/decks and concepts has become a passion of mine. Unfortunately I can’t show anything as of yet.
I am also in the process of negotiating a project with Apple and with ESPN, but again don’t have much to share with those. This has become a pain in terms of updating the portfolio, because to potential clients there are so few new projects it looks like I’m not active, but really I’m working everyday on stuff I can’t discuss, some of which will never see the light of day. But that’s just how this industry works sometimes.
This is also in part why I “try” to put personal work in the portfolio as much as possible, just to keep things moving. I’d love to do more personal work, but that’s a whole other topic 🙂
My dream is to direct movies. Unfortunately though I haven’t done much to follow that dream. I’ve worked in the industry off and on doing various things, and this year I’ll be scoring a few small films with a friend, but I haven’t done much to follow my dream of directing. Maybe next time we’ll talk that will have changed? Let’s hope!
Be patient with yourself, be patient with the process and surround yourself by people who encourage and inspire you.
Don’t expect to pick up a pencil or a mouse/stylus for the first time and be able to produce a masterpiece. Anyone can learn a piece of software, but true talent can’t be taught, it needs to be cultivated and that takes time and practice.
That and, go to school for business and/or marketing. Those are the other set of skills you need to develop to do this on your own. Create and practice on the side over years, but make business your focus. So many artists out there have skill and talent, but have no idea how to utilize or capitalize off of it.
Learn that, and the rest will fall into place.
This was a very informative conversation, so we hope it will inspire you to create more cool and creative things. We wish Jared even more achievements and new heights.