Today’s #inspirations4aspirations interview guest is @nikkimendezdesigns
Nikki Méndez is a graphic designer, artist and activist. Before the quarantine, we worked at the same small agency but never once met as we worked opposite days. She was the first person to ask to be apart of this series. It was fun to ask her questions and get to know her.
A few weeks ago she graduated from FSU. Her motto is “question everything”, which she enacted by asking me questions (which might appear my own interview). The visual is inspired by Nikki’s design heroes like Yayoi Kusama. The typography is inspired by Futura Condensed Extrabold, a font used by activists like the Guerrilla Girls and Barbara Kruger.
Nikki Méndez: in her own words
Where are you from and/or where did you grow up? And where do you live now?
Born and raised in Tallahassee florida! Still here now but my next home will be Atlanta
Oh cool! I didn’t realize you were also from Tallahassee. Which schools did you attend before FSU?
Well I was at TCC for a while to get my AA and a certificate in Graphic Design Production, but pre college I went to Buck Lake, Swift Creek, and Lincoln!
Were you always artistic?
Definitely. I had always loved to draw but as a kid I got super self conscious that my drawing wasn’t realistic enough so I started dabbling in other mediums like music, architecture, writing, etc. Then when I got to college I realized my work doesn’t have to be the Mona Lisa to be good so I got back into visual arts
When you did get back into the visual arts, what mediums did you enjoy working with?
As I was getting my graphic design certificate at TCC I started taking traditional art classes and it was super motivating. I enjoy watercolor painting, woodwork, sculpture, and digital obvi lol
What first got you interested in graphic design?
There used to be this website when I was in high school called Like edit monkey or picture monkey or something like that. And I would edit a bunch of my pictures in quirky ways with like gross over saturation lmao but I thought it was really fun so I signed up for my first photoshop class in the 10th grade and was legit the best in the class so I was like damn okay I could totally do this.
What’s your favorite thing about being a graphic designer?
The flexibility. I can work at an agency if I want, I could work in politics, I could be freelance, like truly there is a need for designers in every area of life so it’s nice to have that freedom. Also it’s just super fun. Like I love working on projects for hours or days or however long
Is there an artist or designer who inspired / inspires your work?
Barbara Kruger, Guerilla Girls, D’ana Nunez, Yayoi Kusama, Hattie Stewart, Shepard Fairey are definitely some big ones.
What does it feel like when you make art?
It feels different depending on the project. If Its something with a serious message it feels stressful and then finally rewarding. And if it’s something lighthearted and fun then it can be calming.
What’s the most memorable response have you had to your work?
The first one that comes to mind was when I painted a uterus with planets as the ovaries and it was in a local feminist art show and I posted about it a few days after and so many women commented saying they had no idea it was my piece and that they went to the show and my piece was their favorite one.
In your Instagram bio you say you’re “trying to change the world one pixel at a time.” In what way do you strive to change the world?
I want the world to be less hateful and more aware I think.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I have a couple goals I think. I want to be an art director at an innovative advertising agency. Like an agency that moves our culture forward. I also want to get to a level where I have my own exhibitions in art museums. And I want to lead a movement where artists are common household names again and not this untouchable unknown elite group of people.
I aspire to create work that makes people think
Why do you create?
I feel like art is a way to help people understand complicated issues. I believe that art should be easily accessible and not just something in a museum that’s on a pedestal that you have to look at from 10 feet away.
So my focus is making art that people can access like through my stickers, street art and using a public platform.
The topics I make art about are usually about womanhood or social causes and it’s super important that those messages are easily understood and accessed. So I create because I’m trying to make a difference and get people exciting about it.
When life gets you down what inspires you to get back up?
My mom and Lady Gaga’s Artpop album. If I get down in the dumps all I have to do is call my mom and she’ll pull me out of it and that album will give that extra boost to start strutting again.
Is it the responsibility of all designers to be the harbingers of change? And, if so, what’s something (however small) artists and designers can do to improve our world?
I think that responsibility is on all creators. Designers, artists, musicians, writers, etc. because if you’re just perpetuating the same old crap is it truly creation? So yes. Definitely a responsibility.
And something everyone can do is to always question everything. That’s my motto. Question everything.
As a recent graduate (congrats btw) I have to ask the obvious: are you nervous about the future? What keeps you focused on your goals?
I am sooo freaking nervous. And I was even nervous pre-coronavirus.
I stay focused because I just really want to succeed. Like there is no other option in my head than to be really focused, continue to get better at design, and ultimately be the awesome art director that I wanna be. I have baby goals along the way of course that keep be encouraged, but getting bummed out or lazy isn’t really an option. So I keep on going!
Many thanks to my inspiration and aspiration, @nikkimendezdesigns.
I’m John Lhotka, wishing you a nice day, and all that jazz.