This week, I was very happy to get to interview Minnesota graphic designer, Nicole Meyer. Based in Minneapolis, 27-year-old Meyer has gained a lot of attention for her Branding 10,000 Lakes project, which involves designing a logo for a Minnesota lake each day until… well I’m not sure. If she keeps up the project, it would take her 27 years. I first heard about Meyer in this Star Tribune article, but her project has also been featured on FastCo design. You can see all of her designs for this project on her website as well as buy prints of her work here.
Can you describe how you came upon the idea for your Branding 10,000 Lakes project? I was still living in Phoenix, planning for an impending move back to Minneapolis. I decided that I wanted to start a project that would combine my love for Minnesota with the desire to create something daily to improve my design skills, and to serve as a portfolio piece in my job search. I decided to use the lakes as my subject because not only are they a very important part of Minnesota, but there’s also an almost endless supply that could sustain the project.
After doing the calculation and seeing that it will take you 27 years to complete, do you think you will stick with the project to its completion? 27 years is a looong time. All I can say is that I’m going to try to take the project as far as I can. It’s been a fun ride so far.
How has this side project inspired you in other endeavors? I think it’s forced me to think and work quicker, which has helped me a lot in my other work. It has also served as a great outlet for ideas I’ve had that haven’t been able to be used in regular client work.
It has also served as a great outlet for ideas I’ve had that haven’t been able to be used in regular client work.
What have you learned from the Branding 10,000 Lakes project about yourself as a designer? I’ve learned that if you stop talking about it and start doing something, amazing things can happen. I’ve also learned that not every piece of design you create is going to be a home run. What matters is that you keep designing, because eventually some things will click.
What matters is that you keep designing, because eventually some things will click.
You seem to have some sort of system for putting the logos together. Can you describe your design process? Each logo is different of course… different thought and design process. But one common process is beginning and refining each in Illustrator, then bringing that vector artwork into Photoshop to add any texture or photography.
Many of the logos are juxtaposed with photography in their presentation on your site. What drew you to using photos as a backdrop to your designs? I’ve always been drawn to logos being presented on photography. I think for certain designs it gives them more context and feeling than a plain background would.
Can you describe your background as a graphic designer? When and how did you start out? I actually didn’t study graphic design at all, oddly enough. I double-majored in Advertising and Art at the University of Minnesota. When I became a creative intern, and eventually an Art Director at a small agency in Phoenix, I was forced to teach myself to become a good designer as a part of that. I think being self taught has given me a great appreciation for what all of these amazing designers are creating out there, because it’s something that requires a lot of work and practice.
I think being self taught has given me a great appreciation for what all of these amazing designers are creating out there, because it’s something that requires a lot of work and practice.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the design business? Create, create, create. The more things you make, not only the better you get, but the better chance you have of getting your name out there in the industry. Also, have a good social media presence, particularly on Twitter. There are so many people to follow and interact with there that you can learn a lot from. And it’s a great way to share all that great work your creating.
Your Facebook page seemed to be pretty poppin’ last time I checked. How do you think social media has helped lead to your success? It’s been an integral part of the success of the project. Without a presence on Facebook and Twitter, there’d really be little way to share the project, particularly on a daily basis. It’s been a great way to interact with people who enjoy the work as well, which has been amazing.
As a designer, do you have any general rules that you stick to? Not really. Just work hard and do what feels right. And have fun.
What do you enjoy doing outside of graphic design? Do you work in other mediums? Have other hobbies? I’m a huge football fan, particularly a huge Green Bay Packer fan. So most weekends involve that in some way. I also just love being with friends and exploring everything the amazing Twin Cities have to offer.
You mentioned on your site that lake logos tend to be ugly and expressed the need to rethink that notion. Why do you think good design is important? Good design = good communication. Brands need good design to represent what they’re all about in order to connect with the consumers they’re trying to reach, as well as to differentiate themselves from their competition. Also, really, why not try to make everything as beautiful as possible?
Good design = good communication… why not try to make everything as beautiful as possible?
Are there any graphic designers (or artists) that you admire? Any logos you wished you had designed? There are really too many to count… I admire pretty much everyone that I follow on Twitter and Dribbble. There’s a ridiculous amount of talent out there, and I’m constantly inspired by all of these great individuals.
Lastly, I have to ask as a fellow Minnesotan, what is unique about Minnesota and how has it influenced your work? The creative community in the Twin Cities is outstanding, and really unlike anything I’ve found elsewhere. It’s really conducive to doing good work. I’m also a born-and-raised Midwesterner (I’m from Wisconsin), and I think just the laid-back, friendly vibe of the Midwest influences my work a lot and makes me want to create things for the people here. I’m really glad to be back.