Nicci Martin is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator who works from her home studio in Johannesburg. Although her venture into freelance design only began in 2013, she has had a long history of design work and art direction. Nicci initially studied graphic design at AAA and after graduation began work at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris. She has since worked as an art director at Ogilvy Johannesburg for two years and then at DDB in Prague for four years. On her return to South Africa she began lecturing 3rd year visual communications at Vega for five rewarding years before opting for a more flexible career path.
Due to a wealth of new design ideas, broad experience and supportive friends in the industry Nicci has been commissioned by a range of clients over the past year or so working on anything from illustrated prints to designing characters to distilling information into fun infographics. Being able to do what she loves mostly on her own terms is a key advantage that has come with the career shift, along with having more time for her two young kids.
Nicci’s design process involves starting with as much research as possible on the brief topic and the brand, letting ideas stew for a day or two noting down thoughts and ideas and then sketching out the winning concept on paper before taking it to the computer where the intricate work begins. Her work style involves getting inspiration from other illustrators and artists she admires. Currently, she says, “I’m mostly inspired by the pioneers of the low brow art movement – such as Mark Ryden, Joe Sorren (who I was super fortunate enough to spend the day with while in New York last year), Miss Van, Yoshimoto Nara, Tim Biskup, Victor Castillo – to name just a few”. Having two small kids she has also recently come to admire films and books that are animated and illustrated for children, “illustrators like Marc Boutavant, Jon Klassen, Renata Liwska as well as classic artists such as Charlie Harper, Theodor Seuss Geisel (or just Dr. Seuss) and of course the amazing Ralph Steadman.”
About her vector designs Nicci says “my illustration style has evolved a lot in a short space of time as I now work predominately in vectors as opposed to when I first started and worked in ink; I soon found out that vectors are much faster to edit and that it is a more preferable look for commercial clients”. She is open to her design aesthetic adapting but hopes in the next year or so she will be able to hone a specific, memorable style for herself.
Nicci truly takes delight in her work; from the initial research and brainstorming of ideas to presenting the final product. For her, “the most enjoyable part is capturing or communicating the complexities of the human spirit inside an engaging two dimensional character or capturing these same complexities into anything anthropomorphic”.