The Details + The Design feat. Nicholas Moegly

Mansfield Presents is about the adventurous spirit of individuals whose passion is their life’s work. 

Minimalism can be defined as the reduction of a design to its most basic and essential elements. Great minimalist design has always existed, but in the days of Massimo Vignelli, Paul Rand, Saul Bass and Milton Glaser, the accomplishments of these greats would often go unnoticed or under appreciated. With this resurgence in “minimalist” design, who many attribute to Apple’s popularity, the awareness and production of graphic design in general have grown tremendously as a result.

In this advent of simple design, however, Mansfield has been brought together with the very detailoriented, Nicholas Moegly.  Nicholas is an illustrator, graphic designer, and hand letterer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He designed the Mansfield logo that’s featured on our shirts and various places throughout the website. The intricacies of his designs pull you in to his thought process so that you can understand where he’s coming from.  He was so committed to our project in fact, that even after we gave him final approval on his design, he went back again and finessed it even more, simply because he wasn’t perfectly happy with it. That’s a true dedication to the art.

Check out our chat with Mr. Moegly about all things design, from inspiration to getting started, and getting in and out of design ruts.

Let’s start with the basics. Tell us about yourself!

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH and still live there today. I’m a full-time graphic designer that focuses on hand drawn designs. Design is really my main passion, but outside of design I love photography, pinball, root beer, and almost anything mid-century modern.

Tell us about the first time you realized art was what you wanted to dedicate your life to?

I’ve always loved anything artistic, whether it was design, photography, music, etc. I used to draw a lot in grade school – continued throughout high school, and in college I turned my attention more towards graphic design. I always loved it, but I don’t think I ever really thought it could be my career until I was in college. Design and art were always my hobbies, and I grew up thinking that hobbies and your passions were one thing and your job was another. It wasn’t until people started consistently hiring me for projects in college that I realized I could actually turn my hobbies into my career.

Graphic design plays such an important part in our visual history, can you tell us what you hope your role in history is when you look back? In other words, what would your ultimate goal be for you as it pertains to your passion?

I really just want my designs to stand the test of time. I think with the internet and social media culture of today – everything is just a flash in the pan or a fad. Styles go in and out and some things from 10 years ago look super dated already. I love seeing logos and marks from the early 1900’s to the 40’s that still hold up and look great next to something that was created today. I think all designers, including myself, get sucked into using some crutch of what’s cool at the moment to easily enhance their designs. I don’t feel like I need to be world-renowned or anything, I would love if some of my logos and prints were still around in 50 years and just held up as a solid looking designs.

Have you ever felt burnt out or uninspired? What did you do to get yourself out of the rut? Where and how do you look for inspiration?

I think every artist or designer has gone through phases of feeling burnt out. I’m actually just getting over about a 4-week span of not really creating anything I’m too happy with. I find that doing something new that I haven’t done before helps get me excited and thinking of fresh ideas. For example, I’ve never really worked on creating patterns before, so I’m currently designing a bandanna based off a repeated pattern that I made. Since I’ve been working on that I’ve been itching to put any free time I have into it, so it’s definitely helped kick start me again.

There are a ton of places I get inspiration from! I have an inspiration photo album in my phone and I’m constantly taking photos of things that I find or screen shots of things I see online. I love going to antique malls and finding cool old packaging and script logos. I also follow a lot of great designers on Instagram, and it’s almost overwhelming how much great work you can see just in a day.

Any artists that inspire you?

 I’m definitely inspired by a bunch of people, but to name a few that consistently deliver: David A. Smith, Jon Contino, Nathan Yoder, McKay Felt.

Your typography work is fantastic and appears to be such a big part of your success. Do you enjoy any other type of design or art?

I definitely do. Hand lettered designs was something that just seemed to come somewhat quickly to me, and I received a decent response from it, so that kind of took the front seat for awhile. I love illustrating as well though, and that’s something I’m always trying to work on and get better at. I actually look up to illustrators more than I do to anyone who just does hand lettering. I also love photography – in fact, photography was probably my first serious passion in the world of art. In the past 6 months I’ve gotten into sign painting and gilding as well. I’m taking a class in September that I’m way stoked about from David A. Smith, who is a world-renowned sign painter from England.

For someone who is just getting into the profession and feeling insecure or experiencing “writer’s block”, what would you tell them?

I know the feeling of getting into something new and seeing how good other people are and just wanting to get there so badly. Everyone has to go through that period, and that period in time is where you’ll learn who you are and what your style is as an artist or designer. Also, people need to remember that everyone who is just starting out at something is going to be bad at it, that’s what being new at something is. I was really bad when I first started because I was new at it. Over the course of a few years I got better because I had logged the time and practice into it. So just remember that nobody starts out being great.

What are some of the things you would tell something just getting into graphic design. What are some of the unexpected positives and negatives?

Being a graphic designer for a living is still surreal to me, and it’s crazy to think that I make my living drawing, and playing around in Photoshop and Illustrator. One of the best things about being a graphic designer is the breadth of things you get to work on. One month you may be designing a website, the next month you’ll create a logo, the next month you’ll illustrate a gig poster, and the next month you could be designing a billboard. That’s one of the huge perks about the job is that you can apply your skill in so many ways, so keep yourself open to any kind of project. One of the unexpected negatives is with that breadth of work you’ll find that the really fun projects often don’t pay that much, and the projects that aren’t that fun do pay well. So you do have to find the right balance of projects to make a living and keep your interest peaked.

You get an assigment. What’s your process?

The first thing I do is decide if the project seems like a good fit for me. I really try to not take on any projects that I’m not truly excited about. If I’m not into the project then I won’t give my full attention and energy, and that’s unfair to the client. If I decide to take the project on I first talk about inspiration and the overall style they’re looking for. This helps me wrap my head around what the project may end up being and looking like.

I start by creating an inspiration gallery just to keep myself on track for the overall look and feel. I then begin drawing a bunch of really rough pencil sketch concepts. These take me around 10 – 15 minutes each and are really done to get ideas for layout and structure of the logo or design. Some of these are good, and some are bad, but the idea is just to get out as many iterations of the design I can think of. I then share these rough ideas with the client to get some initial reactions from them. We typically narrow down to 1 or 2 concepts that I then start to flesh out.

The large majority of my work is all hand drawn with pencil and pen, but on some really large-scale projects I will use my Cintiq tablet to draw in Photoshop or Illustrator. Once the design is looking pretty good on paper I will share it with the client and make any adjustments based on their feedback. When the design is approved I’ll scan it into the computer, clean it up, vector it, and send it out the door.

What was your favorite project to work on? Why was it your favorite?

It’s tough to pick a favorite, because I’ve had a lot of fun working on a bunch of projects. I would say my favorite projects are the prints that I make for my online store. There are no barriers or restrictions to what I can do, and I love being able to screen print my own work. It’s also always really cool to know that your work is hanging up in someone’s house across the world.

Do you prefer being on the client-side or agency-side? Howcome?

 There are definitely advantages to both, but if I had to choose I would say working freelance directly with clients is my favorite. Working for agencies is great because you get to work on huge projects and large brands that I as a single designer would probably never get to work on. You also get to work with people who are better than you, or have ideas you don’t. However, working on freelance projects by yourself is really satisfying because you know that you own the project completely. If the project turns out great, or if it turns out bad, it’s because of you, and having that ownership of something is really rewarding.

If it wasn’t graphic design, what would be your next passion?

Photography is probably what I would do if I weren’t a designer. I used to be really into portraiture and shot pretty steadily for 3 years or so. I still love photography and I’ve found a way to incorporate it into my design career with how I display and photograph my work. Just in the past year or so I’ve started getting serious about photography and displaying my work in a specific way (which you can see on my Instagram). It’s really a great mix of everything I love, which is design, photography, and old trinkets I find at antique malls.

Did you ever want to give up on being a designer? What was it that kept you going and made you not want to give up on your passion?

I’ve honestly never felt like I wanted to give up as a designer. There are definitely times where I look at other great designers and think that I’ll never get to that point, but that’s usually followed pretty quickly by a fire being lit under me to try harder. I never planned on becoming a designer, even in college I went to school for marketing, not design. When I got out of school the first place to hire me full-time was a design studio. Maybe because I always thought of design as a fun hobby until 20 or so, but it’s still just all icing on the cake for me. I’m still just super grateful that this is what I get to do for a living.

Any shout outs you want to give?

Sure! A huge thanks to Mansfield for being one of the great companies that has hired me. I love when people have a drive and actually do the things most people only dream of doing. Also, a big thanks to all the folks that follow my work and support me on social channels like Instagram. I love that people aren’t afraid to reach out to other people and tell them they like what they’re doing. I don’t think that happens enough in every day life, where we just stop for 2 seconds and tell someone we appreciate what they’re putting out there.

You can check out more of Nicholas Moegly’s work on his website and on instagram

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All Photos Courtesy of Nicholas Moegly.

Follow @NICHOLASMOEGLY on instagram.