Nikki Villagomez, a South Carolina Native, is a nationally recognized speaker on typography. After earning her BFA in Graphic Design from Louisiana State University, and a stint in New York City, she moved back to her home state to become a full time freelancer. In addition to founding the AIGA South Carolina chapter, Nikki has been an educator teaching Graphic Design and Typography at the University of South Carolina and the University of Akron. After working for four years in Ohio for Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, she relocated to the company headquarters in Charlotte, NC to serve as the Creative Studio Manager. In her free time, she writes about about how culture affects typography.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Inspiration has never been something I seek out; it is more about being acutely aware of my environment. I have found that it is really important for me to have a balance. If I’m able to achieve that balance on a regular basis, being inspired is there.
This became very apparent when I became an in-house designer. It took about two months for me to start realizing I needed an outlet. Being strapped to two typefaces and 13 Pantone colors day in and day out made me realize I needed a way to balance the structure of my job.
I started my blog which let me delve into the beautiful world of typography. Every morning, I get up early to research how culture affects typography and post my findings. This regularly gives me the balance I need at work. In addition to my blog, I have found that attending conferences like HOW, AIGA, TypeCon, and Creative Mornings has been incredibly valuable for inspiration and connecting with other graphic designers who have helped me along the way.
What advice would you give to your 20-something self?
Work hard and go after what you want. It sounds so simple but it is easy to go off course by the actions of others and getting caught up in change. Continue to set goals, both long term and short term, and stay focused on achieving those.
When did you first realize you wanted a career in design?
I had never heard of Graphic Design growing up. When I met with my Academic Advisor my first week in college, she asked me what I wanted to study. I told her that I was thinking about Art Therapy. She said LSU has a great program for that and showed me the curriculum. There was all this Science and Math that I had to take and I immediately said ‘No’. She then told me about this other program called Graphic Design and the curriculum included classes like Painting, Ceramics and Photography instead of Science and Math. That was it. I literally declared my major the first week I was at LSU and 5 years later received my BFA in Graphic Design.
You are not entitled to the fruit of your labor, you’re only entitled to the work itself.
What’s the harshest criticism you’ve ever received?
My senior year in high school, right when I found out I had received a full scholarship to play tennis in college, I was told by one of my teachers that I would only be known by my social security number and I’d never be able to balance sports and my education. That comment hit me hard but was determined to prove that I could do both—and I did! It was a great experience in that it taught me to not seek out approval or permission from others.