Nikko Gary on how he places the personal inside design
Born in New Jersey and now based out of Brooklyn, multidisciplinary designer Nikko Gary has a lot to offer for the world of graphic design
- Joey Levenson
- 16 June 2021
Colourful, bold, and diverse choices is what marks out Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary graphic designer Nikko Gary as one to watch. Spanning from commercial, to creative, to case studies, Nikko’s work is impressively diverse whilst still maintaining a certain distinctive cohesive style. Namely, Nikko likes work where the graphics can excite him as much as the message behind them. “The ability to conceptualise and execute various ways of messaging, artwork and style frames for both static or motion imagery really excites me, especially because the possibilities are endless,” he tells It’s Nice That. Mixing mediums for his designs is something that has been with Nikko since the start of his career. Originally primarily interested in film, Nikko studied film and media at university but found himself continuously drawn to the more graphic elements of his video projects. “At the time I didn’t realise it, but focusing on elements such as composition, layout, type and collage were actually graphic design components.” It was this attention to the graphics in videography that landed him a way in with various fashion and music brands such as Boiler Room, Champ Magazine, HighSnobiety, and Verdy. Working as a videographer, Nikko tells us that the nature of these brands “enabled me to explore more experimental, graphical video pieces versus traditional narrative films.”
Now Nikko is always approaching a design brief from a mixed-medium point of view. His background in film “constantly informs” his process and concepts, and vice versa. But most interestingly, it is his own social relations and interests that inform most of Nikko’s design work. “I draw inspiration from a multitude of things: the television shows I’m watching, my friends and family, NTS radio, and even my newfound interest in interior decorating,” he says. It’s evident in Nikko’s portfolio, as each piece pulsates with a vivid personality, no matter if for a brand or simply a work done for himself. “I think being inspired by things outside of the graphic design realm allows me to approach my work with a different perspective,” Nikko explains. “The various case studies I have featured on my site all reflect hobbies or interests of mine that I can share with the world.”
One of Nikko’s latest projects is with creative company Buck, where he took part in a social media rollout that showcased artwork from different artists honouring Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy for MLK Day 2021 in the United States. “The brief was fairly open and allowed us each to have our own approach,” Nikko tells us, referencing the personal approach he took to this project. “Whether it was visiting antique stores or relatives' homes, I wanted to portray the experience of sorting through piles of civil rights memorabilia such as stamps, pushback pins and newspaper clippings,” Nikko describes. The rich material artefacts of the civil rights era which were readily available to Nikko culminated in a beautiful final cacophony of sticker-like images scattered together. “I wanted to capture the abundance of a chaotically organised pile,” clarifies the designer.
Nikko’s case studies are also greatly fascinating, and two in particular centre around tote bags – a known vice for visual creatives everywhere. “I’ve been collecting tote bags since 2015,” says Nikko on his project Too Many Totes!. “I tend to collect totes that have an interesting design or shape. The totes I’ve collected have served as helpful inspiration for a lot of my work.” Starting during the isolation of the recent pandemic, Nikko took all 29 of his tote bags and photographed them all, “which culminated in a digital catalogue.” As for the visual inspiration, Nikko once again turned to the personal, and tells us he became “inspired by the photocopied worksheets I’d get in elementary school” to create a DIY low-res effect to the images. It was also this fascination with tote bags which led him to create a beautiful case study for Dashwood Books, envisioning a tote bag “that represented their in-store experience.”
But, as for what’s next in Nikko’s growing career in design (both graphic and interior), he tells us he hopes to “continue learning and creating within and beyond the vast field of design.” It’s an exciting idea we know Nikko will surely manifest into something creative and unique unto him. “Finding myself at the intersection of film and graphic design has been revelatory, and I’m excited to see what other convergences are possible in my work.”
Nikko Gary: JUNETEENTH Posters (Copyright © Nikko Gary, 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.