Thomas Pregiato on how his dad's deli inspired his art direction career

With a CV that reads like a dream, we catch up with the art director about his introduction to the creative industry, his varied practice and his dad’s deli.

15 January 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read


Growing up in the countryside of upstate New York, Thomas Pregiato’s references for careers within the creative world were pretty much non-existent. “No one in my family was ever an artist or worked in the creative industry, I had no clue any jobs in the creative industry existed,” he says. “But as I look back at it, there were all these connections that point to the work I’m making now.” Today, Thomas works as an art director at Nike NYC, his practice revolving around crafting experiences across the worlds of fashion, music, sport, entertainment and technology.

As his focus is on art direction, Thomas’ portfolio is impressively vast, spanning several media and various outputs. Where one day he might be creating a faux late-night TV channel, the next he can find himself interviewing people to research the launch of a campaign. It’s this variety which draws him to his role, he explains: “I’d get way too bored if I focused on a single medium. Also, I look at design more as a skillset rather than a medium, it’s applicable across all of them.”

Looking back, Thomas tells us about his first encounter with creativity. “My dad has owned an Italian deli and seafood market since he was 18. He used to make these amazing hand-drawn signs for all the fish, meat and salads in his deli cases, I eventually started doing that for him while working there. He’d do all these insane impersonations of all his customers and make up these funny ass stories using them as characters. That stuff stuck with me, developing characters for the stories that drive my projects and doing voiceovers where I can.”

While this taught Thomas about narrative and connection, his technical ability came from his mother. “My mom had worked for Minolta before I was born, so we had some of those old over-the-shoulder VHS camcorders in my house that gave me a natural entry to handling a camera at a young age,” he says. Thanks to this, he eventually became “the nerd” in his circle of friends, as he puts it, always holding the camera. But it wasn’t until the year 2000, when his family bought their first computer, that his creative path was set. He describes this as a “gateway”, the place he discovered video editing, ripping music and the possibilities of the internet.


Thomas Pregiato

Thomas’ previous experience reads like a dream list for most creatives: Stink Studios, Apple, Google Creative Lab, This Also, Sagmeister & Walsh, Edelman, and Hi-ReS!. Before joining Nike, he freelanced for about six years, an experience he now understands as formative to both his process and output. “I’d get thrown on a bunch of different projects, some that I had no prior relevant experience for, which I think yielded the most interesting results,” he recalls. “I’d find myself proposing these crazy ‘what-if’ scenarios and connecting dots that didn’t exist yet. I’d stretch the brief or re-write it to give us the rationale to do something that still got us where we needed to go but took us down a completely different path. Sometimes that was problematic but 98 per cent of the time, it was seen as valuable and it led me to my current full-time position at Nike.”

At Nike, he works on everything “from the strategy to the idea to the execution, with no limits on what that execution could be,” he says. “The opportunities of being in-house at a brand like Nike are endless, it’s impossible to get bored.”

No matter what the project, however, something Thomas focusses on is having a hands-on approach. This could mean working with local communities to generate concepts or bringing in a practitioner from a different discipline to a project. In conclusion, he tells us why he thinks this is so important: “I’ve been thinking more about the responsibility creatives have to make work with a real purpose, especially those of us who work for or with massive brands.”

GalleryThomas Pregiato

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

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