Q&A with Nicolette Cornelius

To continue our series on getting to know the team at Orange Element, I recently sat outside on a beautiful afternoon with Nicolette Cornelius, Associate Design Director. Below, she shares a few of her favorite things, a peeve, and some advice for designers just getting started with their careers.

NOW: Nicolette in Harbor East

Aaron Moore: To get started, can you share a few of your favorites? Favorite colors?
Nicolette Cornelius: Oooh…black and white. They go with everything.

AM: Favorite fonts?
NC: I like pairing a chunkier serif with a nice versatile (and light) sans serif. In a recent project for AIGA, I really enjoyed the combination of Merriweather and Open Sans.  

AM: Favorite food?
NC: I am on the constant search for the best burger and fries. Best burger in Baltimore (so far) is the one at Red Star. Plus, their sweet potato fries are from a different world.

AM: I don’t like it when people drag their feet. The sound of heels dragging is irksome to me. Do you have any pet peeves?
NC: The first one that comes to mind is when people lick their fingers after eating. It kills me when I sometimes catch myself doing this after eating a bunch of sticky honey BBQ wings.

Favorite view in Baltimore: Canton Waterfront Park
Favorite snack: Starbucks Iced Green Tea (unsweetened) & a Peanut Butter Perfect Bar

AM: What do you love most about Baltimore?
NC: I love all of it. I would say being on the water is my favorite part. (I’ve discovered that I am happiest near water.) Plus, there are endless places to do things with friends. It’s a culturally rich city.

AM: There are so many places from which we all draw inspiration. I find it hard sometimes to know exactly where it’s going to come from. Have you been able to identify a few points of inspiration—resources, practices, activities, etc.?
NC: I like to read a lot. I usually start every day with a slew of Medium articles—topics that cover everything from design thinking to management/leadership, and self-improvement. It’s all over the place and I really enjoy the ritual.

For creative inspiration, I like looking through Behance—it is rich with inspiration.

AM: What are your favorite types of projects?
NC: The really complex ones. The ones that involve a lot of problem solving and systematic thinking. Two examples, both carrying different challenges, would include a complex website where you have to design a UI/UX system that works across an entire site and all platforms. The second is looking at a magazine or publication and analyzing content types and deciding how users will benefit from receiving information—from page to page, and issue to issue.

Favorite OE memory: Celebrating OE's 10 Year Anniversary in NOLA

AM: I stole one of your questions from your interview with Hannah because I liked it. What three words would you use to describe yourself?
NC: 1) Goal Oriented; 2) Honest (maybe too much so sometimes); and 3) Curious

AM: What are you working on at Orange Element (now or recently) that you have really enjoyed?
NC: I am really excited about the new Horizon website. We had the chance to showcase amazing work by a great group of people. We were able to develop and present a design solution that could tell their story and really highlight the qualities of each of their building projects. The design feels secondary to me—really allowing for their work to be front and center—which makes this one a success.

THEN: Nicolette & chair of the MICA Graphic Design program, Brockett Horne, at Graduation Day 2010

AM: What’s a piece of advice you might give to a designer that is just getting their career started?
NC: Ask all of the questions. Hold on—what I mean here is that new designers are sometimes intimidated to ask questions. I’m not talking about the easy ones you can figure out on your own if you just give yourself a chance. I’m talking about the questions that have answers that require design-thinking and experience. We are surrounded by teammates with different types (and levels) of experience.

We can all benefit, learn and grow if we aren’t afraid to work together. Learn as much as you can by not being afraid to use these people. If you trust them, and they trust you, the questions will lead to better understanding and hopefully a better experience.

So, there you have it folks—the inside scoop from Nicolette. For your next design project, hopefully you will consider more black and white in your palette and chunkier serifs. And do Nicolette a favor by grabbing an extra stack of napkins if you get together for lunch with her!