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Meet Rich Nickel of Elevate Creative in Western Suburbs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rich Nickel.

Rich, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My first job when I came to Chicago was a draftsman at an engineering firm just west of the river. I loved the city, the Italian beef sandwiches, and all the activity – always so much to do! Eventually I discovered the world of advertising design and immediately knew that’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I studied Advertising Design at the American Academy of Art under Richard Shapiro, renowned watercolorist. I was already working at an advertising agency at the time, so he helped me see solutions for some of my real life clients. He taught me how to look at an assignment from multiple angles. The best design is rarely the first idea you have – you have to push yourself to think of other ideas.

After leaving my first agency job, I jumped in with both feet and went out on my own, starting a design agency called Rich Nickel Design. Clever huh?! It wasn’t long until I had a list of clients who kept me very busy. I developed relationships not only with my clients, but also a wide world of creative collaborators: illustrators, photographers, writers, printers, engravers, and so on. After a few years, it was time to move out of the house and get some real office space. And that’s when things really took off – the agency grew to a staff of seven and we landed bigger and bigger accounts – clients such as Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Fujifilm, Grainger, Kraft, and Quaker Oats. We produced projects from advertising to print, packaging, catalogs, exhibit design, promotions and other campaigns.

Today advertising design is better known as brand design, or brand marketing. A few years ago we rebranded ourselves to Elevate Creative to reflect a broader scope. But the same principles apply: you have to create compelling words and pictures to tell a story and motivate your audience.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
How much time do you have? I can’t imagine any business that doesn’t have obstacles to overcome. The stories are endless. We’re constantly riding the roller coaster of landing new accounts and trying to maintain cash flow along the way. We have kids and school and college and other life events that need our time and energy. So there’s a balance of life/work that’s important to manage. For us, a deadline is a deadline and we do what needs to be done to meet it without cutting any corners or sacrificing quality. While “heaven” is in the “aha” creative idea, the devil is in the details. That’s where you have to be thorough and dedicated to your craft. Too many design agencies these days think “good enough” is good enough.

Every project is an obstacle or challenge in some way – that’s the whole point. We are presented with a problem and our job is to find the solution. The most challenging is when you have a client that puts up needless roadblocks. We like to collaborate with our clients rather than constantly be in a state of conflict.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We’re brand creative. And that covers a lot of things. One day we might be creating a website, the next a brand identity, the next environmental graphics. We understand that everything is connected – when you think of your favorite brands you want your experience to be consistent from website, to social media, to digital and print advertising, store environment, email campaigns, etc. That’s what we do.

I believe we’re known as the agency that gets it done…and done right. Our clients know they can count on us to deliver. It frees them up to go about their business.

What were you like growing up?
I am the baby of the family. I have 3 sisters and one brother. He was the oldest and the 3 sisters were in between. Somehow I found satisfaction in making them all laugh. Sometimes they would take things so seriously and I would say or do something to jolt them into another way of looking at things. It was never mean, just punny, funny, and mostly annoying little brother stuff. But my mom and dad and everybody would laugh. In third grade I got an A+ in art class and brought the drawing home to show my mom. (It was of a horse and fence). She was sooooo proud of me. I still have that drawing because it encouraged me to draw more. My next A+ was a drawing of Abraham Lincoln and I have that too. I just always loved art classes, the photography club and anything creative and crafty.

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