Designer Q&A: Nancy Qian Wolcott
Updated: Jun 14, 2018
Nancy: Nancy Qian Wolcott
From: Grew up in Shanghai, then Los Angles, and now the Bay Area
What is your earliest creative memory?: Doodling with my cousins, practicing drawing by copying all the calendar art in our house What is the path that led you to design?: I just loved spending time reading fashion magazines growing up–I’m drawn to all the creative ways a magazine conveys stories through graphics and photography. At the same time, I find myself really enjoying the time creating art in art courses. It’s so therapeutic to get lost in a piece of art work. My cousin-in-law was taking graphic design courses when I was in middle school and she showed me how art can be translated into design and how design can be a tangible career path.
Career in a nutshell?: I’ve worked in advertising pretty much my whole career. Half of it was mostly dedicated to the skincare e-commerce space and the other half is education tech. Starting from a production artist at a boutique agency and then in-house print and web designer, and currently a lead designer at Chegg for various marketing campaigns on two business units.
The key to good design: A good design communicates effectively together with the usage of color, type, photography and art. You shouldn’t have to take too long to figure out what it’s trying to convey. The user should never have to guess if it’s a cat or dog. All the design elements should be simple but significant. If you take out an element, does the story change? To take the design to the next level is when you’ve captured viewer’s emotion. Does it speak the same language as your audience? Using the right voice and tone and design decisions can create an emotional bond with the viewers. What piece of work are you most proud of? My favorite work has to be a series of emails I created for Chegg’s back to school campaign last fall. We were in the middle of rebranding and the team wanted to make our fall campaign consistent with the rebrand. The new look is more colorful with minimal background to create a more positive and inspirational vibe. There are plenty of brands out there that also have this similar look and I wanted to make sure our campaign doesn’t just blend in. I ended up making these visual metaphors for each email that still adhere to the brand guideline but are unique enough so they don't associate with a different brand. I chose food as a theme with textbooks as visual metaphors. The imagery is super fun and fresh, but still relatable to students.
What has been your biggest influence? Joy Cho from OhJoy. Just seeing her carving out her path has ben so inspirational. She’s able to translate her work onto so many different medias, from traditional graphic design like packaging design to interior design like vases, pillows, and even neon lights. How would you classify your style? I think my aesthetic has been clean and modern with some elements of whimsy. I like to surprise my users in an engaging way, whether it’s through photography/design elements or copy. Who is your favorite designer? This is a tough one. I have so many. I guess at the moment, I’m into designers that aren’t in the traditional sense. They evolve and can design on different mediums. I’m digging Aakash Nihalani’s work. It’s super interactive—with people, space, and geometric shapes, sometimes it even has motion. I’m already already seeing it being an influence as visual in advertising space.
What advice would you give to designers who are just starting their career? "Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle. "- Jon Acuff. The current culture is to have everything at your finger tips and I think people forget that it takes a lot of handwork and behind the scenes. Slow down and appreciate the process to get where you want to be. It takes sweat and tears, time and dedication for a lot of the successful people out there even though you don’t really get to see that side on social media.
What would you like to accomplish by the end of your career? I would love to have developed my own line of lifestyle products, whether on my own or a collaboration with a respected brand. If my products can brings whimsy and joy to my users on a daily basis, then it’s a success to me. Where can people learn more about you? At the moment, on Instagram @andNancysays. My current pet project is fashion styling + photography. I’v been spending my weekends capturing 1-3 outfits and express myself through photography + editing.