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Turning Passion into a Career

by Taylor Slattery | December 8, 2021

Our Senior Director of Admissions Jessica De La Garza recently caught up with Sessions AOS in Advertising Design student Nicholas Morgan to discuss his experience studying online during the pandemic, and his approach to finding creativity outside of the classroom. In this interview, Nicholas talks about maintaining a career while attending school and offers advice for future students.

Q: What inspired you to study design and advertising?

I have always loved T-shirt and shoe designs and always had a lot of ideas for designing things like that on my own. I also have always been drawn to color and images for things I am interested in and dreamed of being involved in the process. In addition to all that, I developed a love for photography as well. All these things were inside me, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it all.

Luckily, I have an older cousin who made a name for himself in the advertising world, working with AT&T, the U.S. Airforce, Dell, Walgreens, Wild Turkey Whiskey, Dodge, and more. He was the only person I had ever known in my life to make a living as a creative, and it certainly planted a seed in my head. That said, one of the biggest driving forces behind my decision to study Advertising Design was to finally give myself the push to be creative and to get into the uncharted waters I’ve always wanted to explore.

Q: What led you to study online?

When I first started college, I was working on the road with some pretty crazy hours. I worked for a hydro-testing company and lived on the road—usually working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. I was looking for a way to be able to go back to school while traveling. The advantages of this type of schooling include being able to pursue something I had always wanted to do and being able to take that first step while still working.

Q: Your student advisor, Mike, let me know that you’ve managed to hold down a full-time job and travel for work while still doing really well in your classes. Kudos to you! How do you manage the work/life/school balance?

Thank you! It was pretty tough at first to be honest. By the time I got home, I was usually too tired to even open my laptop. However, being able to study something that I’m genuinely interested in always gave me the motivation to knock out my work as best I could. I also ended up leaving the job last year during the pandemic and started working from home. That made a huge difference.

I was very lucky that I was in a position when COVID hit to be able to afford to live and focus on my studies at the same time. Since I was already doing my schoolwork online, there was no real adjustment period as far as the pandemic goes.

Q: What do you find exciting and creatively challenging about doing design projects?

I love the feeling of being excited to make something. Once I have an idea and I start to see it take form, I become so proud of what I’m creating. That is a very addictive feeling. Also, name a greater feeling than seeing your work that you’re proud of out in the world knowing others are seeing it as well.

I would say the most creatively challenging aspect of design projects is creating something that I am not interested in. At these times, I find I have to reach inside myself to find some sort of spark and passion in order to create something great.

Q: Biggest improvement in your work?

I feel that the biggest improvement in my work has been the sharpening of my creative eye. Looking back at how I used to start a project when I first started these courses versus where I am now, I can notice a major difference. I can also mention a change in my work flow and just a general understanding of design philosophies as well, but overall, feeling myself become more confident and able to use my eye for art in a more refined way has been the biggest improvement with my work in general.

Q: What do you do to overcome “artist’s block”?

When artists’ block hits, reading and playing music help the most for me. A good hike on the weekend can also clear the mind. I am also an avid indoor rock climber, and a good workout always leaves me ready to create something. I try to be careful about what I intake these days, as there are an awful lot of things out there that are not necessarily healthy for a creative brain.

Q: Who is an artist or designer that you look up to?

Here lately I have been very inspired by Salehe Bembury. He is a designer that is most known for his sneaker designs. He is insanely talented, and markets himself in a unique way in that creative climate. I actually managed to get a pair of his shoes during one of his sneaker drops lately and was very excited. An honorable mention goes to Jerry Lorenzo who is the designer for Fear of God, an amazing clothing brand that once again markets themselves in a very interesting and exciting way.

Q: What advice would you give someone pursuing their education online?

I would say to be very aware of the pros and cons. Depending upon the school system, it can either be very challenging or a genuinely good time. Some people need one-on-one support and to be able to physically interact with their instructors, so obviously online schooling would not be for them. However, if you’re someone who can solve a lot of problems on their own and is mildly tech savvy, completing schooling online is a breeze.

Q: Outside of school, are there any projects you’re working on (for fun or professionally)?

Outside of school, I have a few different projects actually. Getting my creative juices flowing through Sessions gave me the courage to start freelancing, and I started my own brand called Subtlety Studios. Under that name, I do graphic design work and photography, which I have enjoyed very much. Even though freelancing can be quite a challenge. I am also a musician and have been writing songs and starting to record my first album. Finally, my girlfriend and I have been working on launching a pop-up sausage dog stand, and I have been creating content for that. All in all, I am trying to stay busy and am succeeding!

Q: Where can people find your work or follow you on social media?

You can find my work at SubtletyStudios.com. I have a ton of work I will be uploading soon, so keep an eye out if you are interested! I have an Instagram for Subtlety Studios as well, but I am not much of a social media person… So, I should probably get on that…

Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.