Nicole Willer - Collecting Information and Inspiration and Salty Sea Captains

Anna van Slee interviews her colleague, Nicole Willer, Sr. Product Designer, at Marbles, the Brain Store. I’ve visited the Marbles headquarters a number of times and we’ve interviewed one of the co-founder, Scott Brown. They have a great operation and continue to grow because of great team members like Nicole. 


What is a typical day like for you, at Marbles: The Brain Store?

My work environment is a little unorthodox.  I usually start the day by warmly greeting my team and then immediately leaving to get a cup of coffee.  After that, I return to my seat, review my To-Do list, and choose which tasks to tackle for the day.  If the tasks are graphic design related, I usually go to work finding art inspiration; if the tasks are product design related, I usually go to work discovering how to maximize the best parts of the product.  My "task tackling" continues for the rest of the day; interrupted only by important things like strategy meetings, new inventor game pitches, field trips, and lunch.

What is your favorite Pantone for 2015?

Because it goes with everything: Pantone Black C

As an experienced designer, what advice would you give newbies, just starting out in their careers?

Collect knowledge.  It doesn't have to be academic knowledge, just any knowledge that applies directly to you.  For me that means: new trends, new materials, new manufacturing processes, distinct art styles, client information guides, images of designs that inspire me to be better, and numerous reaction GIFs that can be used in almost any e-mail situation.

What did you have for lunch today?

An everything bagel with avocado, tomato, cucumber, red onion, cream cheese, and salt

Is a 20-something, what advice would you give designers who've been in the field for multiple decades?

Share your knowledge.  All the tips, tricks, and legal vagaries you've mastered over the years are impressive: good designers will recognize that and want to learn from you; great designers will want to collaborate with you.

If you were sending someone to your desk at work (and you weren't going to be there), how would you describe it to them? How would they know it was yours?

Here goes: My desk is in the Marbles Brain Workshop, an area of Marbles HQ behind a half-wall that's been lovingly topped with a cardboard castle.  Behind this wall you'll find that the whole creative team shares a desk, or rather an old conveyor belt that's been topped with sheets of acrylic.  My section of the desk is in the middle.  I would describe it as: the most organized and least personalized of bunch.  On the left is my required office phone; on my right, my general office supplies and a tiny container of bubble solution.  There is also a large cutting mat in the center.

What do your favorite shoes look like?

The soles are rubber, because I may need to walk through puddles near live power lines.  The upper is durable, water-proof, and soft to the touch.  The heel counter is 1/4" below my ankle, because my ankle skin is embarrassingly delicate.  The laces and tongue do not exist, as I do not have time for those things.  The insoles are bordering on orthopedic, because walking on a cloud should be for everyone.  The color is probably black.

What people, places or things do you look to for inspiration?

Overbearing Tiger moms, Sub-Saharan Africa, and awkward silences... but if those fail: online (at sites like The Dieline, Cool Hunting, Behance, and Trend Hunter), in catalogs (like HOW and Communication Art), in books (like most of the Penguin Press and Chronicle Books publications), and with potential customers (i.e. anyone!).

If you could have any accent in the world, which one would you pick?

British: so I could sound like a trustworthy academic at work, a well-mannered lady on dates, and a salty sea captain in my own home.

If you had to tattoo one mantra across your back, what would it say and what font would it be in?

I'm still considering my opinions here, but I feel like Emma Watson's Pinterest page will definitely direct the final decision.


Thanks, Nicole, for a great interview!