#Captain’sQuarters: Creative Strategist Nicole Martinez

The life of a creative generally has many twists and turns and changes in plans. Experimenting with varying mediums is almost guaranteed and this leads to something interesting: a multifaceted development.

A woman who exemplifies this wonderful amalgamation of talent is Nicole Martinez, creative strategist at Facebook and Instagram. The interactive art director and designer comes from sunny Miami and employs her trade in Manhattan. She even teaches in addition to creating brilliant content ranging from videos to illustrations to paintings.

We were fortunate enough to chat with Nicole about her influences, the creative process, coffee and why paint is her favorite medium.

Let’s kick it off! In an interview with the Artful Club you said you’re inspired by fashion and interior design blogs as well as a certain film by Michel Gondry. Which Gondry film is it [hopefully not Green Hornet] and what about it makes it so that you could watch it over and over?

 The Science of Sleep. It’s been a while since I watched that film, actually. But at the time of that article I was watching it pretty often. The handmade nature of it was really speaking to me at the time. Also, the way Gondry can visualize dreams in Science as well as Eternal Sunshine is absolute perfection. He brings his ideas to life in the most childlike but sophisticated way. It’s just rad. He is truly himself as an artist and director, and he gets paid the big bucks for it. The ultimate dream.

Sometimes it takes the right materials to kick off a creative process. Yours include coffee and music. So what kind of music gets your mind racing and what kind of color palettes do you see for certain genres?

 Music is so mood altering for me. The tempo and intensity can really kill or make my vibe. That’s probably why I’ve never been able to get into death metal. It’s too hardcore for me. I’m never at that level of rage. Perhaps someday if I need to get into that headspace for a design I’ll go there. Overall though I give all music a listen. It’s impossible to stick to one genre without missing out on all of the amazing sounds out there. And as for color, it doesn’t take a synesthete to see the colors in certain songs. Upbeat songs feel brighter and melancholy songs feel less saturated. It’s up to our interpretation as artists to decide which hues feel right though.

Makes sense! When it comes to your coffee, do you find that your inspiration changes depending on the type of brew you drink?

 Only when I put LSD in my coffee. Just kidding. Unfortunately coffee is just a way to make my eyelids not sag in the morning.

Onto Nerdy Dirties. You’re in good company here since we’re all nerds, but we’re curious as to what your nerdy guilty pleasure is and if you’ll be continuing the ND series.

 Nerdy Dirty is about to turn 6 years old [emoji shock face] so I probably won’t go back to that particular series, but it has been way too long since I illustrated a series and put it out in the world. Thanks for the reminder. I better get on that! And as for the guilty pleasure, I don’t like calling something a guilty pleasure because I feel zero guilt about enjoying the things I love, and well nerdiness is awesome so there’s nothing shameful about that! But I do have a Google spreadsheet of all of the artists and artisans I’ve found online organized by genre and linking to my favorite of their work. So I guess I nerd out on curating other people’s art for myself.

Dig the way you think! You’ve previously mentioned that your favorite artists are Frida Kahlo, Joan Miró and Aya Takano. What about these artists and their work captures your imagination?

 Frida Kahlo was self-taught and gave zero f***s about what anyone expected of her as a woman of that time. Her art is still provocative today. Miró is a master of composition. He was telling stories of struggle through gestures and color that range from super intricate to supremely simple. He was a baller. Aya Takano I love because she’s taken anime and turned it into fine art.

The saying “write to communicate, not to impress”  seems to be echoed by your work. How have you managed to keep it elegantly simple while still conveying your message?

 That’s a huge compliment. Thank you! Simplicity is so key in design. It’s difficult sometimes to know when to stop designing. And a lot of us occasionally fall into the trap of over-designing, and it really comes down to perfection anxiety. First of all, we expect great designs to take a while and that’s false. Sometimes you land on a great design very quickly. This is the most dangerous time because you have all this time to noodle and add unnecessary elements and muck it up. This is also why you shouldn’t charge by the hour for your designs. And second, because design is so subjective it’s tough to take a step away from your work and critique it yourself.

Your work spans a solid range of mediums from video to voiceover to illustration. Which is your favorite to create in and what other types of art would you like to explore in the future?

 My favorite will always be painting. It’s the most free medium for me. The most “art for art’s sake.” I’d love to start creating ceramics. It’s a great combo of sculpture, painting and functional art.

What was the inspiration behind your Hip-Hop Bakery? I know personally I’d go for the Wu-Tang Flan.

 It actually started with a photo of a Wu-Tang Flan that someone posted on Reddit. I thought to myself, I’d love to open a Hip Hop bakery in real life, but that’s not gonna happen any time soon. So I illustrated it!

What has it been like to work as a creative for Facebook and Instagram, and what have you picked up from collaborating with other top-notch creatives?

 Facebook and Instagram are constantly evolving. They are such incredible platforms for sharing creativity that working for the Creative Shop allows us to be inventive, which is every creative’s dream.

What was your first commission and how did it prepare you for your future work?

 I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember. It was probably a painting for my grandfather. I bet it was an abstract sunflower. I was obsessed with sunflowers. The 90s…

What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on, personal or commissioned, and what was your biggest takeaway from solving the puzzle it presented you?

 Can I be cheesy and say “my kid”? Ok besides that… I’ve had so many challenging design projects. Some were challenging because of the client. Some were challenging because of a lack of resources. Some were challenging because of an impossible request. In every challenging project though, whether the outcome is a success or total disaster, it’s good to do a post-mortem and evaluate what went wrong and what went right. That way you can repeat the good things and avoid the bad in future projects.

So you’re followed by President Obama on Twitter. What was it like getting that notification?

 Pretty damn cool!

What’s your go-to food when you’re in need of a pick-me-up?

 Cuban food or french fries.

Favorite super hero?


Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists and which artist would you be most keen on collaborating with?

 Jackie Tileston, Jen Stark, Anne Ten Donkelaar, and Zio Ziegler. I’d love to collaborate with Steven Meisel. Painting over one of his gorgeous high contrast portraits would be pretty fun.

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives that goes beyond being tenacious and finding your own artistic voice?

 Don’t be too proud to take advice. Feedback is a gift, even if you don’t like it. If someone is telling you something about your design is ugly or isn’t working, listen to them. You may not agree. You probably won’t agree at first. But taking feedback well and learning to let go of your ego will make you a better designer.

Finally we’d like to give you the floor to shoutout whomever and spread the love.

 Shoutout to Miami Ad School grads. The greatest school on earth.

And there you have it, folks! Once again we’ve come away with fantastic words of advice from an accomplished creative and learned more about the varying influences that help to produce brilliant works. We’ve even been introduced to some new artists, and that’s always a joy.

Make sure to follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter, Dribble, Behance and Pinterest to keep up with all her work and more, and thanks so much to Nicole for taking the time to chat with us.

Oy! I'm the Viral Pirate, but you can just call me "thepirate," savvy? I'm the moderator here on Viral Pirate and I collect, share, and write up the best booty -- news, media, etc. -- that can be found throughout the four corners of the World Wide Web!