Urban Outfitters Graphic Designer Elise Nichols

Credit: @elise_nichols on Instagram

Q: Introduce yourself!

A: Hey, this is Elise. Winter and I met through an art show (Immersive Atoms) at UMD I helped bring to life. She created one of the most popular interactive pieces for the Fall show, which I photographed, and now gets mass-produced in all Urban Outfitters stores around the country, if not world! I honestly still can’t believe that last part! I think it’s so awesome how you’re working for Urban now, how did that all end up happening?

I’m in Philly working at Urban Outfitters HQ in the Navy Yard. It was probably because I interned with the Print team, and before that, I emailed the Executive Creative Director of the company and asked for a tour (only half expecting a response). I think I cried when I first got the internship, and then cried again when I got the job. Yes, I like my job. My manager went to UMD too and was in the same program as me. He’s one of the most talented designers I’ve met and happens to sit right behind me.


Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist professionally?

A: In terms of being an artist- yeah. How to do it? I didn’t know. I’m still looking for that answer. I think we all are. I don’t think people ever “settle” into their profession. But maybe being critical and eager to understand makes you a better designer/artist/whatever.

In school, I had that exact feeling, the feeling that things can always improve. Nothing’s ever perfect, and to achieve something, you can never be completely satisfied with what you’re doing. Who wants to spend their life satisfied? Will we all perpetually go to happy hour and watch Netflix for the rest of our days? (yeah). But maybe not. Maybe we’ll make some change to get where we need to go if we want to.  


A spread from a zine in progress and a cassette J-card. Credit: @elise_nichols on Instagram

Totally- that last part is something that I’ve learned in my personal life fairly recently. What was your experience like at UMD as an art student? I used to tell people I majored in “basket weaving" jokingly, but I think we both know it’s much more than that.

You know those professors who want you to succeed and they just get it? Those are the ones I liked in school. Once, one of my professors read my cover letter and reviewed all my application materials at 5 am before he drove to UMD, so I could continue working on an extremely short turnaround. He made me believe I could get this job and treated me like a professional adult. Another one of my professors showed me how to mount my work and how to sort out all the designs for my weekend interview in Philadelphia. She also told me she believed in me and that they would be crazy not to accept me. Another professor would wholeheartedly laugh at my designs and came to my art show on the opening night. All my professors supported me, and I think that played into where I’m at now.  

And one for the books would be Chip Richardson. I will never be able to thank him enough for all his help, constant banter, support, and optimism. He always knew I would be an artist, or an entrepreneur or a designer of some sort. There was never a dull moment, nor an ounce of disbelief.            

One other character and person more integral to my success was my boss when I worked at DOTS. Yeah, I didn’t have a car, so wrath hadn’t engulfed me. I was a designer there for a while and she completely took me under her wing and fully supported and believed in me. If you’ve never stayed after work to talk design with your boss, I would suggest spending at least five minutes with Courtney.


This design soon to be on a T-shirt! Credit: @elise_nichols on Instagram


Q: It sounds like you’ve had a plethora of inspiring and supportive professors at UMD, that’s amazing! What your dreams and goals as an artist?

A: Maybe to be completely independent and navigate the art world on my terms creating content that doesn’t have to be curated to specific audiences or customers. I love where I’m at right now because we get to create designs for many kinds of brands/events/environments, but I think it’s universal to want to coin your mark in the art or design world.

I’d agree when we met, and I was still pursuing graphic design, it was always my dream to be walking down the street and randomly have a bus or something pass me by with my design on it — kind of like unexpectedly hearing your song on the radio for the first time. The last question I want to ask you is if you have any advice for anyone in the creative field.

I think self-acceptance and self-exploration are essential, because art is often created through self-expression, and the better you understand what you believe in- or don’t believe in, the easier it will be to create that content. Another tip- take an f%ck*&@ marketing class. Or learn it on your own. It’s a competitive world. Artists need to understand how to market themselves, self-advertise, and can’t be afraid to put themselves out there. The University of Maryland has a lot of talented and bright students. I appreciate my education more now that I’m out of school. It doesn’t make sense to put that education to waste.