We had the good fortune of connecting with Nancy Bratton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nancy, what role has risk played in your life or career?
For me a certain amount of risk taking is a necessary step to have new opportunities, to grow my business, and to learn. Early on in my business I realized that I would have to let go of the comfortable steady on-site freelance work from other design firms in order to be available for my own clients, to focus on their needs and to have time to market my own business. I had to have confidence that losing money in the short-term would be more profitable and more satisfying in the long-term (which it was).
In my personal life taking chances and stepping outside of my comfort zone is necessary to avoid stagnation, to stay creative and curious, and to have fun adventures. There was a period in my life where I struggled with chronic anxiety. One of my worst experiences was having a panic attack as I was boarding an international flight. After that I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to travel again and that my world would shrink. Instead I continued let my curiosity drive me and accepted any bad feelings, fear, and failure along the way, whether that was solo traveling to Iceland, taking a trapeze class, or walking onto a stage in front of thousands of people.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
While my core creative practice is graphic design I also do photography, furniture design, and illustration. These past couple of years my love of architecture and experience working for museums on exhibition graphics, has led me into Experiential Graphic Design. I love finding ways to incorporate my different creative interests into each project and collaborating with architects and interior designers on 2D wall graphics and 3D art installations gives me a chance to experiment, to think conceptually and out of the box.
My most recent pursuit is public art. I’m really excited about a concept for a large public art sculpture for a park in Denver that was shortlisted. While it wasn’t selected for the final, I’m still proud of myself for jumping into that work and learning about the process along the way.
I’ve learned that I’m the happiest when I’m creating something and that I don’t have to have a career with a narrow definition. I can define myself as a hybrid creative professional and can keep adding or changing my professional interests.
It was not easy to get to the point where I felt successful by making a living doing work that I found fulfilling. I was really discouraged the first 7 or so years out of college with jobs that weren’t creative and with poor working conditions. Due to working too many hours I lost sight of my social life, mental health, and artist talent. I’ve learned to push through difficult situations, try hard to improve them, but then to trust my gut on when it’s time to break away.
When I’m feeling stuck with my career path or big life decisions, I think of doing short experiments to make it more fun and less daunting, such as taking a temporary volunteering job to explore a new field or environment, or living in Denver and San Francisco for a month at a time to get to get an idea of daily life before committing to a big move.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Here are just a few of my favorite places that I would take a visiting friend: -Botanic Gardens on York st., stopping first at The Copper Door for coffee.
-Biking on Cherry Creek trail to Meow Wolf, afterwards continuing to Little Man ice cream in Lo-hi.
-Strolling through Baker neighborhood to check out the charming houses
-the Denver Art Museum (the restored Martin Building by architect Gio Ponte reopens the end of October.
-Stem Ciders in Lafayette
-Ghost tour around Capitol Hill and Cheesman Park
-Hike in Boulder, the Fern trail, afterward getting a bite at the Rosetta Food Hall
-Mural tour in Rino and a bite at Central Market, Third Culture Bakery & Matcha Cafe, or happy hour at Mr. Osa
-Visiting the new Rino Art Park
-Getting a cardamom bun and coffee at the Swedish cafe, Kaffe Landskap, then hopping on a train to quaint old town Arvada
-Getting out of town on Bustang to Salida or Estes Park
-Hiking on the Enchanted Forest Trail in Golden and then stopping in Golden after for a $1 scoop of ice cream at Old Barrel Tea Company
-Take bus to El Dorado for cross country skiing lesson at their Nordic Center
-vintage shopping on South Broadway
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to thank a previous boss who closed the graphic design studio where I was working many years ago. Beforehand I didn’t have the confidence to work for myself, but once I was laid off, I started taking contract jobs which built my confidence and helped me to find my own voice.
I’d also like to thank my colleagues at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. They were my first client. Seventeen years later I still love working with them and the other museum clients that derived from that original contact.
Instagram: nancybrattondesign and Nancy__creates