#WinningWednesday: Balancing Studio by Day, Freelancer by Night

By Kathleen Burns , Dec 10 2014

Featured Image: Behance/Nicholas Ely

Nicholas ElyIf you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
“Go outside and make more mistakes, you lazy, terrified child.”

Nicholas Ely fell into a career in graphic design while he worked in theater after school. It was a hobby – he didn’t have a solid plan after graduation. But designing posters for theater shows aided Nicholas to find his true passion; designing posters and other promotional material in the design industry.

Nicholas Ely

Website | Linkedin | Twitter | Instagram | Behance

The creative drive that a designer has is driven largely by their imagination and their confidence in their skills and the field they are working in. Nicholas chose promotional design because it allowed him the freedom to play with his skills and explore ideas which would otherwise not fit a creative brief.

Dennis Kelly’s Orphans produced by BlueFruit Theatre in 2013

“I tried for weeks and weeks to figure out “Orphans”, and I have a great relationship with the director so we were happy to go back and forth about a hundred times. Then one morning, I’d slept about two hours and she called me and as I was trying to remain conscious on the other end of the line, this vision of a place-setting surrounded by knives miraculously appeared in my head”


“ It was just such a perfect way to capture that play, and I’d always wanted to try something like Saul Bass.”

John Logan’s Peter & Alice produced by Independent Theatre

“Peter & Alice” was a colossal job, and I didn’t have very long to do it. It’s a story about a meeting between the two real-life figures who inspired the characters of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.”


“At the end of 2013 when I was preparing a company’s playbill for 2014 (long before I had begun work on the poster), I made little icons for each show and I found a neat way to promote that play – he flies, she falls. But as I started to create the poster, we realized we needed something a little more spectacular, so I began to create this fairly elaborate fantasy in 3d, housed inside a giant watch (since both stories, and indeed the play itself deal intrinsically with time).”


Battling self-consciousness vs. Operating on the cusp

When it comes to design, Nicholas wages a careful balancing act of a day job in a studio and working as a freelancer at night. Not only does this require a large commitment to sitting in a chair all day long, but it is essentially working two jobs, which runs the risk of a creative burnout!

This is not a lifestyle that many designers would choose to live, however Nicholas has pulled it off so far! Although working his two jobs has brought him to make interesting comparisons between studio work and freelancing.

“I’m much more self-conscious in the studio. Freelancing, operating on the cusp, gives you more room for that I think, to delve a little further into the substance of the work. And for me, that’s very much the root of my creative process, just knowing what it’s all about. But that can take time. These days I’m just trying to find the most irreducible way to express whatever requires expressing.”

Have you worked more than two jobs before? Did you stress out or survive it?

All images: nicholasely.com

About The Author

Kathleen is a New Jersey blogger with an interest in brand design and a passion for graphic design, illustration, and social media. She loves to deliver inspiration to others to give them the means to achieve their branding and design goals.

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