5 Q’s with Nicholas Huggins

Here at ACLA architecture, we value the vast array of work that local designers and creatives of Trinidad and Tobago contribute to our dynamic culture and society. In this 5 Q’s feature we chatted with Nicholas Huggins on his awe inspiring illustrations and work in graphic design + branding.

It is very clear that Nicholas has a strong vision and passion for what he does. Nicholas Huggins, from Trinidad and Tobago, attended SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from 2009-2013. He then returned to Trinidad where he offered his distinctive skills at McCann, Port-of-Spain. He’s now an award winning graphic designer, founder and creative director at Backyard Design Co. His company consists of a versatile team of professionals where they specialise in creative design, branding and packaging, allowing their clients businesses to fully bloom. Some of their well known projects are ‘Ortinola Great House Dark Chocolate’, ‘Cedros Bay Cosmetics’ and ‘Berties Pepper Sauce’ to name a few. Nicholas is also the founder & creative lead of Deftment, a lifestyle Caribbean clothing brand. 


ACLA architecture: Living in Trinidad and Tobago, would you say your context has had any influence on your work?

Nicholas Huggins: It definitely has. The colours, the shapes, the overall personality of the people and the places… all of these things add to my work. My first job was as an in-house designer for a food franchise and the office was in Caroni. Every day while stuck in traffic I would take reference photos of any and everything to use in my illustrations as well as to build a library of colors and color palettes. Vendors, fete signs, old buildings, new buildings, trees, the northern range, and much more. I had just returned from the States where I went to university, and being in the US for four years allowed me to see the contrast of what we have in T&T that you may perhaps take for granted if your eyes aren’t opened to it.


ACLA: We’ve noticed that you have completed beautiful illustrations of architectural buildings; Do you find that there is any correlation between graphic design and architecture?

NH: I definitely see a relationship between both fields. Graphic Designers and Architects are both creating layouts for their clients using the same design principles. We both think about balance, proportion, negative space, hierarchy, contrast, movement and many more of the same things. Both graphic designers and architects are cognizant that while they are creating designs for their clients, there’s also a huge public consumption of their work which needs to be always thought of throughout the process. When a person leaves home, they are bombarded with graphic design and architecture, so we need to be really thoughtful of what we are making and hopefully try to make the world more beautiful in the process. Massimo Vignelli said  “the life of a designer is a life of fight: a fight against the ugliness.”


ACLA: If you had to choose one of your pieces, which one would you say is your favourite and why?

NH: This is a really tough question because each job holds a special place to me and I have been fortunate to have worked for some really great clients within the last few years since leaving agency life. Gun to head though, I will say that I will have to choose The Midnight Hummingbird Chocolate packaging. I completed that job while still working in an ad agency and it really gave me the confidence to become a full-time freelancer, which then led me to start my own small design agency with a specialization in packaging. The project also allowed me to really showcase what I can do in branding, illustration and packaging design; it is one of the rare projects when a client approves the design on the spot with no changes.


ACLA: We understand that you’ve been sort of stuck abroad because of the COVID pandemic…How has this affected your creativity?

NH: I’ve been stuck outside of Trinidad since the Sunday after Carnival, so about 5 months. There have been some ups and downs creatively, but I think overall it’s not been too bad. Because I’ve been essentially isolated I’ve been doing a lot more reading and research; experimenting with different styles in my personal work, which always eventually finds its way into my design work. I recently completed a drawing challenge where every day for 100 days I filled a page of my sketchbook with anything drawn from life. That really tested my consistency, but it was a lot of fun to see improvement over time. I’m always trying to find ways to improve my creativity or at least to better channel it, and a big part of that is not being over-worked, so I’ve been trying to find more balance between design-work (client work with deadline) and design-play. (just creating for the sake and joy of creating)


ACLA: We want to put your skills to the ultimate test! In approximately 5 minutes, could you do a quick sketch of your favourite building in Trinidad and Tobago?

NH: I love these old Woodbrook homes and always admire the hidden gems around town. Also, I definitely took the “approximately 5 minutes” with a pinch of salt, but the entire drawing took just under 9 minutes.

Take a look at some of Nicholas’ award-winning work!

Learn more about Nicholas Huggins and his work here!

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