Charged Chats are a series of interviews featuring inspiring voices from the pros. What motivates them, what inspires them, and what can we take away from their stories to charge ourselves up.
Nico Taus is a Registered Graphic Designer (RGD), Partner and Creative Director of Studio123 and proud community advocate. Nico was a founding member of the Sudbury Design Society and served on the Programs Committee for the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD). He is a former professor in the Graphic Design and Art Fundamentals programs at Cambrian College, and currently sits on the Murals Programming Committee for the Up Here Urban Art & Music Festival and the Cambrian College Graphic Design Program Advisory Committee.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get to where you are now?
I started working at a local advertising agency right after graduation. Although it was great to get practical experience right out of college, I knew it wasn’t the place for me long term. Shortly after, I jumped ship and started working for another local agency, 50 Carleton, where I was able to work on a broader diversity of design applications. I feel like I was hired at a point when the industry was transitioning from a more traditional model towards the web. I learned a lot from this job: how to create a good proposal, how to deal with clients, how to handle a demanding environment, how to properly set up files etc. A lot of what I learned became the foundation for future endeavours.
About a year later the 2008 recession hit hard and just like that, I found myself laid off—not knowing what my next move would be. The recession affected every business, so no one was hiring locally. I always had a do-it-yourself attitude, so becoming an entrepreneur was something that seemed natural to me. I eventually decided to go out on my own and start my first design agency. I was 20 years old and had the fire to get out there and figure things out. I enjoyed the challenge of building a business, and saw an opportunity to design for web, which was a shortcoming of the local industry at the time. The business grew and I learned so much about what it takes to grow a business. The design portion I already knew, but Human Resources, finances, legalities were all things I had to learn—sometimes the hard way.
After running that agency for 5 years, I split ways with my business partner and started a new agency, Studio123. We are now in our seventh year and have grown into a team of 9. We work with a lot of local clients (Sudbury, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec etc) but also work with a handful of clients from the United States. I’ve got two great business partners and we’re constantly challenging ourselves to perfect our business. It’s an ever-evolving challenge that I look forward to every day.
Describe your current role?
As Creative Director at Studio123, I help guide the creative process and ensure our agency’s level of design excellence is upheld. I give guidance to our team of designers and developers and oversee the execution of projects from ideation through to completion.
How do you stay motivated when you’re going through a rough patch?
I’m a big believer in lists. I also believe that for a goal to be achievable, it must be visible and constantly top of mind. It’s so easy to lose track of your goal if it’s simply in the back of your mind. You can lose sight of it, or get distracted or purposely keep it banked for a rainy day in the distant future. Writing your goal down in a place where you can visibly see it puts the goal out there to the universe and becomes your reminder to work towards it when you’re losing motivation.
I try to remind myself that every step towards a goal is a step in the right direction—big or small. Even if you’re feeling bummed or unmotivated, try and keep moving, even if it’s just a small step.
A short break can do wonders for the mind. If you have any hobbies that bring you towards your happy place, do it. Personally, I like skateboarding. When you’re skating, your mind is so focused on the trick at hand that all other thoughts fade away. There’s a fluidity to it that clears the mind. I also like going for walks and listening to music. Nothing too wild, but something about it allows my mind to unwind and make way for productivity.
Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone looking to follow in a similar career path?
Take your time. Try things out. Keep learning. Go on trips. Move away. See how things are done elsewhere. Move back (if you want). Nothing is set in stone. Don’t let others tell you how your career, or life should be. Everyone’s unique and each path is different, and you can do it your own way. There are more opportunities in this industry today than ever. You can be a generalist and be great at a range of things, or you can be focused and specialize in a thing or two. Keep pushing.
Best piece of advice you’ve received?
My business mentor once told me during a particular difficult time that,
“for things to change, you have to change.”
It seems super basic, but often times we simply *hope* that things are going to change. We hope that somehow, through some divine intervention, that some things are going to change or that someone else will change. In reality *we* have to be the ones to change. We have to make the change, and if we do, everything will change for us.