Lauren Nielsen

The Creative Unconscious: What's your name, age, and professional title? Where are you currently employed?

LN: Lauren, 25, Visual Designer at Microsoft. During school I never would have thought I was going to work for Microsoft.

TCU: What hobbies do you have outside of your professional field that keep you inspired and motivated to generate personal work? How do they inspire you?

LN: It's always been athletics for me. they have been such a huge part of my life since childhood. It's no surprise that much of my inspiration comes from physical challenges and team work. I've found that probably 3 out of 4 projects I initiate on my own are somehow related to sports. After work I go to the gym, in the summer I participate in rec leagues, I'm a big fan of watching hockey on TV... Sports and athletics get me thinking about how I can improve team logos, design apps for fitness enthusiasts, and maybe create a new fictional brand for a team. 

My other big inspiration is food. I've been working at a cooking school for about 5 years now, and have gained confidence in the kitchen, with ingredients, and experimenting with recipes. I have a designer's mind, but it's great to get out of that realm for a minute to be creative elsewhere. There are plenty of time I really get crazy with my dishes, and I always try to make them look beautiful.

TCU: Do you have a hard time balancing being a creative professional and generating personal work that you're proud of?

LN: Yes. I’m always, always working and learning and networking. I'm saying yes to nearly every opportunity that comes my way, and sometimes I stretch myself pretty thin. My goal is always to better my craft, but I think I focus too much on "impressing my next creative director" or "making gains in my career" rather than just letting loose with pencil and bristol board. I tend to go through these cycles of putting a lot of pressure on myself to honor commitments to personal work (side projects, portfolio update, resume design for my sister, etc.) and then I end up feeling so overwhelmed I just lay of the floor instead. It's a cycle I'm working on managing. I don't like that these side projects feel a lot more like work than personal stuff for-fun.

For me to generate work that i’m proud of usually takes a lot of time, motivation, passion, and commitment, and of the first two I’m usually lacking. I'm learning that outside of my day job at MS, I can really only juggle 1-2 projects that I can commit to and be proud of. 

I have also found  that when I’m excited about what I’m doing at work, I’m also excited to play around with my ideas after work. I tend to be more productive. If things at work are dull, slow, or not engaging…. That definitely carries over. A little bit of a long-winded answer, but perhaps there are some people that can empathize :)

TCU: What time of day do you feel the most creative? What about the most productive?

LN: I am certainly most productive before lunch. I like getting my to-dos done in the morning so that I'm not buried in work in the afternoon. I think I would say that I'm most creative in the evening though, after I've decompressed a bit and I'm in my element (that is sweats, the couch, and a glass of wine).

TCU: What are your creative goals for the future?

LN: Near future... I want to learn as much as I can from my current work group. my art director studied under Massimo Vignelli and I have much to improve upon. Further away future... I want to establish myself as a freelancer, and possibly take the plunge in making it my sole income!

TCU: Are you working on any personal projects right now? If so, can you share a little bit about your inspiration and your creative process?

LN: I had been working on completely rebuilding a portfolio for myself and I've finally finished!! That had been taking up a significant amount of time (for those interested, I customized the template). Right now the only side project I'm committing to is a branding project for my aunt’s new business - a Chicagoland cookie food truck. As mentioned previously, I'm working to better manage my time outside of MS, so for the moment this is the only thing on the side. 

I’d say there’s a big difference in my process for the cookie company vs, say, the Reign app I recently designed. For the app I looked at what other teams have, I looked at Reign's current website, and quickly iterated to come up with my final design concept. Total, I probably knocked it out in less than 18 hrs. The cookie company on the other hand, I’m going through the whole process to create a brand, you know, like Kent and Kacey [Design Professors] made us do. Market and competition research, word cloud, visual inspiration, audience, sketching..... We only just landed on a logo and it's been a couple months.  it’s been great fun, and my aunt and I are having a blast strategizing. I think having a strong and sound base of research and strategy helps to generate strong and sound brand equity.

TCU: Anything else you want to add?

LN: I really enjoy collaborating and I believe that two people working together can generate exponentially more for a project than just one. So with all of my work, even my personal stuff, I try to be inclusive. I know my work will be better that way in the long run.

If you want to see more of Lauren's work, check her out at