You might have seen the iconic Google Doodle celebrating the steel pan from Trinidad and Tobago a few weeks ago. We got the chance to have an e-interview with the Caribbean creative behind the project. 11 questions for Nicholas Huggins, Founder & Creative Director of Backyard Design Co.
1. What part of Trinidad are you from, and how does being a Trinidadian influence your work?
Nicholas: I currently live in St. Ann’s, but I grew up between Maraval and St. Ann’s. Being a Trinidadian influences my work every day…everything…from the people, to the music, to the energy, to the culture of T&T. They are all inspirational, and this is something I try to let people see through my work.
2. Did the creative field choose you or did you choose it?
Nicholas: The creative field definitely chose me. All children do art in primary and secondary school, at least up to a certain point. I was always encouraged by my parents and teachers, so I just continued doing Art.
3. When did you start Backyard Design Co. and how has the company grown since its beginning?
Nicholas: I started Backyard Design in January 2019. At the start, it was me and Chevonne Attale, who is the head of client services. Now, we have a full-time graphic designer as well as a virtual assistant who helps with client onboarding. We also work with a network of creative freelancers that join the team on a project-to-project basis.
4. Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?
Nicholas: I have a lot of artistic influences. At a local level, I love the work of Boscoe Holder, Che Lovelace, and Richard Rawlins. I also consume the work of so many artists online that there may be too many to name…although I love the work of Jean Jullien, Kehinde Wiley, and Taj Francis from Jamaica.
5. On Tuesday, July 26 a buzz was created when much of the Caribbean community was treated to a Google Doodle celebrating the journey of Trinidad and Tobago’s steel pan. How did this project come about?
Nicholas: An art director from Google reached out to me over Instagram to ask for my email because they were interested in working with me on a project. At the time it was very vague, but eventually, they briefed me over email that they wanted me to illustrate a Google Doodle to celebrate the Steel Pan. At first, they wanted to just do one still image, but it was decided that we wanted to have music and animation, so that’s how what you saw on July 26th came about.
6. Can you share a bit about the creative process? What were some of the challenges and how it came together in the end?
Nicholas: Well, because the entire team worked in isolation; Boogsie (music) and I were in Trinidad, Mick (animator) now lives in Toronto, Etienne (music) lives in Miami, everything was done online. I enjoy a more in-person creative process, but in the times of COVID, we have to understand that it sometimes can’t happen. All in all, it came together perfectly though.
7. What does it mean to you to have your work used on the Google platform?
Nicholas: With the reach that Google has, our work was put on a global stage. This means that we were able to get in front of more eyes and potentially bring in more work based on that job alone. Working with a big company like Google, and being able to execute to a high standard, is the ultimate portfolio piece for anyone considering working with the creatives on the project.
8. How do you define success as a Creative?
Nicholas: Personally, I think success as a creative is being able to live as comfortable a life as you can without financial stress. However, you define a comfortable life. It’s all up to the individual.
9. The Google project is not the first time that your work has been celebrated or recognized outside T&T. What are some other notable projects that you’ve produced?
Nicholas: I’d say some of the work that I am most proud of is the work that I do with Kes The Band on their albums, singles and tours. We work really well together, which always results in good work being done. I also did some commemorative illustrations for McDonald’s in Trinidad for the 10th anniversary of being in T&T and that work also got a lot of very positive reactions here in Trinidad.
10. What would you say helps Backyard Design Co. stand out as a company?
Nicholas: Something that we always try to achieve is consistency in the quality of our work. When people work with us, they expect a high quality of work, and it is our goal to deliver that quality every time. We are also fortunate enough to work with some really cool clients that give us a lot of creative freedom to make some cool stuff!
11. What advice would you give to young creatives in T&T and the rest of the Caribbean?
Nicholas: I say this every time I’m asked this question – you need to work hard on your craft. Sometimes it may take a few years of work to land a really big job or to start working on projects that you truly enjoy. You can’t expect quick success…everything takes time…once you understand that, then you can build out your own roadmap for a successful career as a creative. Me, I worked for 1 year as an in-house designer, and then nearly 3 years at an advertising agency…in that time, I was creating illustrations every day and sharing them on social media. It was only after 3 years that I started getting noticed by potential clients and then hired to do jobs based on that body of work that I had been creating. Nothing happens overnight!