Mastering visual vocabulary: an interview with Adam Nickelwicz

You’ve described your studio as a kind of ‘distillery’ – could you speak more to that? How does the space affect the work?

I meant it figuratively. The term describes my basic approach to creating a concept-based image. Turning a complex, nuanced (at time, convoluted) subject matter/theme into a poignant, meaningful visual, one that speaks to the very essence of the theme, calls for a process of elimination (or distillation of sorts).For the sake of clarity, you remove everything that is superfluous. This way, less is more!

How do you measure the success of your work?

I measure it by the strength of its concept (the visual metaphor). Of course, the work must also look good. It’s about striking the balance between the two.

Your work encompasses everything from magazines to book covers, websites to annual reports – does your process change depending on the type of work?

My style allows for flexibility. I take advantage of this. I make sure that both the tone of the illustration and the visual vocabulary I use are just right for the particular assignment.

What’s the wildest illustration experiment you’ve undertaken? What did you learn?

Frankly, I cannot think of anything!

What books on illustration from the last decade would you recommend practitioners read?

I think, the book I read as a student – ‘Innovators of American Illustration’ by Steven Heller is still very relevant.

When you have a creative block, how do you get yourself free?

I drink some wine! I believe that wine, in moderation, opens one’s mind.

Can you speak about what you’re working on at the moment? (We are especially keen on hearing about corporate publications and annual reports!)

I’m working on a few editorial illustrations for magazines – The Christian Century, Human Resources Management Magazine and the Psychotherapy Networker.